A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith
About 150 people attended a commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the death of the Jesuit mission founder Padre Eusebio Kino at the monument to Kino in Tijuana on Wednesday. Or, one might say, it was the 300 1/2th anniversary, as the Italian-born, German- and Austrian-educated Kino died on March 15, 1711, in what is now Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, shortly after dedicating a chapel there.
The ceremony was delayed until September for a number of reasons, including that the anniversary of his death fell during Easter season (Lent began on March 9) and to allow for the creation of a new wine, Gran Vino Tinto Conmemorativo Kino, as seen packaged in the wooden box at right. Kino introduced zinfandel grapes to New Spain. Another wine named for Padre Kino, made by Domecq, is reportedly Mexico's best-seller: it is cheap and sweet. The fine-tasting commemorative wine from Baja California's Guadalupe Valley, served after the ceremony, is neither inexpensive nor sweet.
Kino's work as a missionary in what is now Baja California Sur, Sonora and Arizona was lauded, as were his labors as a scientist, astronomer, geographer, cartographer, frontiersman, rancher, teacher and diplomat known for his generally good relationships with indigenous communities.
The commemoration was put together by Tijuana's Italian community and by the Jesuit-run Universidad Iberoamericana in Playas de Tijuana. The Jesuit community came to Tijuana 29 years ago to found the university. In 1767, the Jesuits had been expelled from New Spain, and their missions were taken over by the Franciscans, who still operate the San Javier del Bac mission near Tucson founded by Kino in 1692 (construction on the current church there began in 1783).
University Rector Sebastián Serra Martínez (right) said he hoped the event would not be seen as one just looking back in time at a great yet imperfect leader, but one that would inspire and help Mexicans building their future. He said the failure of the San Bruno mission Kino was a part of from 1683 to 1685 and how Kino rebounded from it shows Mexicans the spirit and values they can summon forth in order to recover from the crises their society has been enduring and move forward.
In photo, a wreath is pulled up to the top of the
base of the monument of Padre Kino by a man
whose head can be seen above the plow.
Kino was born in 1645 in Segno, Italy, and joined the Jesuits after vowing to do so if he recovered from a serious illness. He sought to join an overseas mission, and after spending time in Spain waiting for such an assignment, was sent to New Spain. He landed in Veracruz in 1681 and then stayed in Mexico City. In 1683 he was sent to Baja California, where on April 2 he set foot in La Paz. He helped found the mission of San Bruno near present-day Loreto later that year, but it was abandoned by May 1685 because of a shortage of water and provisions. He then founded at least 23 missions in present-day Sonora and Arizona states.
Isabelle Duceux, a visiting fellow at the Jesuit Institute at Boston College, said Kino's memoirs were not made public until two centuries after his death. She has concentrated on studying Jesuit missionaries in China, the country where Kino really wanted to go to. Kino's last name in Italian was Chino, but he apparently changed it to Kino because Chino, which means Chinaman in Spanish, was often used in a derogatory manner. Duceux said Kino is generally recognized as having established that Baja California was a peninsula, and not an island, but also said that one of Kino's cartography and mathematics professors in Germany had already posited that it was a peninsula. Still, for decades, few believed either Kino's professor or Kino himself on the matter. She said Kino has been described as the most picturesque missionary in North America.
Camillo Magoni (left), Italy's honorary consul in Tijuana, was a major force in organizing the event, along with the Universidad Iberoamericana's David Ungerleider Kepler. Magoni said that while most statues of Kino show him as an explorer on horseback, Tijuana's statue shows him with a plow. Ungerleider Kepler said one reason Kino is so important to Baja California is that he inspired Juan María de Salvatierra, the founder of the permanent Baja California missions, starting with Loreto in 1697. Salvatierra is also known as the Apostle of California. Also, in 1684, Kino and others became the first Europeans to cross the Baja California peninsula on land.
Soprano María Lozano (right) and pianist Oxana Bulgakova of the Opera de Tijuana performed at various points during the ceremony and sounded magnificent, even though their music was at times almost drowned out by passing traffic. The monument in Tijuana is in a traffic circle at the intersection of Padre Kino and Independencia, a block from City Hall. The new burgundy paint on the monument nearly matched the color of the commemorative wine, which is for sale at the Universidad Iberoamericana.
Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz speaks at the ceremony.