California Mission Landscapes

California Mission Landscapes

Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage

Elizabeth Kryder-Reid

How iconic American places cultivate and conceal contested pasts

368 Pages, 7 x 10 in



California Mission Landscapes

Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage

Series: Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture

Elizabeth Kryder-Reid

ISBN: 9780816637973

Publication date: November 30th, 2016

368 Pages


10 x 7

"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

"Out here in California, we’re taught in elementary school that missions set up by Catholic missionaries during the Spanish era were necessary to save the Indians; in college, we’re rightfully taught they were basically concentration camps. This University of Minnesota Press libro is of the latter school, but takes on the fascinating prism of gardens to tell its enrapturing narrative."—Monterey County Weekly

"A case study for discussing the politics of memory for heritage sites worldwide, making it an appropriate addition for any art library."—ARLIS/NA Reviews

"Kryder-Reid’s strengths lie with her detailed interrogation of mission gardens, and California mission heritage more broadly, as well as her ability to foster dialogue about colonialism and the formation of cultural memory."—Western Historical Quarterly

"Poignant and timely... More importantly, it is a counter narrative that needs to be told."—News from Native California

"The book’s greatest strength is in reinforcing the idea of landscape as text. It is well written and reflect solid research."—Historical Geography

"Using landscape as a starting point, Kryder-Reid marshals a truly impressive array of evidence to show how the California missions have been remade over time and to imagine what the future might hold for these historically and emotionally resonant places."—The Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"The book succeeds as a primer for those interested in the ways California’s missions have been interpreted to date. Further, it successfully discusses how future interpretive plans that allow for meaningful conversations to take place at sites with difficult, contested histories might be envisioned."—New Mexico Historical Review

“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.

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.

Introduction: Missions, Memory, and Heritage
1. Into the Corral: Colonial Landscapes, Domination, and Resistance
2. Time Binding: The Invention of the Mission Garden
3. “Where It Belongs in Time and Place and Public Understanding”
4. Subtle and Peculiar Power: The Embodied Experience of Heritage
Conclusion: Third Spaces and the Future of Mission Memory Practices
Appendix: Plant List, Santa Barbara Mission Garden, 1903