The Dramatic History of the Jesuits in Baja California Sur

Learn about the Jesuit period in California and its impact on the region's culture and architecture. Discover the missionaries' hard work, the indigenous people's resistance, and the lasting legacy of the Jesuits in the state.

The Dramatic History of the Jesuits in Baja California Sur
The Mission San Francisco de Borja Adac, one of the many missions established by the Jesuits in California during their missionary work. Credit: Mision San Borja

California has a rich and complex history that spans centuries. One significant period in the Baja California Sur state's past is the Jesuit period, which lasted for seventy years and left a lasting impact on the region's culture and architecture.

Missionary Work in California

The Jesuits arrived in California in the 17th century, with the mission of spreading Christianity and establishing settlements in the region. They started their work in Loreto, a small town in Baja California, and from there, they began a long chain of missions that extended up to a little north of Guerrero Negro.

The Jesuits were known for their hard work and dedication, and they constructed many temples and other buildings of solid architecture that still stand today. Some of these buildings are now popular tourist attractions, and visitors can marvel at the intricate designs and craftsmanship of these structures.

Indigenous People of California

However, the Jesuits' work in California was not without controversy. The indigenous people of California had their way of life and beliefs, and the arrival of the Jesuits disrupted their traditional practices.

The new culture brought by the missionaries produced enormous problems, including the spread of diseases such as smallpox and measles, which caused the gradual extinction of the indigenous population.

The Californians fiercely opposed the foreign presence, as it challenged their old ways of life and tried to impose new ways of being, doing, thinking, and believing. Despite this resistance, the Jesuits continued with their mission, and many indigenous people were forced to convert to Christianity.

The Legacy of the Jesuits in California

When the Jesuits left California, there were very few natives left in the region, and the legacy of the Jesuits' work remained. The missions that they established still stand today, and they are a testament to the hard work and dedication of the missionaries who built them.

To distinguish between the two parts of California, the peninsula was given the names Antigua or Baja California and Nueva or Alta to the continental part. This distinction remains to this day, and it serves as a reminder of the region's complex and fascinating history.


The Jesuit period in California was a time of great change and conflict. The missionaries who arrived in the region had a mission to spread Christianity and establish settlements, but their work was met with resistance from the indigenous population. While the legacy of the Jesuits in California is complex, their lasting impact can still be seen in the many temples and buildings they constructed during their time in the region.