Great Lives from History: The 17th Century
Eusebio Francisco Kino
Kino was a Jesuit priest who founded missions in present-day Arizona and northern Mexico. An important cartographer and a bold explorer, he produced some of the first European maps of the northern frontier of New Spain and Baja California.
Born: August 10, 1645; Segno, Tirol (now in Italy)
Died: March 15, 1711; Magdalena, Sonora, New Spain (now in Mexico)
Also Known As: Eusebio Francesco Chini (given name); Eusebio Francesco
Chino (given name); Eusebio Francesco Kühn
Areas of Achievement: Religion and theology, exploration, geography
Born to Francesco Chini and Margherita Lucchi, Eusebio Francisco Kino (ow-SAYB-yoh frahn-THEES-koh KEE-noh) was one of five children raised on the Chini family farm in northern Italy. A talented student, he studied in Trento, Italy, as well as at universities in Austria and Germany, taking courses in languages, theology, mathematics, and astronomy. At the age of nineteen, Kino fell gravely ill. Praying to Saint Francis Xavier, he vowed that if he recovered, he would devote his life to being a missionary. After recuperating, in 1665 Kino joined the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, a Catholic religious order dedicated to education, preaching, and missionary work. He hoped to be sent on a mission to China, following in the footsteps of a cousin, Father Martino Martini.
In 1677, Kino was ordained a priest at Eistady, Austria. The following year, he received his assignment as a missionary to the Americas. He left Genoa, Italy, with nineteen other Jesuits for Cádiz, Spain, port to the New World. Due to bad weather conditions, however, the group arrived late, missing the ship, and they remained in Seville, Spain, for two years waiting for the next fleet to leave. While in Seville, Kino learned Spanish. He also studied Halley's comet, eventually publishing a treatise on the subject in 1682. Kino's ship finally left Spain in 1681, arriving at Veracruz, Mexico, after three months. He was thirty-six years old.
In Mexico City, Kino joined the expedition of Admiral Isidro Atondo Antillón to Baja California as rector of the mission and royal cartographer. Kino was to be the first missionary in the area. In 1682, the group set sail from the west coast of Mexico. Although they established a mission and fort at San Bruno in 1683-1684, however, their attempts to colonize Baja California eventually failed due to the challenging geography and the resistance of the native population. The group withdrew from the region in 1684.
Kino's next assignment was as a missionary to the Pima Indians, or O'odham ("the people"), in the Pimería Alta region (now Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora). It was hoped that missionaries could pacify this area, the site of continued conflict between the Pima and Apache tribes. In addition, the Spanish feared that the Pima might join forces with the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, who already, in 1680, had staged the most successful native uprising of the colonial era, the Pueblo Revolt.
Kino arrived at the Sonoran town of Cucurpe in 1687. Shortly thereafter, he established his first mission in the nearby settlement of Cosari, giving it the name Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). He remained in Pimería Alta for twenty-four years, from 1687 until his death in 1711, founding more than twenty other missions in Sonora and Arizona.
Kino's missions were typical of those founded by the Jesuits. He located them near preexisting native settlements, frequently on rivers, and in close proximity to other missions for support. After first erecting a cross on the site, they constructed a simple lean-to in which to say Mass, followed by a small adobe chapel. Once the site was well established, a more substantial church was built, usually by native laborers using local materials under the priest's direction.
Kino's missions lie along a 75-mile (120-kilometer) chain extending from Sonora north into Arizona, in the area of the Sonoran Desert. Some of the best known of the missions he founded include the churches at San Ignacio, Magdalena, Cocóspera, and Caborca in Sonora and San Xavier del Bac and Tumacácori in Arizona. Virtually nothing remains, though, of Kino's original structures. Shortly after his death in 1711, the missions fell into disuse and eventual ruin. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish empire in 1767 as a result of conflict with King Charles III of Spain, the Franciscans took over the Jesuit missions on the northern frontier. At most sites, they rebuilt larger, more elaborate churches of fired brick. The famous mission church of San Xavier del Bac, near Tucson, Arizona, is the best known of all, a gleaming white Baroque edifice rebuilt in 1783-1797 by the Franciscans on the foundations of Kino's simple adobe church of 1700. It still serves Native American worshipers today.
