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"Saludos from your comadre": compadrazgo as a community institution in Alta California, 1769-1860s.

"... inasmuch as the province [i.e. territorio] depends more exclusively than any other portion of Spanish America on extraneous supplies, and here, accordingly, foreigners and natives cordially mingle together as members of one and the same harmonious family."

--SIR GEORGE SIMPSON (1841-42) (1)

In 1851, Victoria Bartholomea Reid, the missionized Gabrielino wife of Scotsman Hugo Reid, wrote to the Los Angeles businessman and landowner Abel Stearns hoping to enlist his help during a time of personal distress. Unable to locate her husband, Victoria asked her "dear compadre" Stearns for assistance in finding him, closing her letter, "remember me to my comadre Arcadia." (2) Like the Reids, the Stearns were an interethnic couple: Abel Stearns was a Massachusetts-born merchant and his wife Arcadia Bandini was a Californiana. (3) However, the Stearns held greater political and social clout than the Reids due to their wealth. Aware of this asymmetry, Victoria invoked the bonds of obligation and reciprocity inherent in compadrazgo (godparentage), an institution of Catholic sponsorship that required compadres (spiritual coparents) to offer each other assistance and respect. Her letter demonstrates that interethnic and intercultural ties forged through Catholic sponsorship during the Mexican era still maintained social currency in the early years of American conquest in southern California.

Practiced throughout the Spanish, Mexican, and American eras, compadrazgo in southern California generated spiritual and familial bonds of intimacy between people of different cultures, nationalities, genders, and socioeconomic strata.4 This intimacy constitutes moments of sexual contact and marriage as well as cultural exchanges and the spectrum of emotions generated from colonial encounters--from affection and loyalty to suspicion, ambivalence, and hate. (5)

This article represents an ongoing exploration into compadrazgo's meaning, applications, and participants. It argues that compadrazgo emerged as an effective instrument in establishing interethnic ties that furthered community formation in southern California, embodying both spiritual and material dimensions. Within the mission system, compadrazgo also offered native peoples a new way of ritualizing and affirming kinship bonds, though these ties, paradoxically, were threatened by the missionization process itself through invasion and demographic decline. In this article, the focus on godparentage in southern California rests not on whether it developed differently than other regions, but rather in its ability to withstand transitions in political power and changing social climates, offering a new perspective on an established practice that helped shape California's early history and the American West. (6)


Rooted in Iberian Catholic traditions, Spanish-Mexican settlers replicated compadrazgo in southern California and other regions of the Spanish borderlands. (7) Godparents promised to aid in the spiritual upbringing of their godchild, assuming the role of spiritual coparents alongside the individual's natural parents. In colonial Latin America, compadrazgo's emphasis on the relationship between godparent and godchild or between compadres varied, depending upon region, time period, and the participants' ethnicity, race, class, and gender. In southern California, Catholic sponsorship represented more than a mere transplanting of respected customs for the benefit of colonial settlers. Its practice furthered the spiritual conquest of the region by encouraging Spanish-Mexican Christians, or gente de razon (people of reason), to sponsor native peoples, modeling Spanish-Catholic values and behaviors to neophytes (new converts). (8) Conquest depended upon the establishment of indigenous Catholic communities that would eventually become integrated into the Spanish empire as taxpaying populations and act as a defensive buffer zone to thwart imperial rivals. (9) Thus, compadrazgo not only advanced a spiritual purpose in southern California, but addressed economic and political goals as well.

From the very beginning of California's mission system, asymmetrical relationships developed between Spanish Mexicans and indigenous communities. Godparents listed in various southern California mission registers during the missions' founding years were overwhelmingly Spanish-Mexican soldiers, servants, and their wives. At Mission San Buenaventura, 88.9 percent of all baptisms of Indian males from 1782 to 1787 were sponsored by Spanish Mexicans, the overwhelming majority of them soldiers and their female kin. From 1783 to 1787, gente de razon godparents sponsored an average of 85.4 percent of Indian female baptisms. (10)

Later, native communities provided increasing numbers of baptismal sponsors to neophytes, demonstrating their adaptation to Catholic sponsorship. Only three years after its 1771 founding, Mission San Gabriel witnessed a surge in both Alta and Baja California Indian godparents, the latter arriving with Franciscans in Alta California in 1769, as illustrated below.

While gente de razon godparents in this sample peaked at a rate of 95.3 percent from 1771 to 1773, their numbers quickly plummeted to 23.2 percent from 1774 to 1775. These were transitional, as sponsorships of native baptisms by Baja California Indian godparents increased to 36.1 percent and those by Alta California Indians--local neophytes-to 38.1 percent. Apparently, missionaries here were less concerned with the duration of Catholic training among indigenous godparents than with the desire to encourage new baptisms by offering indigenous sponsors. This godparenting analysis also reveals periods of demographic decline: 1800 to 1801 witnessed a rate of 36.8 percent of Indian baptisms without a named godparent, signifying a baptism performed due to danger of death. Finally, the sample taken from 1810 to 1811, consisting of 568 Indian baptisms, reveals that 85.2 percent of neophytes received Indian godparents. As this table indicates, Baja California Indians played a stronger role during the early years at Mission San Gabriel, as did gente de razon godparents, but by 1800, local Indians sponsored themselves for baptism in significant numbers, reflecting the emergence of new indigenous Catholic communities. (11)

Although the San Buenaventura and San Gabriel missions' founding years demonstrated the most intensive rates of interethnic sponsorship, no set formula existed as to when mission communities or missionaries transitioned away from genre de razon to neophyte godparents. The slight delay in the development of intracommunity godparentage exhibited in Alta California also occurred earlier in colonial Mexico, revealing similarities in the evolution of indigenous godparentage. (12) Nevertheless, the presence of soldiers and their families at missions meant that gente de razon godparents continued occasionally to sponsor indigenous Californians throughout the mission period. (13)


One telling indication of the uneven nature of compadrazgo in early southern California is the lack of reciprocal sponsorship between Indian Christians and Spanish Mexicans. Despite the presence of indigenous Christians by the 1790s, they remained excluded as sponsors of Spanish Mexicans for baptism; the rare exception consisted of Christian Indian brides of Spanish-Mexican husbands who sponsored jointly. (14) This lack of mutual sponsorship is hardly surprising.

