Life in a California Mission
By Jean François de la Pérouse
On the afternoon of September 14, 1786, two French ships appeared off the coast of Monterey, the first foreign vessels to visit Spain's California colonies. Aboard was a party of eminent scientists, navigators, cartographers, illustrators, and physicians. For the next ten days the commander of this expedition, Jean François de La Pérouse, took detailed notes on the life and character of the area: its abundant wildlife, the labors of soldiers and monks, and the customs of Indians recently drawn into the mission. These observations provide a startling portrait of California two centuries ago.