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California Mission Landscapes

Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage

2016
Author:

Elizabeth Kryder-Reid

California Mission Landscapes

How iconic American places cultivate and conceal contested pasts

California Mission Landscapes demonstrates how the gardens planted in mission courtyards over the last 150 years are not merely anachronistic but have become potent ideological spaces. Until now no book has explored the mission landscapes as an avenue into understanding the politics of the past, tracing the continuum between the Spanish colonial period, emerging American nationalism, and the contemporary heritage industry.

California’s Spanish-Mexican missions are among the least known of America’s significant historic sites. Elizabeth Kryder-Reid’s pioneering study of the missions’ gardens uncovers their roles as sites of forced labor, romantic nationalism, racial formation, indigenous experience, and religious devotion. Her eye-opening account illuminates the tangled origins and meanings of these gardens, respecting the complexity that makes them so fascinating.

Dell Upton, author of Another City: Urban Life and Urban Spaces in the New American Republic

“Nothing defines California and our nation’s heritage as significantly or emotionally,” says the California Mission Foundation, “as do the twenty-one missions that were founded along the coast from San Diego to Sonoma.” Indeed, the missions collectively represent the state’s most iconic tourist destinations and are touchstones for interpreting its history. Elementary school students today still make model missions evoking the romanticized versions of the 1930s. Does it occur to them or to the tourists that the missions have a dark history?

California Mission Landscapes is an unprecedented and fascinating history of California mission landscapes from colonial outposts to their reinvention as heritage sites through the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Illuminating the deeply political nature of this transformation, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid argues that the designed landscapes have long recast the missions from sites of colonial oppression to aestheticized and nostalgia-drenched monasteries. She investigates how such landscapes have been appropriated in social and political power struggles, particularly in the perpetuation of social inequalities across boundaries of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and religion. California Mission Landscapes demonstrates how the gardens planted in mission courtyards over the past 150 years are not merely anachronistic but have become potent ideological spaces. The transformation of these sites of conquest into physical and metaphoric gardens has reinforced the marginalization of indigenous agency and diminished the contemporary consequences of colonialism. And yet, importantly, this book also points to the potential to create very different visitor experiences than these landscapes currently do.

Despite the wealth of scholarship on California history, until now no book has explored the mission landscapes as an avenue into understanding the politics of the past, tracing the continuum between the Spanish colonial period, emerging American nationalism, and the contemporary heritage industry.

California Mission Landscapes

Elizabeth Kryder-Reid is professor of anthropology and museum studies and director of the Cultural Heritage Research Center in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts (IUPUI) and former director of the IUPUI museum studies program.

California Mission Landscapes

California’s Spanish-Mexican missions are among the least known of America’s significant historic sites. Elizabeth Kryder-Reid’s pioneering study of the missions’ gardens uncovers their roles as sites of forced labor, romantic nationalism, racial formation, indigenous experience, and religious devotion. Her eye-opening account illuminates the tangled origins and meanings of these gardens, respecting the complexity that makes them so fascinating.

Dell Upton, author of Another City: Urban Life and Urban Spaces in the New American Republic

This book must be read to understand the cultural memory presented in the landscape of the California missions. Rather than true to the missions’ actual look and to the history of land use, the gardens create an imagined past and an aestheticized space. Elizabeth Kryder-Reid examines the creation of the celebratory narrative the missions acquired through their landscapes. Her exemplary study makes it possible to also envision them as de-colonial sites.

Lisbeth Haas, author of Saints and Citizens: Indigenous History of Colonial Missions and Mexican California

California Mission Landscapes

Contents
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Missions, Memory, and Heritage
1. Colonial Mission Landscapes
2. Inventing Heritage: Time Binding in the Mission Landscape
3. Cultivating Heritage: Race, Identity, and the Politics of the Mission Landscape
4. Consuming Heritage: The Embodied Experience of the California Missions
Conclusion: Third Spaces and the Future of Mission Memory Practices
Appendix: Plant Lists
Notes
Bibliography
Index