Such sponsorship of gente de razon godchildren would require that they and their natural parents pay respect and deference to Indian padrinos (godparents). (15) Spanish-Mexican settler Antonio Franco Coronel recalled the typical exchange between godparent and godchild, stating, "When young people met their godparents anywhere, they were obliged to take off their hats and ask a blessing. The godparents' obligation was to substitute for the parents if they should die, if necessary provide for the godchild's keep and education, and give good advice." (16) The social, political, and economic hierarchies instituted by Spanish-Mexican colonizers in Alta California required that they remain at the top of the godparenting complex above native peoples. (17) Interethnic compadrazgo ties in Spanish Alta California, then, flowed vertically, connecting people across class and ethnic lines, rather than horizontally among social equals. (18)

An obvious question that emerges from this study is whether Franciscans selected godparents for Indian neophytes, or whether Indians exercised a choice or preference in their spiritual coparents. According to James Sandos, the Father President Junipero Serra selected a Spanish soldier as the proposed godfather to a Diegueno baby who was to receive Spanish clothing and serve as the first baptism in Alta California. (19) Certainly the lack of familiarity between Spanish Mexicans and native Californians suggests that missionaries assigned godparents in the early years of conquest. However, on at least seventy-four occasions, native relatives stood as godparents, implying that some families exercised a preference. For example, an Indian woman Gertrudis stood as madrina to her nephew Diego from the village of Apinjaibit at Mission San Gabriel in 1811. That same year, Maria Cleofe was madrina to her brother Juan de la Cruz at Mission San Gabriel. (20)


Interethnic kinship bonds between Spanish Mexicans and native peoples offered material incentives and encouraged cultural exchanges. These intimate ties may have stabilized tensions following violent encounters that generated deep-seeded animosity and mistrust between these groups. (21) Food proved welcome to native Californians in the aftermath of ecological and microbial revolutions that threatened traditional food sources and their health. (22) "Out from the presidio come great heaps of tortillas sent by godfathers for their godsons," wrote Father Serra in a letter to Father Guardian Francisco Pangua in 1774, continuing, "Even though each day a mighty cauldron of pozole is filled and emptied three times over [at the mission], these poor little fellows still have a corner for the tortillas their godfathers send them." Not only food but other material goods possibly drew Indians into compadrazgo relationships with Spanish soldiers. Again noting the attraction of compadrazgo in a letter to Viceroy Bucareli dated 1775, Father Serra indicated that "heaps of remnants given in exchange, or as gifts by godfathers to their spiritual sons" were welcomed by families. (23)

Anecdotal examples reveal that some indigenous godchildren maintained contact with genre de razon godparents after sponsorship. During the 1830S and 1840S, interethnic tensions grew in the San Diego region, and unconverted and Christianized native peoples plotted to kidnap gente de razon women and attack ranchos (Spanish-Mexican land grants). Candelaria, the Indian goddaughter and servant of Dona Josefa Carrillo de Fitch, revealed the plot saving her godmother and others. (24) Whether Candelaria's actions were due to affection for her godmother, loyalty, or fear that she would become ensnared in the plot's ensuring investigation is unclear. Nevertheless, she alerted rancho owners of impending danger. Chumash Fernando Librado recalled seeing his gente de razon godfather Ramon Valdez at Mission Santa Ines for the Corpus Christi celebration where Librado sang the Catalan mass. (25) While Librado's testimony reveals no emotion toward his padrino, Candelaria's example demonstrates the difficulty for some indigenous godchildren in balancing loyalty to the indigenous community and gente de razon godparents. (26)

The existence of sponsorship rituals among indigenous Californians offers one possibility for convergence between indigenous and Catholic rituals. Precontact sponsorship practices such as Indian puberty rituals, which assigned same-sex sponsors to adolescent initiates, possibly eased Indian acceptance of Catholic godparentage. For example, Luiseno adolescents underwent the Mani (toloache, or jimson weed) ceremony, which required the participation of village elders who instructed younger initiates in the songs and other cultural teachings of their people. The Cahuilla kiksawal puberty ceremony also required sponsorship by adult members who paired with initiates to teach them and assist them through the process. During the waxan (pit-roasting ceremony), Gabrielino women cared for and sang to younger women who reached the age of maturity, typically the onset of menarche. (27) Diegueno, Luiseno, and Cahuilla girls also experienced rituals and sponsorship by adult women in their communities. (28) Evidence of some traditional male leadership roles, such as village captains, persisting within the mission system is further indication that native peoples transplanted some traditional roles and practices to the mission setting. (29)


Defined by acts of reciprocity and obligation, compadrazgo among native Californians was unlikely to include the same offerings of European goods or foods as interethnic godparentage. However, indigenous godparents maintained more frequent contact with godchildren by residing at the mission or a neighboring rancheria (Indian village), thereby offering enhanced spiritual sustenance and intimacy. Furthermore, indigenous godparents quite possibly contributed financially to traditional or indigenous-influenced ceremonies and dances to commemorate life events, as did Latin American godparents)[degrees] According to Fernando Librado, a "godfather might pay the paha [ceremonial leader] $2.50," who in turn gave the money to a village or mission captain to pay for the performance of the Fox Dance at a wedding or baptism. This payment to honor important events remained consistent with the ceremonial complex in early southern California. (31) Thus, intracommunity godparents potentially fulfilled the material and spiritual needs of their community as well. In fact, indigenous compadrazgo offered native peoples greater fulfillment of traditional kinship and community obligations than did interethnic godparentage, especially if indigenous godparentage included payments for indigenous rituals.

