| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Had he been granted an honorary degree as colleges today grant such
degrees, Palou, according to his editor
Herbert E. Bolton, would have received this tribute: “Fray Francisco Palou, diligent
student, devout Christian, loyal disciple, tireless traveler, zealous
missionary, firm defender of the faith, resourceful pioneer, successful mission
builder, able administrator, and fair-minded historian of California.” Such a
tribute seems apt for the man who so successfully memorialized his only rival
in the California missionary effort, Fray Junípero Serra.
Born, like Serra (ten
years earlier), at Majorca, Spain, Palou entered the Franciscan Order in 1739
and was ordained in 1743. He eagerly joined Serra in the missionary program
planned for the Americas; they and other future missionaries reached Vera Cruz,
Mexico, in 1749. After several years in missions in Mexico, these Franciscans
sought to extend their efforts northward, to replace the Jesuit missionaries
who had been expelled from Spanish dominion in 1767 by King Charles III of
Spain. Palou and Serra went first to the Baja California missions (1767). They
reached Loreto, in Lower (Baja) California, in the spring of 1768. Serra was
assigned the next year to Upper (Alta) California missions, which left those in
Lower California to Palou’s control until 1773.
Palou, wishing to
serve with Serra again, chose to serve in the chain of missions in Upper
California. He went first to San Diego, then on to Monterey-Carmel, Serra’s
headquarters. He assisted in the placement of friars, and he collected
historical data that survives as some of the only record of these early
California years. He was assigned in 1776 to the mission at San Francisco,
where he stayed until 1784. Serra’s death in Carmel that year left open the
presidency of the Upper California missions, a post Palou ably filled until,
with failing health, he left in 1785. He died in Mexico, where he completed his
life of Serra, most of which he had written in California.
Palou’s two works, the
Noticias de la Nueva California (published in the middle of the nineteenth
century) and the biography of Serra, Relacion historica (1787), provide
key information about early California and the missionary efforts there. He had
nearly completed his life of Serra before returning to Mexico. He there added,
after much research in the library at San Fernando, the long chapter on Serra’s
virtues. The book, published in Mexico City, was sent to the royal palace in
Madrid, Spain, as well as to Majorca and to the missions in Sonora and
California. It received high praise. Fray Junípero Serra’s life can serve as a
model of discipline and hard work in spite of a revision of history’s sense of
how the missions he founded affected the native population. More significant is
Palou’s project of transforming Serra’s life into biography, a lengthy,
detailed piece of writing, blending epistolary documentation, recreated
dialogue, narrative, impassioned exposition, and moralizing. Palou’s text
stands well as a west-coast balance to Cotton Mather’s earlier hagiographies of
the Puritan founders in Magnalia Christi Americana. Both texts are
records of religious heroism in eras that seemed to be fast diminishing before
the writers’ eyes.
California at Irvine
In the Heath Anthology
from Chapter LVIII: "The Exemplary Death of the Venerable Father Junípero" (1787)
from Chapter XXII: "The Expeditions Arrive at the Port of Monterey–The Mission and Presidio of San Carlos Are Founded" (1787)
Life of Junípero Serra (1787)
Life of Junípero Serra: from Chapter XXII: "The Expeditions Arrive at the Port of Monterey-The Mission and Presidio of San Carlos Are Founded," and from Chapter LVIII: "The Exemplary Death of the Vemerable Father Junípero"
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Meeting of Frontiers: Francisco Palou
A brief biography and introductory remarks about Palou's Relacion Historica de la Vida y Apostolicas Tareas del Venerable Padre Fray Junípero Serra. Mexico, 1787.
Perspectives in American Literature
An annotated list of primary works.
San Francisco De Asis The Sixth Mission Founded
Information about the sixth California Mission, founded by Father Francisco Palou.
Herbert E. Bolton, tr. and ed., Historical Memoirs of New California, 4 vols., 1926
Maynard J. Geiger, tr. and ed., Palou's Life of Junípero Serra, 1955
Maynard J. Geiger, Franciscan Missionaries in Hispanic California, 1969