The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971

Book Reviews

Mission of Sorrows. By John L. Kessell. (Tucson: University of Ari-
zona Press, 197o. Pp. xvi + 224. Illustrations, bibliography, in-
dex. $ o.oo.)
The northern provinces of New Spain, what is now known as the
Southwest, comprised in every sense a frontier. The region was occu-
pied by hostile Indians, a few miners and ranchers, plus anyone else
hardy enough to survive the rugged climate and geography. Among
the area's first civilizers and populators were the Jesuits, who came
with the hope of converting and Christianizing the Indians-at the
same time teaching them civilized ways and establishing a line of fron-
tier defense for New Spain.
The northern provinces differed from each other in the composition
of their native populations and in the difficulties of settlement. Never-
theless, the life and death of the mission of Guevavi in Pimeria Alta,
located along the present Arizona-Mexican border-which Kessell de-
scribes in some detail-illustrates the history of many Jesuit frontier
establishments. The struggle for survival, the hope of salvation for
the natives, the desire to serve God and country, and the crushing
defeats experienced by the missionaries are all evident at Guevavi.
An experiment in mission life, it was intended to serve as a defense
against the constantly marauding Apaches. It was supposed to create
communities of natives who would settle the area on a permanent
basis. However, lack of royal support and diminishing population kept
the mission in constant danger as did the threats of starvation, disease,
and rebellion. Revolts were put down, but to the detriment of the
padres. Periodically, disease swept away much of the native popula-
tion. There was a constant replacement of priests due to the vacillating
frontier policy of Spain. These factors resulted in the abandonment
of Guevavi in 1775.
In a readable style, Kessell presents a list of the various priests who
resided at Guevavi. He describes their trials in attempting to minister
to their charges, and their successes and failures. However, he does not
succeed in placing the story of the mission in an overall analytical
perspective. He does not adequately explain the material, as well as
spiritual aspects of Guevavi's failure. He does not fully discuss the
day-to-day life in the mission, and he barely touches upon the reduc-
tion of the natives, the raising of crops, the use of native labor, and
the normal life cycle of a mission. Further, Kessell does not describe
the church-state conflict in total depth. For instance, he hardly men-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed October 10, 2015.