It’s a beautiful day for a February, so a quick road trip to shake off some cabin fever seemed in order. Just a few miles down the road is one of California’s original Spanish Missions – San Juan Bautista. I’ve lived here for much of my life and never visited. Shame on me I guess. All due respect to the Spanish and the catholic church, but I don’t get the need to convert the indigenous peoples. It’s the Western/European way I guess. Besides, what’s a few cases of measles in exchange for tax paying, productive citizens? Anyway, hop in the truck and head South down highway 101 and turn off on 156 East. The hills are gloriously green and the outside temperature is a perfect sixty five degrees. Hard to believe it’s winter.
San Juan Bautista is a tiny little town of a just a few streets. The mission is clearly the only game in town and a handful of tired looking trinket and gift stores dot the main street, all trying to capitalize on the few tourists that visit. The mission was founded in 1797 and is the largest of the California missions. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps something more museum-like. They request a $4 per person donation, payable at the dusty, dark gift shop. I assumed there’d be exhibits and displays with plenty of placards and such describing life in the mission during its heyday. What was there were a handful of rooms, virtually nothing to describe the history, and just a few dusty display cases.
I know, I’m a spoiled westerner and expect info to be handed to me with minimal effort on my part. Realistically to maximize the experience you need to have a guide book of some sort to help provide info on the history of the mission. Since I didn’t research beforehand it was pretty much just an old building. I spent some time looking for the torture rooms without luck. I could have been off a few centuries on that, but really – what’s the point of forcibly converting people if you’re not going to hold the miscellaneous tribunal here and there?
Having exhausted the available history of the mission we decided the next best thing would be lunch. Nothing much seemed viable here, so we headed to beautiful downtown Hollister. Its famous motorcycle rally was the basis for the film “The Wild One” and they claim to be the “Birthplace of the American biker”. Apparently bikers don’t come out in February, even in weather this nice. Farm workers clearly are the predominate population. Not much going on in historic downtown Hollister. A few cafes, tattoo parlors, and a couple of closed art galleries. We found a cafe that served a pretty good sandwich. With food in the belly it seemed like a good time wander home.
Mission accomplished (no pun intended). Saw a California landmark before we leave the state. Didn’t expend too much energy (need to save for tomorrow’s Super Bowl festivities). Packed on a few more calories just in case we’re abducted by aliens. Oh, and took a few pictures:
2 thoughts on “Spanish Inquisition, Indigenous Peoples, And Lunch”
I actually love San Juan Bautista. We often take people to the mission. I know quite a bit of its history so I give personal tours. We also visit the San Andreas fault which is right below the mission. The bakery down the street has great mexican bread and Don Esther’s makes great Mexican food. Other than that, you are right, there is not much there but a dusty wind blown, lonely town that the occasional visitor stumbles upon looking for gas or something to eat.
Thanks for the comment! I probably was being a bit harsh. If it hadn’t been a spur of the moment kind of trip I would have done a bit of research so I knew some of the history. Lacking that, the experience was not as informative. Next time…