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Discovery of priest’s letters reveals tension between church, locals

Culture Clash

In a rare photo from the late 1700s, Father Jose Blanc, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, surveys the territory at Mission Santa Anna, located in modern-day Logan Heights.
In a rare photo from the late 1700s, Father Jose Blanc, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, surveys the territory at Mission Santa Anna, located in modern-day Logan Heights.

A recently discovered cache of letters in the basement of San Diego’s famed Mission Santa Anna have revealed that things were not always suffused with the peace of Christ during the Mission’s early days. “Relations have become strained between members of the Santa Anna mission and the neighboring residents,” wrote the Father Jose Blanc to his superiors in Madrid. “The rift began primarily over stable space, but is being fueled by a cultural divide. Residents have called in the local authorities over concerns that we are not taking sufficient measures to stop the spread of disease. They are outraged by our message that unless they repent and believe in the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, they will burn in eternal hellfire, calling our preaching, ‘rude, bigoted, and hateful.’ They complain that we are mostly White, and that we are encroaching on a largely Indigenous neighborhood. And they have resisted our efforts to remove unChristian influences from their midst. Still, we will persevere, and we look forward to the day, perhaps hundreds of years in the future, when this church serves as a foretaste of heavenly tranquility for those in its vicinity. But we really do have to do something about the stable space.”

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In a rare photo from the late 1700s, Father Jose Blanc, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, surveys the territory at Mission Santa Anna, located in modern-day Logan Heights.
In a rare photo from the late 1700s, Father Jose Blanc, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, surveys the territory at Mission Santa Anna, located in modern-day Logan Heights.

A recently discovered cache of letters in the basement of San Diego’s famed Mission Santa Anna have revealed that things were not always suffused with the peace of Christ during the Mission’s early days. “Relations have become strained between members of the Santa Anna mission and the neighboring residents,” wrote the Father Jose Blanc to his superiors in Madrid. “The rift began primarily over stable space, but is being fueled by a cultural divide. Residents have called in the local authorities over concerns that we are not taking sufficient measures to stop the spread of disease. They are outraged by our message that unless they repent and believe in the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, they will burn in eternal hellfire, calling our preaching, ‘rude, bigoted, and hateful.’ They complain that we are mostly White, and that we are encroaching on a largely Indigenous neighborhood. And they have resisted our efforts to remove unChristian influences from their midst. Still, we will persevere, and we look forward to the day, perhaps hundreds of years in the future, when this church serves as a foretaste of heavenly tranquility for those in its vicinity. But we really do have to do something about the stable space.”

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