This report is about Father Eusebio Kino who was possibly one of the greatest Spanish missionaries of all time. Over the course of his life, Father Kino influenced a great many individuals in the Western portion of the United States long before there was a Declaration of Independence. This report will attempt to present some of his greater accomplishments as well as an account of his interesting life. Over the course of thirty years, Father Kino worked untiringly as a pastor, explorer, teacher, rancher, farmer, ethnographer, diplomat and cartographer.
He is known for having founded over twenty five missions and maybe more importantly helping create extremely accurate maps of Arizona and the surrounding areas. Ironically, the Father was not even Spanish and he also did not even wish to be on the American continent. But his accomplishments were so astounding that he has been called the greatest Arizonan in that state's history.
Life Before the Priesthood
Father Kino's family name was originally Chini but he adopted Kino after college. Kino was a scholar first. His education consisted of several universities including Trent and later Hall near Innsbruck. His educational pursuits also took him to several excellent Universities such as Landsberg, Ingolstadt, Innsbruck, Munich and Oehingen. He had already distinguished himself in several fields of study including mathematics, cartography, and astronomy in Germany. He was a distinguished mathematician and also observed the comet of 1680-81 at Cadiz, where he published his discovery in his 'Exposici n astron mica de el [sic] cometa.' He also taught mathematics for a short while at the University of Ingolstadt. As is the case with many European citizens, he was gifted in multiple languages including Italian, Spanish Swiss, German and French. This ability to speak multiple languages helped him later acquire the local American Indian languages and dialects.
But he was destined to become a man of god. Recorded history states that around the year 1663, Father Kino suffered some type of severe illness which while he was in pain and suffering made him promote a promise to St. Francis Xavier who was his patron saint. The promise consisted of a promise that he would dedicate his life to the church and missionary work if he could recover to his former health.
Quite obviously, he did make a remarkable recovery and therefore embarked on the difficult Jesuit training. Father Kino worked hard in his Jesuit training and in 1677 he more or less graduated into the roll he later became famous for. He was fully committed to a career in the Pimer'a Alta. Now a Jesuit priest, Father Kino looked forward to and had every intention of passing on the word and converting the natives of lower Asia. But, his superiors had other plans for the dedicated pupil so their vision took him elsewhere.
Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) was born on August 10, 1645 in Segno in the Val di Non-which is a popular valley in Italy. Of course, when Father Kino was born there was no Italy yet; Italy was actually called the Tirol region. Eusebio Kino was a dedicated priest who worked all the way until the end. His career as a Jesuit Priest spanned some three decades and he died in Magdalena in 1711 attempting to further his career long pursuit. The story of his death was that after he arrived in Magdalena to dedicate a new chapel to his patron saint, St. Francis, but h became suddenly ill and passed away around midnight on March 15, 1711. As was the custom of the time, Father Eusebio Kino was buried beneath the floor of the very same chapel he came to dedicate. Ironically, his bones were rediscovered recently in 1966 even though the chapel had long since disappeared. Father Kino's bones can be seen today because they are on display in their final resting place at the new Magdalena plaza.
His Life's Work
Although it was not his first choice, he came to the America and arrived in Mexico City in the spring of 1681. He brought with him a natural intellectual curiosity for exploration. His mission of course was to follow his chosen path and seek missionary work in the New World. So, his first assignment outside of Europe was to establish a mission in Northern Mexico in the Americas.
His official title was 'appointed missionary' and 'royal cosmographer for the California Expedition' in 1682. Today, the area is not a part of Mexico but instead what we now consider the Baja California region. He officially arrived in Baja California in the month of April of 1683. During Father Kino's time, the area was nothing more than a dry and inhospitable place with miles of uncharted desert, river valleys, and mountain ranges.
This being his first assignment, Father Kino may not have been as influential as he later became while working on that first mission and the native citizens were also probably not ready for the Jesuit Priest's words. "Thus clerics who lived on the early frontiers -- Jonathan Edwards, John and David Brainard, Roger Williams, Junipero Serra, Francisco Palou, Eusebio Kino, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, Jason Lee, Samuel Parker, and others -- have all been "demoted" at the onset. Their reputations will never actually "disappear," but they will always be limited to their specific region. Because of their location in both space and time, these clergy cannot provide materials for the greater, national epoch." (Szasz)
So his first attempt at mission work actually went bust so Father Kino was later reassigned in 1687 to another area that was a little further north into the Sonora region. Later that year, Father Kino established his very first mission. The mission was among the rural Indians of Sonora at Nuestra Senora de los Dolores and later became the headquarters for his future explorations and other missions.
His first assignment apparently must not have discouraged him. As a matter of fact, the first assignment may have actually encouraged him to work harder. Throughout the rest of his career he was known as an indefatigable traveler and an extremely hard worker. Learning from his early mistakes in the Baja area, Kino went on to start new mission programs in over twenty different village locations. He tirelessly introduced the Christian spirit as well as the politics of the Spanish Empire. He was very well-known by the local Indians throughout the now wide areas of southern Arizona through to the northern Sonora, Mexico area. He introduced new staple crops such as wheat and also beef cattle into the region. As a testament to his life, three centuries after Kino's arrival, the regional and Native diet is still based on beef, cheese, and wheat products.
Father Kino could be considered a Renaissance man because he was first a scholar and a Jesuit Priest second. His scholarly pursuits prior to his Jesuit existence gave him the unique advantage of knowledge, intellect and the ability to teach. His intellect helped him adapt to the chosen life of a priest which mainly focused on passing on the Christian faith on the rough Arizona frontier.
His sincere dedication to his work had him constantly riding alone all throughout the area. The local Indians overtime became accustomed to Father Kino and in January of 1691, Father Kino stopped at the Pima Indian village of Tumacacori on the eastern bank of the Santa Cruz River. "In the 1690s Father Eusebio Kino arrived to proselytize the villages of the native Pimans and establish a chain of missions. Other Spaniards made occasional military campaigns against more nomadic natives, who were beginning to raid towards the south." (Wilson) He rode in and celebrated Mass with the entire village. They were so appreciative that they appropriately labeled him as the "padre on horseback."
Padre Kino during his time in America taught the philosophy of creating agriculturally self-sufficient mission pueblos. Examples of these forts for God can be demonstrated in places like Tumacacori and Guevavi. Kino established some twenty of these missions and several vistas that were equally self-sufficient. Another great accomplishment was the creation of a foundation of agriculture and livestock raising. At the time the real name of the foundation was the modern foundation. Kino was a strong advocate of teaching the natives the skill required to produce whatever the new missions required. In other words, he encouraged the local Indians to participate ion apprenticeships of artisans and other similar trades.
He was known as a patient man who could clearly communicate whatever was needed to be taught. Padre Kino as he was known was able to establish good relations with the indigenous people of the area that he worked with. Unlike many other missionaries, Father Kino treated the local tribes such as the Pimas with respect. Padre Kino was very influential to the locals and that influence made him a powerful advocate for ending the local tradition of Indian enslavement for free labor in the silver mines of northern Mexico. His intelligence also…