Mission de San Fransisco Javier de Viggé Biaundó

We’re still hanging out in the Puerto Escondido general area enjoying being with friends from S/V Blue and S/V Slow Motion for just a bit longer. Sometimes you meet people who just click with you. They are both hauling out and putting their boats on the hard for the season at the end of the month, so we’re enjoying some last few days with them. We never know what activity we’re going to be doing when we meet up with them, but we know whatever it is, it’s going to be fun.

A game of Goat Spotting, aptly played by Lynn.

Yesterday our friends Curt and Lynn Browlow on S/V Slow Motion rented a car that turned out to be a Jeep Cherokee. This is not the usual rental car offered for 40$/day through the marina. Those are generally the ‘plain vanilla no power anything’ vehicles that are basic transportation. Since they had a comfortable vehicle with air conditioning, they invited us to come with them up into the mountains to the almost ancient Jesuit Mission de San Fransisco Javier de Viggé Biaundó, built in 1744.

We really enjoy a good historical church, and do our best to focus on the love and care that went into the building of such a place. But even so we are not immune to the sorrow we feel as we think about how much pain and suffering the missionaries generally bring to the native populations of places where they feel compelled to go in order to ‘save the souls’ of otherwise happily existing peoples. In this case, the Jesuit’s goal was to christianize the native indians who had lived on this land for centuries, hunting and gathering in their nomadic lifestyle. The missionaries planned to change all of that way of life for the native people and, alas, the population suffered dramatically, as is so often the case, and many died of imported illnesses such as smallpox.  Still, the building is fantastic and at this point, it’s all water under the proverbial bridge. We can’t change what is done.

Such a beautiful place.

So, a drive through a mountain pass with air conditioning, ending in a visit to an interesting and beautiful ancient mission? Browsing-goat spotting on the way? Yes, please! We weren’t sure if it was 45 miles, 45 kilometers, or 45 minutes of driving to get to the mission, but whatever, let’s go!

The road to the mission is actually a good road with hardly any holes, a good thing in a winding mountain road. Curt made the driving look easy as he slalomed up the switchbacks and over low areas where mountain springs trickled across the road. I hardly ever had an opportunity to put my foot through the floor on my imaginary backseat brake or white-knuckle the convenient handles installed above the doors. Hardly ever.

The road ends at the small town where the mission is located. Sighting the mission domes through the palm trees we were already enchanted before we parked and approached the door. Mike was met immediately by a local man who gestured for us to follow him and proceeded to give us a small tour of the grounds far behind the church. I don’t think he was a ‘tour guide’ per se, but he was a man who had discovered a way to make some money by giving tourists a view they wouldn’t ordinarily get otherwise. We decided to follow along.

He explained that he lives right next to the mission and that the town has 180 people, a number he drew in the sand to be sure I understood. He represented his town as a peaceful place where people get along and there is no crime. The path he led us on ran right next to his own cornfield.

We put a donation into a small wooden box at the little palapa where a young man sat at a desk with a book for us to sign. We put our names, where we were from, then whether we were men or women. Interesting, that.

Following our guide along the trail, he led us to a magnificent olive tree, planted when the mission was founded. This tree alone was worth the donation fee. If you are sensitive to old trees, you’d appreciate the feeling of this one; a long and slow thrumming just beneath the surface. It still bears olives, although none of us could understand enough Spanish to know if they harvest them.

This olive tree! Have to admire anything with the determination to live this long and this well.  Here we are with 2/3 of the ‘gang of 6’: Curt and Lynn Brownlow.

At the top of the rise, he showed us the irrigation methods the Jesuits used. This is an area that has a natural water source and it’s an oasis in an otherwise hostile land. There are fruit trees and fresh water fish are in the cistern. They even grow water-hungry roses by the mission. Water comes in through a channel at the high end and trickles out through a channel in the low end, allowing for irrigation of crops and fruit trees.

The original irrigation cistern has been repaired over the years but is still going strong. It took the Jesuits a number of years to finally locate the mission here, where there was enough water to grow crops.

At the end of our tour our guide stuck out his hand to be paid for the tour. Huh? I thought we paid at the palapa. But this is where traveling in Mexico and not knowing much of the language yet leads to misunderstandings. It’s better to just pay the small amount of extra and move on, not really knowing if we’re paying twice or not. It was still a bargain. We each paid him about 1$ for his 20 minute tour and put about 1$ into the ‘official’ money box.

By the time we were ready to go inside the mission and look around the temperature had risen. With its cool and shady stone interior, the mission offered respite to its congregants from more than their spiritual suffering. I can imagine on a hot Sunday, people might be OK with the minister going on and on from his pulpit.

This lizard lives in one of the Mesquite trees on the property. Photo is courtesy of Curt Brownlow, who does great lizard photographs. I believe this is a Collared Lizard.

We ended our great day by meeting Kevin and Cressie Baerg of S/V Blue back in Loreto for ice cream and a trip to the local grocery store. As cruising days go, it was about as perfect as you can get.

The ‘Blue’s and the ‘Slow Motion’s were supposed to be leaving the dock today and making their way north to Guaymas and San Carlos to haul their boats out for the season and go back home. Alas for them they were delayed a day as they needed to fill up with water from the dock before they left and the water to the dock wasn’t working today. That’s a good example of how plans go awry with this lifestyle. Sorry for them, but glad for us: we got them for an additional evening of convivial fun!

We’ll be hanging out in this general area for awhile as my sister and nephew are coming in the middle of the month to spend a week with us on the boat. We now know enough about schedules and cruising that we are playing it safe, sticking close to Loreto until they get here to be sure we are here when they arrive. We are so excited to have family visiting!

A few more photos from the day:

The cool stone, the simple lines, the colorful icons – I find these things to be soothing and peaceful.

A tiny staircase leading up to the bell tower is locked. Dang it.


There is a small graveyard, names and dates engraved on iron crosses. One man lived to be 100 years old. Must have been doing something right.

Behind the mission.

S/V Galapagos, Out.





3 thoughts on “Mission de San Fransisco Javier de Viggé Biaundó

  1. Wonderful photos and narrative! I love the collared lizard’s expression. But most of all, enjoyed the photos of the quiet, contemplative places. Great entry!

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