Many San Diegans such as myself have driven by this sight for years and had no idea how truly beautiful the mission and the surrounding property is right in the heart of central San Diego. It is located in Mission Valley adjacent to Qualcomm stadium, home to the San Diego Super Chargers, amidst a sea of condominiums and lifestyle apartments and strip malls and franchises. Not the most graceful location for this storied facade of California’s earliest history of settlement.
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala is heralded as the first mission in the western United States. According to the information I read at the museum, the Spanish King had sent Franciscan missionaries to the area to establish missions and convert the natives to Christianity under the guise of establishing a presence amidst territory encroachments by the Russians and other foreign powers. Father Junipero Serra was to lead the Franciscan missionaries in establishing these missions. And it is telling that the purpose of these missions is in the name as Alcala means ‘Citadel’ in Arabic/Spanish.
Can you imagine if Father Junipero Serra had not undertaken this mission impossible to convert the resistant natives to Christianity? We would be eating goulash and blintzes at happy hour instead of Taco Tuesdays and Corona–so unAmerican!
I am grateful that Father Serra settled and established a missionary colony of 21 missions across Alta California as far north as San Francisco with the San Francisco Solano mission built in 1823. The Mission San Diego is quite different than when it was first constructed in 1774. It has withstood Indian attacks, abandonment, conversion to a citadel and fire.
I believe this is an important and often over-looked part of San Diego history and amidst the chaos that is Mission Valley, this site is a peaceful oasis and a serendipitous discovery.
For $5 you can spend an hour meandering through the mission and exhibits, look at finds from archaeological digs on the site such as military buttons and 19th century spectacles and delight in the beautiful native landscaping.
A San Diego treasure!