Kino is also remembered for establishing European agricultural methods at his missions. For example, he introduced European foodstuffs such as wheat and fruit trees to the Pima. He also imported domesticated animals such as cattle and sheep and taught the Pima carpentry and iron-working techniques. His goal was for each mission to become a self-supporting community.
Despite Kino's great success at founding missions among the Pima peoples, his twenty-four-year residence in the Pimería Alta was not without difficulties. The most dramatic of these was the Pima Uprising, or the Tubutama Revolt, of 1695. The rebellion occurred when, after brutal mistreatment by Spanish settlers and their Indian overseers at Tubutama, angry Pimas rose up, destroyed several missions, and killed the Jesuit priest at Caborca, Father Francisco Xavier Saeta. Father Kino intervened, putting an end to Spanish retaliation, and he was able to broker a peace between the Spanish and the Pima. He then undertook the rebuilding of the destroyed missions.
To this day, Kino is remembered as a peacemaker and advocate for the Piman Indians. He helped unite the various Piman peoples in their on-going battles with the Apache. He also defended them from the abuses of Spanish settlers in the area. To that end, he enforced a royal decree prohibiting the colonists from enslaving local Indians in the silver mines of northern Mexico. Admittedly, the decree only protected Christian Indians and thus was clearly designed to facilitate conversion. Facing the choice between enslavement or Christianity, most Pimans were inclined to choose the latter. The same decree also exempted native neophytes from paying tribute.
In addition to his missionary activities, Father Kino is also remembered as an intrepid explorer. He made numerous trips on horseback into the desert Southwest, where no previous Europeans had ventured, including about forty trips into Arizona. In 1694, he was the first European to visit and report on the impressive Hohokam ruins of Casa Grande. He charted rivers in the region, including the Colorado, Gila, and Río Grande Rivers. In 1700, he determined that Baja California was a peninsula, not an island, as the Spanish had previously thought. As a result of his explorations, he produced about thirty maps that charted the Pimería Alta, Baja California, and the Sea of Cortez. They became the standard sources on the area.
Since the failed expedition of 1682-1684 to Baja California, Kino had longed to return to the first site of his missionizing. The head of the Jesuit order in Rome, General Tirso González, finally sent him there again in 1697. Jesuit attempts to convert Native Americans in the area recommenced. At the same time, Kino continued to evangelize in the Pimería Alta, traveling back and forth between the two areas for the next decade. He died on March 15, 1711, in Magdalena, Sonora, after dedicating yet another chapel, this one honoring his patron saint, Saint Francis Xavier. Since the discovery of Father Kino's body in 1966, Magdalena has become a pilgrimage site for devotees from Sonora, Chihuahua, and the southwest United States. In the early twenty-first century, plans were afoot to canonize the so-called Padre on Horseback.
Because of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino's energy, persistence, and talents, the Pimería Alta missions were the most successful Jesuit missions in the Americas, despite their location in an area that had long resisted Spanish colonization. Kino is revered to this day by many Piman peoples as an advocate and peacemaker. He was responsible for the introduction of European farming and ranching techniques on the northern frontier. As an explorer and cartographer, moreover, Kino produced the first maps of the Pimería Alta region and Baja California, maps that continued in use through the late nineteenth century.
Charlene Villaseñor BlackFurther Reading
Bolton, Herbert Eugene. The Padre on Horseback. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1963. Still the definitive biography of Kino.
Polzer, Charles W. Kino Guide II: A Life of Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J., Arizona's First Pioneer, and a Guide to His Missions and Monuments. Tucson: Southwest Mission Research Center, 1982. A short version of Kino's life with helpful information on the history of the mission churches. Written from a Catholic point of view by the current authority on Father Kino.
_______. Kino, a Legacy: His Life, His Works, His Missions, His Monuments. Tucson: Jesuit Fathers of Southern Arizona, 1998. One of the best detailed studies by the authority on Kino. Written from a Catholic point of view.
Poole, Stafford. "Iberian Catholicism Comes to the Americas." In Christianity Comes to the Americas, 1492-1776, by Charles H. Lippy, Robert Choquette, and Stafford Poole. New York: Paragon House, 1992. Provides an excellent overview of the work of Kino and the Jesuits on the northern frontier and places their activities within a wider historical context.
Saint Isaac Jogues; Jacques Marquette.
In Great Events from History: The 17th Century, 1601-1700: August 10, 1680: Pueblo Revolt.
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