Civics Lessons for Students
California Missions

California Missions Lesson


Between 1769 and 1823, Spain built 21 missions along the coast of California. The Spanish built the missions because they wanted to colonize the Pacific Coast region and keep other countries out of the area. They also wanted to convert the Native American Indians to Christianity and teach them how to be productive citizens who would add to the wealth of the mother country. The Spanish missionaries played an important role in the history of Mexico and California. The arrival of Europeans with their religious and political influences had both positive and negative effects on the native American Indian people. (3 pages)

Father Junipero Serra, 1713-1784

Father Junipero Serra

  • Father Serra was a Spanish monk who started the Catholic chain of missions in California.

  • Serra was born in 1713, and he died in 1784. He is buried under the sanctuary floor at Mission San Carlos Borromeo.


Mission de Alcala in San Diego, California

Mission de Alcala

  • Mission San Diego de Alcala was the first mission in California. It was founded by Father Serra in 1769.

  • Mission Indians grew wheat, corn, wine grapes, barley, and beans in the mission gardens. They also raised cows, horses, and sheep.

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