Whatever significance godparentage held for indigenous Catholics, mission records provide examples of individual neophytes sponsoring scores of their community members, a pattern not typical of all missionized peoples. In a sample analysis of Mission San Gabriel baptisms for the year 1811, a few individuals stand out. Of forty-four total Gabrielino male and female neophytes and their spouses mentioned that year as godparents, five (11.4 percent) godparented fellow mission Indians more than 100 times each throughout their lifetime, an uncharacteristic level of sponsorship. Maria del Carmen sponsored as many as 180 indigenous godchildren between 1783 and 1806. Even more impressive was Ana Maria, who stood as godmother to 202 neophytes in her community between 1808 and 1815. (32)

Indigenous men also were prolific godparents during the Spanish period. At Mission San Diego de Alcala, Thomas Locau served as a spiritual parent to over sixty Indian converts from 1786 to 1804. (33) Justo and Benito Jose of Mission San Gabriel sponsored 165 and 175 mission community members, respectively. Those individuals who sponsored mass community members for Catholic sacraments illustrate the impact of one person within a mission community. Southern California mission records reveal that every mission maintained a core group of Indian godparents who resided in houses adjacent to the mission or in a neighboring rancheria. These people may have been called upon frequently because missionaries entrusted them to serve as Catholic role models and assigned them; alternatively, local Indians turned to individuals whom they accepted as community sponsors.

In contrast to the minority who frequently sponsored, many neophytes did not. Thirty-three of the forty-four Gabrielinos studied (or 75 percent) sponsored fewer than ten people during their lifetime. Ana Maria's husband, Rogerio, never appeared as a baptismal godparent, and Maria del Carmen's husband, Marcelino, sponsored only two baptisms. Others from that locale, including married couples Pasqual and Pasquala and Victorico and Victorica, sponsored only one baptism each. (34)

Given the symbolic importance of conversions of native elites in each cycle of conquest by the Spanish, some of the prolific sponsors probably participated to maintain their elite status. The wife of an Indian captain, Maria Serafina Hilachap, sponsored twenty-four San Diego neophytes in the 1780S and 1790S, ensuring a sense of continuity for her community by her visibility at the mission. Indian captains residing at rancherias and missions personally sponsored Indians for sacraments, or had close family members undergo sacraments, a minimum of 241 times at Mission San Diego de Alcala from 1769 to 1840, seventy-three times at Mission San Fernando Rey from 1798 to 1816, seventy-three times at Mission San Gabriel from 1774 to 1823, and thirteen times at Mission San Buenaventura from 1783 to 1804--a conservative accounting. (35) Although this represented a small percentage of all sacraments administered to Indians, the participation of Indian captains and their kin encouraged commoners to accept Catholic sacraments.

Fray Fermin Francisco de Lasuen noted how one Indian captain drew converts to Mission Santa Barbara. Commending Jose Maria, a Chumash leader at the mission, Lasuen wrote that "he collaborates in bringing about the subjection, pacification, and education of those who are Christians, and the conversion of the pagans. He is beloved by the whole nation." (36) However, the degree of authority wielded by these "captains" remains uncertain. As Edward Spicer notes in his research on northern Mexico, some designated as "captains" may have been individuals who showed more willingness to establish contact with missionaries. Thus, while the designation of some captains in Aha California mission registers signifies a continuation of precontact leadership roles among elites, others who lacked such status during this era made new claims of authority or represented a faction willing to collaborate with missionaries. (37)


Compadrazgo was perpetuated not only among Spanish-Mexican inhabitants and indigenous Californians, but also among foreign-born merchants entering California from the 1820S onward. Such participation in compadrazgo by extranjeros (foreigners) linked them to existing family networks, enhanced their business and interpersonal connections, and furthered their acculturation. The aforementioned Abel Stearns and Hugo Reid engaged in a business partnership and friendship over a number of years before they memorialized their closeness through Catholic godparentage. Prior to Stearns's marriage in 1841 to the elite Californiana Arcadia Bandini, Reid assured his friend that "should there be anything which my family can do for you in household affairs in order to facilitate matrimonial matters, command with the necessary confidence of a friend." (38) Shortly thereafter, Reid stood as a sacramental witness at Stearns's wedding, as did other merchant traders who sponsored their foreign-born peers for Catholic baptism and marriage to Alta California women.

Reciprocation of compadrazgo ties among converted extranjeros and native-born Catholic inhabitants remained a common practice in Mexican California. Years after his friend's wedding, Reid wrote Stearns stating, "I am obliged to use other measures to accelerate [sic] our compadrazco," and he offered tortas de pan (loaves of bread) made by his wife Victoria, Stearns's "comadre," as an enticement to the couple's request that the Stearns sponsor their son Carlitos Reid for holy confirmation in March 1843. In letters exchanged after the event, the two men referred to each other as "compadre" and to his compadre's wife as "comadre," honorific terms of affection that acknowledged their socioreligious and kinship bonds. (39) Despite his wife's reluctance to write, Reid frequently included "saludos from your comadre," offering Victoria's affection in letters to the Stearns. (40) Following Carlitos's confirmation, Reid turned to Stearns for advice and assistance during moments of economic distress, demonstrating the men's ability to speak of intimate concerns.


A world within a world emerged in Mexican and transitional California through mutual sponsorship for baptism and marriage among interethnic couples. Scottish-born Reid sponsored the Englishman Henry "Perfect Ugo" Dalton for baptism at Mission San Gabriel in 1847, paving the way for Dalton's marriage to Californiana Dona Guadalupe Zamorano. Significantly, Reid had previously worked as an agent for Dalton's trading company in Peru, and the men sacramentalized their relationship through godparentage. When the Belgian-born, naturalized Mexican citizen Victor Eugene August "Don Agustin" Janssens married Maria Antonia Pico on January 27, 1843, the Scottish shipmaster Senor Juan Wilson and his Californiana wife Dona Ramona Carrillo de Pacheco attended as the couple's witnesses. One year later, Janssens and Wilson entered into a proprietary partnership in a Santa Barbara store, their business relationship strengthened by compadrazgo and their shared history as husbands of Californianas and patriarchs of growing mixed families. (41)

Godparentage also strengthened existing blood ties among Californianas who married foreigners, as in the case of the Carrillo family. Dona Maria Josefa Carrillo and her Boston-born husband William "Guillermo" Dana requested that Maria Josefa's father Carlos Carrillo and her sister Maria Antonia Carrillo sponsor the couple's one-day-old daughter, Maria Josefa Antonia Sirila Dana, in 1829. Maria Josefa's cousin Dona Ramona Carrillo and her Scottish-born husband John "Don Juan" Wilson sponsored Juan Francisco, another child of Maria Josefa and William Dana, for baptism in 1836. In 1840, the Wilsons bestowed the same honor upon the Danas by asking them to serve as baptismal sponsor to their daughter Maria Ygnacia Felipa Wilson. In 1845, the Wilsons also godparented Ysabel Robbins, the daughter of Ramona's cousin Encarnacion Carrillo and her American husband Thomas "Tomas" Robbins. As these examples indicate, Californianas often played a pivotal intermediary role by incorporating foreign-born husbands into local godparenting networks, while simultaneously reaffirming preexisting kinship bonds. (42)

