The northernmost of the California missions at Sonoma is an austere place. It bathes in a harsh light that juxtaposes sharply its whitewashed walls and the pure blue sky. Its contemplation exudes purity. The mission stands at one corner of the main city square blending almost anonymously with the rest of the buildings framing it.
Is this a religious construction or a military outpost? Who were the men that reached out to this frontier? What were their ambitions? Those questions float in my mind as I stand in front of this humble adobe construction. I ignore almost everything about their progress and struggles in this fertile land. I contrast the felicitous riches that surround it today with what I imagine were the prickly circumstances of the original settlers.
As a historic vestige, it is devoid of decorative additions. A tall cross on the red-tiled roof and a church bell suspended from a simple wooden frame are the sole indications that speak of its origins. In ruins by 1834, only 11 years after its foundation, it became temporarily a barn and a storeroom before recovering its religious origin.
On the western side of the building, two marble plates recall the names of the native Indians converted to the recently arrived religion. I chill upon reading the names: Eulalia, Hipólito, Eusebia, Próspero, Serafina, Demetria….and a deep sadness of lives spent invades me. Why? I do not know. I see them all, their faces, their toils and fatigues and I recall a moment of my unlived past.