“The two forces faced each other in battle array, armed on one side with guns and lances, and on the other with book, holy water, and cross. [Fr.] Martinez began to read and [Miguel]Avila seized the book, thinking thus to escape damnation; but the padre went on, finished the rite in bad Latin from memory, and retired in triumph to the church.”
Theodore Henry Hittell’s pioneering four-volume “History of California” contains many colorful stories. Hittell was attorney to Juan Bautista Alvarado, the longest serving Governor of Mexican California, from 1836-1841.
Few of his accounts are as flamboyant as the confrontation between Corporal Miguel Avila of the Mission Escolte (guard) and Mission San Luis Obispo’s pastor, Fr. Luis Antonio Martinez. It took place in Mission Plaza in 1824.
Fr. Martinez had seen Cpl. Avila transacting some illicit business with one of the Mission neophytes. The Franciscan missionaries tried as much as possible to protect the Native Americans from the depredations of the soldados. Avila had been warned earlier. Now, Fr. Martinez was going to…
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