Godparentage also reinforced ethnic and national links among Frenchmen during the Mexican and early American eras. The presence of increasing numbers of extranjeros from France and the British Isles evidenced the increasing cosmopolitan flavor of southern California beginning in the 1820s. Several French husbands of Californianas sponsored the children of Gallic countrymen. For example, Luis Bauchet of France and his Californiana wife Basilia Alanis sponsored Espiridion Bark, the son of Carlos and Sofia Baric of"Burdeos" (Bordeaux), France. Frenchman Victor Leon Prudhomme and his wife Maria Merced Tapia requested that bachelor Estevan Jourdain of France and Basilia Alanis, Luis Bauchet's widow, stand as godparents to their daughter Maria Emidia Tomasa Prudhomme in 1848. (43)

Like the French, men from the British Isles and New England sponsored compatriots for baptism and marriage and were godparents to their mixed offspring produced from unions with Californianas. Irishman James "Santiago" Burke and his wife Josefa Borunda became padrinos to the son of Gorge [George] Antonio Allen of Ireland and his Californiana wife Petra Bermudez on October 19, 1832. Anita de la Guerra and her Boston-born husband Alfredo [Alfred] Robinson became the spiritual parents of Jose Maria Alfredo Hill, son of Bostonian Daniel Hill and Rafaela Ortega. Hill and Ortega honored the godfather Don Alfredo Robinson by bestowing his name upon the child. In the Mexican era, extranjeros, often joined by their Californiana wives, godparented interethnic offspring for baptism at least forty-three times prior to 1848 in southern California and fourteen additional times during the early American period. (44) Evidence of continuing participation in compadrazgo by extranjeros after American conquest lends credence to their continued respect for this socioreligious practice, despite the formal transfer of political power into American hands. (45)


Although Catholic godparentage offered potential material benefits to some Indian converts during the Spanish era and provided one way for them to ritualize and reaffirm kinship ties, over time the practice evolved into a tool for Californios and extranjeros to access Indian labor. According to Antonio Franco Coronel, Indian children, probably Yumas orphaned and captured in warfare with Spanish Mexicans, arrived in southern California in 1840 or 1841 with a settler from Sonora. Coronel took an interest in a girl aged twelve or fourteen years old, testifying "I acquired her as a houseservant [sic], [and] had her baptized Encarnacion." (46) Recall as well the Indian goddaughter Candelaria, who revealed an Indian conspiracy to attack ranchos in San Diego. Her proximity to her godmother as the family servant suggests the incorporation of some godchildren into households as laborers. As these examples reveal, baptism, godparentage, and Indian labor occasionally intersected in Mexican California. This "exploitation of Native American labor" continued into the American period, signifying a cultural compatibility rather than a clash. (47)

Foreigners and Californios, indeed, shared a paternalistic ideology with respect to native peoples in the early American era. This Catholic paternalism or maternalism dating to the Spanish era converged with new American indenture laws in the 1850s and 1860s that codified into law the inability of Indians to exercise freedom of movement or independence. According to Tomas Almaguer, kidnappings and auctions of Indians resulted in the trafficking of approximately 4,000 children between 1852 and 1867. (48) Children without families to defend them certainly fell victim to indentures and vagrancy laws, which is not to suggest that all of these trafficked children were baptized by locals or even Catholic. However, the possibility remains that godparentage paved the way for the binding of Indian children to southern California households or ranchos during the early American era through claims of spiritual obligation.

One motivation for sponsorship of Indian children for baptism by Californios and extranjeros at this time lay in their ability to check competition from outsiders for Indian labor. Alternatively, others possibly thought that they could better protect indigenous peoples from abuse by newcomers through sponsorship and the regulation of Indian labor. Whether or not Indian children were incorporated into southern California households as godchildren, the wide-scale trafficking of and market for Indian labor decimated native communities by tearing apart existing family units.

A few examples of indentured servant agreements and legal petitions in the mid to late nineteenth century reveal how Californianas relied upon new American legal instruments to attach Indian godchildren to their households and family ranchos. Dona Ysidora Bandini de Couts, Arcadia Bandini's sister and the Californiana wife of the American military man and ranchero Cave J. Couts, submitted a petition through her husband to retrieve her runaway godson Francisco in 1858. (49) Introduced into Catholic godparenting practices by Ysidora, Couts vigorously defended her claim to the local justice of the peace. (50) In accordance with American laws passed in the early 1850s and 1860S, Indian children were subject to indentured servitude until the age of eighteen (later extended to twenty-five). Indian vagrants, that is, those considered unemployed without any regular attachment to a rancho or home, also fell vulnerable to involuntary servitude through the auctioning of their bodies and labor to the highest bidder. (51)

Significantly, Ysidora's petition cited preexisting godparenting ties while parroting the language of American indenture agreements. The document stated that she held "care and control of said Indian Boy, and that said child has been provided with suitable food and clothings[.]" It also indicated that the boy had resided on the Couts's ranch, Rancho Guajome, but was "enticed away by others," suggesting interference from outsiders. Justice William C. Ferrell, citing the "custom of the country"--specifically, Ysidora's baptism of Francisco in church--ordered the boy's return to the rancho, where he was to remain until the age of eighteen. (52)

During the 1850s and 1860s, the Couts-Bandini family participated in other indentures that bound native peoples and at least one black minor to them. (53) Ysidora's adoption of American indenture practices is evidenced by a contract dated April 1855 for Juan, a boy often or eleven years of age. Her obligations included a payment of $2.50 per month to Vicente and Comada, Juan's adopted parents, in exchange for the boy's services and labor; she also agreed to provide clothing and provisions to Juan until adulthood. One phrase in the agreement is revealing of the cultural superiority shared among Californios and Americans over native peoples at this time: "This boy is thus bound for his own good, as well as for the maintenance of Vicente + his woman Comada." Only upon reaching the age of maturity, would Juan be "set free or at liberty." (54)

The contract also prevented Juan's removal from Ysidora's control in the event of his adopted parents Vicente and Comada's deaths. This agreement's language would be echoed in the petition for Ysidora's godson Francisco three years later. Conveniently, Cave Couts, who was a witness to Juan's indenture agreement, and William B. Couts, his brother, who witnessed a different agreement in 1866, both did so in their capacity as justices of the peace in the San Luis Rey township. (55) Although the family probably did not baptize all children who fell under their control as indentures, Couts certainly increased the productivity and value of his land with the sweat and labor of his wife's Indian godchildren and those indentured to the family. Adding further context to his willingness to defend his wife's compadrazgo claims, Couts came from a slave-owning family in Tennessee.

