Misión San Javier

The drive to Misión San Javier is steep, curvy and spectacular. As we slowly made our way to the mission we wondered how in the world people managed to build something beyond this steep mountainous road before the road existed.  Those missionaries were a determined bunch.

As we got closer, we found a pretty little stone chapel by the road and wondered – could this be the mission. Of course, it wasn’t and we later found out that it was the first location considered for the mission’s location. And there was a friendly resident caretaker. An adorable little cat.

As we continued, we came upon an oasis – water! After crossing a couple of washes in the car (two of which were under a little water) we finally reached the town of San Javier and the absolutely spectacular mission.

One important factor in determining the location of a mission was that conditions in the area needed to support self-sufficiency for its founders. Thus the importance of a location by the water.

Yet its remote location with no road meant that many materials had to be brought in by ship to the Sea of Cortez and then by mules over the mountains. Today the modern road makes it accessible even for busloads of people.

The interior of this church has many ornate features. It also has the first glass windows of all of the Californias. It was a wonder at the time.

Gilded altars (real gold) with fine paintings and beautiful statuary occupied each corner.

There is a little museum alongside the church with some interesting artifacts but very minimal signage.

An astonishing total of 60 missions were built along all of the then Californias, not sure how many are still standing. They are an enormous part of the history of the area.

And along with the religious significance it’s important to give credit to the labor that natives performed in building these structures. And to remember the sad history of the destruction of native peoples by the colonization of the Spaniards.

The little town of San Javier has a population of about 100 people and a handful of little restaurants and stores. Citrus trees of various kinds planted by the Spaniards still surround the church and grace the streets.

The most prominent restaurant of course is right across from the church. When it was time for lunch we bypassed this restaurant in search of something less touristy.

As we were walking up the street, we greeted two women that were sitting and chatting. They asked where we were from and as we spoke they invited us to sit with them. We told them we’d love to but were quite hungry and ready for lunch.


One of the women said come eat at my restaurant and pointed across the street. There we saw a small patio with a couple of tables and plastic chairs. And that is how we ended up having lunch with Antonieta.
Her “menu” consisted of meat burritos with beans along with tea or coffee. The meat, carne desebrada, is roasted, dried then chopped and fried up. Delicious. The tea was also a local herb which was also delicious. Antonieta sat and chatted with us while we ate. She was charming and sweet.

Afterwards, we hiked up from the church to the area where the well is located. In San Javier, the Spaniards built wells, dams and irrigation channels to support their agriculture.

The remants of this infrastructure are still in use today. In fact, this was the place where the first wine of the Americas was produced.  Vegetation in this area is quite lush and beautiful. Different types of  trees including ancient ones surround the church and the fields are still plowed by hand.

San Javier is a peaceful and lovely place.  An easy side trip from Loreto absolutely not to be missed.


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