Elias Castillo discusses "A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions" 3-19-15


7 pm Thursday, March 19, 2015

Author Elias Castillo shatters the image of California's Missions as idyllic places where Franciscan friars and Indians lived in an environment of mutual respect. In reality, the Missions were death camps where more than 60,000 Indian workers died, many as a result of whippings, disease, and malnutrition.

The book is the result of more than six years of research and study of original documents including eyewitness accounts by early travelers, records kept by the friars, and historic letters by church and government authorities in Alta California and Mexico. 

A Cross of Thorns delivers a damning indictment of the enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions.  It is especially timely in light of the fact that the Pope has said he plans to declare Father Junipero Serra a saint.  Serra was the key founder of California's Spanish missions.  Serra has been sharply criticized by Native Americans for his role in their abuse and genocidal treatment.

The savage mistreatment of California's Indian population by Spanish missionaries from 1769 - 1821 is a chapter of California's history that has been largely covered up. It has been deliberately falsified by the state of California.  It is at last exposed to public scrutiny in this new book, which challenges the mythologized history and presents the facts of the cruel reality of mission life where the people were whipped and kept from returning to their Native land.

The author is a three-time Pulitizer Prize nominee and winner of thirteen journalism awards.  Born in Mexicali, Baja California, he is a former reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and the Associated Press.