Californio households bound Indian godchildren and adopted children, passing them to other family members like moveable property in wills. Maria Gabriela Pollorena's will, dated May 11, 1832, bequeathed to her natural daughter a Yuma orphan whom she considered "almost a daughter, named Teresa.'" (56) At least sixty-six Yuma captives were baptized at southern California missions between 1826 and 1848 and incorporated into Californio households, by chance coinciding with the rise of the rancho era and the need for Indian labor in Mexican California. Following the American conquest, Californianas continued the practice of transferring Indian children through wills. Juana Ballesteros bequeathed her orphaned godchild Francisco to her natural son in a will dated July 24, 1859: "I confer and place [as] the guardian of my god child, an orphan of father and mother, and under age, named, Francisco, to my son Juan Avila to take care and educate... until he becomes of age or till he marries, should he marry before his minority." (57) These two wills, one authored during the Mexican period and the other in the American, reveal the persistence of unequal and intimate ties between Indian godchildren, orphans, and Californiana godmothers and guardians.


Clearly, compadrazgo remained embedded with multiple layers of meaning and power in California from the Spanish period into the Mexican and early American eras. Indian converts in Alta California, forced to adopt compadrazgo under missionization, nonetheless managed to use it to regenerate community ties severely undermined by invasion and demographic decline. Not only did this socioreligious practice establish intimate ties between ethnic groups with no prior familiarity, it also aided in the incorporation and acculturation of newcomers such as foreign-born merchants. Californianas utilized godparentage to enhance their prominence and esteem in their respective communities and families. In later years, Spanish Mexicans and Anglo Americans shared an ideology of paternalism toward native peoples, as evidenced by the language of obligation and reciprocity invoked by godparents and in new American indenture servitude laws that regulated Indian bodies at mid-century. The institution of compadrazgo played a key role in shaping families and communities in the American West, a notion that historians of California are now appreciating, although almost certainly further research on compadrazgo's intersection with labor practices is likely to yield fresh perspectives.


An example of an Iberian tradition transplanted to California is this 1857 certification of the May 7, 1844 baptism record for Maria Alejandra Atherton, daughter of Faxon Dean Atherton and Dominga Goni, from Valparaiso, Chile, 1857. In 1840, the American-born Atherton settled in Chile, where he became a successful merchant and married the daughter of the prominent Goni family. The Spanish Catholic practice of compadrazgo is evident in the listing of the names of the godparents, "Padrinos, Francisco Prietos and Guadalupe Gold."



Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was the fourth in the chain of twenty-one California missions, often referred to as the "Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles." The mission's baptismal font, a hammered copper basin still intact today, was the site of more than 25,000 baptisms between the mission's founding in 5771 and 1834--the largest number of baptisms in the mission chain.


The first page of the baptismal register of the Mission San Buenaventura was signed by Father Junipero Serra on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782, the day the mission was founded. By 1816, more than 1,000 neophytes were living at the mission. The Chumash neophyte Maria Rosa and her husband Bartolome Miguel Ortega, owner of Rancho las Virgenes (Rancho Talepop in mission records), were godparents to Chumash from surrounding villages. Such kinship relationships, though spiritual in nature, generated social, political, and economic associations between native people and their Hispanic neighbors.



In this 1885 photograph of a mission ramada (shady place), a gente de razon couple (seated, left, and standing, right) visits with mission Indians at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Though gente de razon couples godparented one another's children, often reaffirming blood bonds or longstanding friendships, their sponsorship of neophytes established bonds of obligation and reciprocity where none existed before, furthering the conquest of Alta California.



Puberty rituals such as the toloache ceremony enlisted adult sponsors, often of the same sex, who imparted sacred knowledge and new responsibilities upon initiates. Catholic sponsorship may have resonated with native Californians, possibly easing their acceptance of compadrazgo.



A large body of knowledge of Chumash Indian language, lore, traditional history, and Chumash-Christian adaptations has been preserved through the relationship between the Chumash Fernando Librado Kitsepawit and the linguist-ethnographer John P. Harrington, who recorded Librado's tribal knowledge. Born circa 1930s and raised at Mission San Buenaventura, where he was baptized, Librado recalled how an indigenous godfather contributed financially to a traditional wedding or baptism ritual.



A daughter of Dona Dolores Estudillo and Don Juan Lorenzo Bruno Bandini, one of San Diego's most distinguished citizens, Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker (1852--1912) (right) married Abel Stearns, the Los Angeles cattle baron and trader (below), in 1841 at Mission San Gabriel. She was fourteen and he was forty-three. Stearns would become Los Angeles's greatest landowner and Arcadia one of the state's wealthiest women at the time of her death. The influential Stearns were compadres to Scotsman Hugo Reid and his wife Victoria Bartholomea Reid, a Gabrielino woman from the village of Comicrabit. Acculturated foreigners such as Reid and Stearns, fluent in Spanish and comfortable with local customs, relied upon compadrazgo to integrate themselves into Californio society and further their business dealings in the region.



This christening bib of fine needle lace from the 1800s was owned by Francisca Vallejo McGettigan, granddaughter of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who married Charles D. McGettigan in San Francisco. California-born wives of Frenchmen, New Englanders, and British Islanders integrated their husbands into existing kinship networks through marriage and Catholic sponsorship. These couples mutually sponsored each other for marriage and the mixed children produced from such unions for baptism. Increasing numbers of interethnic families emerged in places such as Monterey and Santa Barbara by the 1840s.



