Spanish-Mexican colonial heritage in San Diego and Riverside counties

The San Luis Rey Mission, in Oceanside, Calif., was founded in 1798, when Spain still claimed all of California and much of the American West. Today it offers a retreat center and a peaceful setting to contemplate a different era. The old church is filled with what I consider to be classic American Baroque paintings of the passion of Christ, reminding me a lot of similar ones I saw in Cuzco, Peru–lots of pain, lots of intensity. That was also visible in the bronze life-size statues in the courtyard. It is one of many missions on the West Coast, and called “Rey,” or king, because of its size.

Further northeast, in Riverside County, sits the Santa Rosa Plateau, which still contains original adobe structures granted to the last Mexican governor of California. The ecological preserve offers miles of beautiful trails through Oak meadows, providing sanctuary for wildlife like coyotes, mountain lions, and badgers. (Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

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