The California missions are a series of settlements established by SpanishCatholicFranciscans, to Christianize the local Native Americans, but with the added benefit of giving Spain a toehold in the frontier land. The missions introduced European livestock, fruits and vegetables and industry into the California region.
The missions are the best-known historical element of the coastal regions of California. This popularity, stemming largely from Helen Hunt Jackson's highly romantic novel Ramona (1884), has been both a blessing and a curse. It has earned the missions a prominent place in California's historic consciousness, and sent a steady stream of visitors to these sites.
In many cases, it led to the reconstruction of these missions, with at best an honest but poorly informed attempt to adhere to historic reality. Lacking substantive knowledge of the native people who built and inhabited these missions, the reconstructors largely left them out of the story. Many reconstructed missions are adorned with lush gardens, even though research indicates that these did not exist. Furthermore, the reconstructions severely damaged the archaeological record.