Abel Stearns gave Rancho Guajome as a wedding gift to his American brother-in- law, Cave J. Couts, who married Ysidora Bandini, Arcadia's sister, in 1851. The Couts family placed indentured children and godchildren to work on the rancho and in the household as servants and laborers. One godchild, Francisco, was the subject of an 1858 petition for recovery after running away from his godmother's home.



The author thanks Shelly Kale and Janet Fireman for their editorial assistance and comments, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

Caption sources: John G. Douglass and Patrick B. Stanton, "Living during a Difficult Time: A Comparison of Ethnohistoric, Bioarchaeological, and Archaeological Data during the Mission Period, Southern California," Society for California Archaeology (SCA) Proceedings 24 (2010); Harry W. Crosby, Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsula Frontier, 1697-1768 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994); John R. Johnson, "The Trail to Fernando," Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 4, no. 1 (1982); Fernando Librado, The Eye of the Flute: Chumash Traditional History and Ritual as Told by Fernando Librado Kitsepawit to John P. Harrington, eds. Travis Hudson, Thomas Blackburn, Rosario Cufletti, and Janice Timbrook (Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press, 1981).

(1) Sir George Simpson, Narrative of a Voyage to California Ports in 1841-1842 (San Francisco: Thomas C. Russell, 1930), 123.

(2) Victoria Reid to Abel Stearns, May 1851, in Susanna Bryant Dakin, A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles: Hugo Raid's Life in California, 1832-1852 Derived from His Correspondence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 194. In her letter, Victoria refers to Stearns as "mi querido compadre." Natural and spiritual co-parents use the term compadres when referring to each other in the plural form; when used singularly, compadre (co-father) is the masculine form and comadre (co-mother) is the feminine. In this essay, I use the terms godparent and sponsor interchangeably.

(3) California-born woman of Spanish Mexican descent.

(4) California's Spanish era ranged from 1769 to 1821, the Mexican years from 1821 to 1848, and the American period from 1848 onward.

(5) My definition of intimacy is influenced by Ann Laura Stoler's study of Indonesia and how state institutions furthered the goals of empire by regulating intimate matters such as sexuality, definitions of legitimacy, and labor. See Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002). See also Sylvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980); Jacqueline peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown, eds., The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Metis in North America (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1985); Asuncion Lavrin, ed., Sexuality Marriage in Colonial Latin America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989); Martha Hodes, ed., Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (New York: New York University Press, 1999); Albert L. Hurtado, Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999); Susan Sleeper-Smith, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001); and Maria Raquel Casas, Married to a Daughter of the Land: Spanish-Mexican Women and Interethnic Marriage in California, 1820-1880 (Reno/Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 2007).

(6) For ongoing exploration of this subject, see Erika Perez, Colonial Intimacies: Interethnic Kinship, Sexuality, and Marriage in Southern California, 1769-1885 (PhD diss., University of California Los Angeles, 2010) and "The Paradox of Kinship: Native-Catholic Communities in Alta California, 1769-1840s," in On the Borders of Love and Power, ed. Crista DeLuzio and David W. Adams (forthcoming, the University of California Press). For a study on northern California missions that reaches a similar conclusion about compadrazgo's regenerative potential for native kinship ties, see Quincy D. Newell, Constructing Lives at Mission San Francisco: Native Californians and Hispanic Colonists, 1776-1821 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2009), chap. 5.

(7) I use the term Spanish-Mexican to describe the colonial settlers of Alta California. Although most were born in Mexico, these people emphasized their Spanish ancestry while minimizing their indigenous and African roots. A few inhabitants of Alta California from the administrative and officer class, such as Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, were of Spanish birth but represented a minority.

(8) Jose Antonio Esquibel, "Sacramental Records and the Preservation of New Mexico Family Genealogies from the Colonial Era to the Present," in Seeds of Struggle/Harvest of Faith: The Papers of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Catholic Cuatro Centennial Conference on the History of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, ed. Thomas J. Steele, S. J., Paul Rhetts, and Barbe Await, 29 (Albuquerque: LPD Press, 1998).

(9) Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960 (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1962), 292-93, 304; Virginia M. Bouvier, Women and the Conquest of California, 1542-1840: Codes of Silence (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2001), 33-34.

(10) Averaging the rates of Indian male baptisms with gente de razon godparents. The rates are as follows: (1782) 100%; (1783) 88.9%, (1784) 85.7%, (1785) 96.6%, (1786) 85.7%, (1787) 96.2% (N=553.1/6 for an average of 92.2%). No Indian females were baptized at Mission San Buenaventura in 1782. The subsequent annual rates of Indian females sponsored by gente de razon godparents are as follows: (1783) 77.8%, (1784) 94.4%, (1785) 96-6%, (1786) 69.6%, (1787) 88.5% (N=426.9/5 for an average of 85.4%). Baptismal information derived from Mission San Buenaventura Baptisms, US/Can Reel #913170, Latter-Day Saints Los Angeles Family History Library, Los Angeles, CA (hereafter cited as LAFHL). See also Sidney W. Mintz and Eric R. Wolf, "An Analysis of Ritual Co-Parenthood (Compadrazgo)," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 6, no. 4 (Winter 1950): 353. Mintz and Wolf note that "Spaniards who were members of exploring parties frequently served as sponsors for Indian converts."

(11) Statistics for the years 1771-75 derived from Mission San Gabriel Arcangel Baptisms 1771-1819, US/Can Film #2643, LAFHL. Statistics for the sample years of 1800-1 and 1810-11 were derived from Baptism and Godparent Databases for Mission San Gabriel, The Huntington Library, Early California Population Project Database, 2006 (hereafter cited as ECPP).

(12) Ritual sponsorship became commonplace among the Tlaxcalans of colonial Mexico within a few decades of their general acceptance of Catholic baptism and marriage. See Hugo G. Nutini and Betty Bell, Ritual Kinship: The Structure and Historical Development of the Compadrazgo System in Rural Tlaxcala, vol. I (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 343, 346.

(13) For examples of ongoing genre de razon sponsorship of native Californians in the 1840s, see Mission San Juan Capistrano Baptism Database, nos. 04568-04572 (5/15-8/21/1842), 04580 (9/12/1842), 04585 (11/15/1842), 04591-04592 (5/10/1843), ECPP.

