U.S., Mexico Studying How to Preserve Spanish Missions

About 30 experts from Mexico and the United States met this week to examine strategies to preserve the cultural and historical legacy of the Spanish missions located in Mexico and California.

About 30 experts from Mexico and the United States met this week to examine strategies to preserve the cultural and historical legacy of the Spanish missions located in Mexico and California.

Entitled “Shared Pasts, Shared Futures: The Missions of California and Mexico,” the meeting is being held at the University of California at Riverside, in the Los Angeles area.

The aim of the conference is to thoroughly analyze the cultural heritage to be found in Baja California and California itself, territories that have 21 and 17 old missions, respectively.

“This is the first conversation we’ve had, and so the mutual idea and aim is to see what it means to both countries to have a shared heritage and to create a joint vision,” Jennifer Scheper Hughes, an associate professor of history at UC Riverside and the organizer of the conference being held under the auspices of the “UC-Mexico Initiative,” told EFE.

She said that the California missions are pillars of history and culture in the state and, at the same time, are “fundamental” for understanding the history of the American Indians, the evolution of architecture and the impact that they have had on the region’s educational system.

Currently, all fourth grade students in California schools study the history of these religious centers built between 1769 and 1823.

But Scheper also said that the Golden State does not consider the missions to be an integral part of the national heritage. Therefore, their conservation depends on donations and funds coming from private organizations.

In Mexico, on the other hand, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, is tasked with caring for the colonial missions of New Spain.

“All the churches from the 16th to the 20th centuries in Mexico are government property,” Ambassador Jose Luis Martinez y Hernandez, the general director for international affairs with Mexico’s CONACULTA national council for culture and the arts, told EFE.

INAH is also leading an initiative to designate the Camino Real of the Californias, the cultural route that connected Baja California with Upper California, as a world heritage site.

Another of the aims of the meeting is to note that the missions founded by Spaniards on both sides of the current national border have continued to function across the centuries and will continue being a central axis of religious life for many local residents.

EFE |

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