Idyls of the Missions

Box 10, Folder 4: “Idyls of the Missions by Clarice Garland”, Ana Bégué de Packman Papers (Collection 1491). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

Though on the outside “Idyls of the Missions” looks like an educational and historical account of the California Missions, the viewpoint and information it provides, as well as the viewpoint and information it excludes, allows the reader a chance to witness a part of the complex relationship between Mexicans and the area now known as California. The “Idyls of the Missions” is a brochure written by Clarice Garland bounded by string with thick, cardboardlike front and back covers. There is little wear on the object, especially considering it was published in the 1917. This artifact features text, drawings, and poems from 1769 to 1833 in order to reconstruct the multifaceted issues and ultimate decline of the Californian missions.

The writing within seems to dramatize the fall of the Missions by telling the story of Governor José Maria Echandia who claimed to be following the instructions of the Mexican government to secularize the Missions. These accounts, stories, poems, and pictures all seem tell the story of the privileged and the powerful, as opposed to the average person. Like most artifacts of its time, the brochure uses the names and stories of Mexican immigrants but seems to deterritorialize these things from their contexts and re-situates them within the context of the Anglo American. By viewing Mexican histories through a White perspective, important information is lost as it does not translate without the proper cultural and social background. Because of this, the brochure seems to have been produced for the upper middle class white American, perhaps used as a light, coffee table read instead of as a powerful, serious account of the history of the Missions.

This brochure elicits questions about the origin of the information it presents, and I am curious as to where and how the author attained these stories and poems. Had they already been translated away from their authentic Mexican origins or did the author think to change them himself in order to make them more suitable for his upper middle class audiences? I am also curious as to how this account of history would have been different if it had be written by someone of Mexican decent, who understood the social and cultural elements lost in translation. These questions are frequently brushed over, however they should be asked in order to properly contextualize and view this artifact from the past.