(14) For sponsorship of a gente de razon child by Indian Maria Bernarda and her gente de razon husband, soldier Antonio Cota, see Mission San Gabriel Baptism Database, no. 01300 (Feb. 10, 1786), ECPP; for Indian bride Maria Gnadalupe and her gente de razon soldier husband Salbador Cariaga [Salvador Careaga]'s sponsorship of two gente de razon and one mestizo (mixed) child, see Mission San Juan Capistrano Baptism Database, nos. o0907 (Dec. 2, 1788), 01069 (Apr. n, 1791) and Mission San Diego Baptism Database, no. 01296 (Oct. 20, 1787), ECPP. I have not come across any lone Indian or native couple sponsoring agente de razon child.

(15) Padrino means godfather and madrina means godmother in Spanish; the plural form padrinos usually refers to a pair of godparents, one of each gender.

(16) Antonio Coronel, Tales of Mexican California, ed. Doyce B. Nunis Jr. and trans. Diane de Avalle-Arce (Santa Barbara, CA: Bellerophon Books, 1994), 79.

(17) Anthropologists note that asymmetry in compadrazgo was common in Europe as well as in colonial Latin America. For a material interpretation of compadrazgo, see Mintz and Wolf, "An Analysis of Ritual Co-Parenthood (Compadrazgo)," 341-68. For a spiritual and theological interpretation of Catholic sponsorship, see Stephen Gudeman, "Spiritual Relationships and Selecting a Godparent," Man 10, no. 2 [June 1975): 221-37. Gudeman (p. 234) argues "the nonreciprocal form forces parents to have more co-parents than the reciprocal form, and this creates greater social cohesion."

(18) For a discussion of vertical and horizontal flows in compadrazgo relationships, see Mintz and Wolf, "An Analysis of Ritual Co-Parenthood (Compadrazgo)," 342, 347-48, 363-64. For a comparison of compadrazgo in the Iberian and Spanish colonial context, see George M. Foster, "Cofradia and Compadrazgo in Spain and Spanish America," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 9, no. I (Spring 1953): 9.

(19) James A. Sandos, Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 42. Research on early Mexico remains uncertain about whether missionaries appointed godparents, made godparent recommendations to converts, or whether Spaniards volunteered. See Nutini and Bell, Ritual Kinship, 336-37.

(20) Mission San Gabriel Baptisms Database, nos. 05083 and 05086, ECPP. For additional examples from San Luis Obispo in the north to San Diego in the south, see the Godparent Database in the ECPP.

(21) Jose Antonio Esquibel maintains that interethnic compadrazgo "created the initial spiritual and social bonds between the Spanish and their Indian compadres, forming the very foundation of the Catholic community of New Mexico that still thrives today." He does not, however, question whether Indians welcomed this. See Esquibel, "Sacramental Records," 29, 31. Discussions of rape and other acts of violence against California peoples have been discussed by other scholars; see, for example, Sandos, Converting California, 51-52.

(22) Steven W. Hackel, Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), chap. 3; Also, David Igler, "Diseased Goods: Global Exchanges in the Eastern Pacific Basin, 1770-1850," American Historical Review 109, no. 3 (June 2004): 693-719.

(23) Junipero Serra, writings of Junipero Serra, vol. 2, ed. Antonine Tibesar, Publications of the Academy of American Franciscan History (Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1956), 71-73, 307.

(24) Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, trans., Testimonios: Early California through the Eyes of Women, 1815-1848 (Berkeley: Heyday Books and The Bancroft Library, 2006), 131-32 (testimonio of Juana Machado).

(25) Fernando Librado, Breath of the Sun: Life in Early California as Told by a Chumash Indian, Fernando Librado to John P. Harrington, ed. Travis Hudson (Banning and Ventura, CA: Malki Museum Press and Ventura County Historical Society, 1979), 48.

(26) Unfortunately, additional anecdotal material about godparents in missionary records or by native Californians is generally lacking for southern California. Searching for signs of native peoples' resistence to compadrazgo, but finding none, I reviewed the following works: Junipero Serra, The Writings of Junipero Serra, 4 vols., ed. Antonine Tibesar, O.F.M., Publications of the Academy of American Franciscan History (Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1955/6); Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, The Writings of Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, 2 vols., ed. and trans. Finbar Kinneally (Washington, DC: The Academy of American Franciscan History, 1965); Geronimo Boscana, Chinigchinich: A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson's Translation of Father Geronimo Boscana's Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of this Mission of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemem Tribe, annotations John P. Harrington (Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press, 1978); Juan Cortes, The Doctrina and Confesionario of Juan Cortes, ed. and trans. Harry Kelsey (Altadena, CA: Howling Coyote Press, 1979); Maynard Geiger, O.F.M., ed. and trans., Fray Antonio Ripoll's Description of the Chumash Revolt at Santa Barbara in 1824 (Santa Barbara, CA: Mission Santa Barbara, 1980); Jose Senan, "The Ventureno Confesionario of Jose Senan, O.F.M.," University of California Publications in Linguistics 47, ed. Madison S. Beeler (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967); Pablo Tac, Indian Life and Customs at Mission San Luis Rey, eds. and trans. Minna and Gordon Hewes (San Luis Re),, CA: Old Mission, 1958); Librado, Breath of the Sun and The Eye of the Flute.

(27) Lowell John Bean and Charles R. Smith, "Serrano," in Handbook of North American Indians, ed. Robert F. Heizer and William C. Sturtevant, 3:572 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution).

(28) For Fernando Librado's testimony about the coexistence of Indian and Catholic marriage rituals, see Librado, Breath of the Sun, 28. For a discussion of Nahua and Spanish parallels in marriage ceremonies, see Lisa Sousa, "Tying the Knot: Nahua Nuptials in Colonial Central Mexico," in Religion in New Spain, ed. Susan Schroeder and Stafford Poole, 43 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007). For California puberty rituals, see Constance Goddard DuBois, "The Religion of the Luiseno Indians of Southern California," University Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 8, no. 3 (1908): 77-84, 93-6; Alfred L. Kroeber, Handbook of the Indians of California (Berkeley: California Book Co., Ltd., 1953), 856, 858, and 862; William McCawley, The First Angelinos: The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles (Banning and Novato, CA: Malki Museum Press and Ballena Press, 1996), 151-53; Lucile Hooper, "The Cahuilla Indians," University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 16, no. 6 (April 1920): 345-8; Ruby Modesto and Guy Mount, Not for Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions of a Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman (Arcata, CA: Sweetlight Books, 1980), 41.

(29) Steven W. Hackel, "The Staff of Leader ship: Indian Authority in the Missions of Alta California," The William and Mary Quarterly 54, no. 2 (April 1997): 350, 364-74*

(30) For a discussion of pre-Hispanic rites and ceremonies expressed alongside or in conjunction with compadrazgo among seventeenth-century Tlaxcalans, see Nutini and Bell, Ritual Kinship, 352-53 and chap. 8 for a discussion of the socioeconomic and religious motivations in godparent selection; Stephen Gudeman, "The Compadrazgo as a Reflection of the Natural and Spiritual Person," Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, no. 1971 (1971): 56, 66; Gudeman, "Spiritual Relationships and Selecting a Godparent," 225; Ann Osborn, "Compadrazgo and Patronage: A Columbian Case," Man 3, no. 4 (Dec. 1968): 593-608; John M. Ingham, "The Asymmetrical Implications of Godparenthood in Tlayacapan, Morelos," Man 5, no. 2 (June 1970): 283; and Mintz and Wolf, "An Analysis of Ritual Co-Parenthood (Compadrazgo)," 341-68.

(31) Librado, The Eye of the Flute, 69. For a discussion of the term paha, see Librado, The Eye of the Flute, 19, 112, and Thomas Blackburn, "Ceremonial Integration and Social Interaction in Aboriginal California," in Native Californians: A Theoretical Retrospective, ed. Lowell J. Bean and Thomas C. Blackburn, 229, 231-33, and 240-43 (Ramona, CA: Ballena Press, 1976). Blackburn notes that indigenous leaders used ceremonies to distribute foods and goods to lesser members of the community, thereby enhancing their esteem and power.

(32) See Mission San Gabriel Baptism and Godparents Database, ECPP. Analysis of each and every person who served as baptismal sponsor throughout the mission system's existence represents a daunting task, but employing an arbitrary sample and conducting a broad search by name of each godparent or spouse denoted in those records yielded telling results.

(33) See Mission San Diego Baptism and God parents Database, ECPP.

(34) See Mission San Gabriel Baptism and Godparents Database, ECPP.

(35) Space limitations prevent the exhaustive listing of each appearance of Indian captains in the southern California mission databases, ECPP.

(36) Fermin Francisco de Lasusen to Marques de Branciforte, Apr. 25, 1797, in Lasuen, Writings, 2:18.

(37) Spicer, Cycles of Conquest, 249; Hackel, "The Staff of Leadership," 350, 364-74.

(38) Dakin, A Scotch Paisano, 77.

(39) Ibid., 106, 107.

(40) Dakin, A Scotch Paisano, 149, 153, 194.

(41) For Dalton's baptism, see Mission San Gabriel Baptisms, no. 08909, ECPP; Dakin, A Scotch Paisano, 12. For an example of foreign witness testimony in Diligencias Matrimoniales, see investigation of Jesse Ferguson and Maria Rendon in San Gabriel Mission Matrimonial Investigation Records [digitized], William McPherson Collection, Special Collections, Libraries of The Claremont Colleges, http://ccdl.libraries., acc. May 31, 2010; Agustin lanssens, The Life and Adventures in California of Don Agustin Janssens, 1834-1856, William H. Ellison, ed., and Francis Price, ed. and trans. (San Marino, CA: The Huntington Library, 1953), 117-18. For marriages among bicultural offspring and with foreigners, see Catholic Church, Mission San Lais Obispo, Extracts of Church Records, 1769-1917, US/Can Film Reel #944282, item 4, Thomas Workman Temple, II and Zoeth Skinner Eldredge, trans, and comp. [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, ca. 1987), LAFHL; see entries after 1858, for example nos. 893, 896, 902, 907, 932.

(42) Santa Barbara Presidio Baptisms Data base, nos. 840, 1270, 1381, 1705, and 1178, 1209, 1299, 1331, 1417, 1627, 1699, ECPP.

(43) For Espiridion Baric, see Los Angeles Plaza Church Baptisms Database, no. 965 (Feb. 12, 1840) and for Maria Emidia Tomasa Prudhomme no. 1917 (Aug. 6, 1848), ECPP.

(44) See Santa Barbara Presidio nos. 00878, 00951, 01056, 01064, 01084, 01048, 01156, 01171, 01184, 01199, 01257, 01270, 01299, 01326, 01331, 01348, 01455, 01545, 01627, 01699, 01705, Baptismal Book II entries: 01719 Y [original no. 10], 01729 Y [20], 01810 Y [101], 01836 Y [127], Los Angeles Plaza Church nos. 00502, 00965, 01264, 01486, 01583, 01632, 01783, San Diego nos. 06639, 06916, 06968, 07010, San Gabriel nos. 08742, 08980, Santa Ines nos. 01427, 01514, 01578, and San Luis Obispo nos. 02936, 02947; from 1848 onward, see Santa Barbara Presidio Baptism Book II, nos. 01894Y [original no. 185], 01926Y [217], 01944Y [235], 2013Y [304], Los Angeles nos. 01810, 01876, 01883, 01917, 01926, 01950, 01976, 01982, and San Luis Obispo nos. 013056, 03123, Baptisms Database, ECPP.

(45) For Gorge Antonio Allen (Jr.'s) baptism, see Santa Barbara Presidio Baptisms Database, no. 951. For Jos6 Maria Alfredo Hill's baptism, see no. 1064 [July 9, 1934), ECPP.

(46) Coronel, Tales of Mexican California, 67.

(47) Michael Magliari, "Free Soil, Unfree Labor: Cave Johnson Couts and the Binding of Indian Workers in California, 1850-1867," Pacific Historical Review 73, no. 3 (Aug. 2004): 358.

(48) Tomas Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California [Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), 149-50.

(49) Cave J. Couts graduated from West Point and arrived in California with the U.S. Army. He married Ysidora Bandini on April 5, 1851, and received Rancho Guajome from his brother-in-law Abel Stearns as a wedding gift. See biographical sketch written by "Cuevas," the son of Cave Johnson Couts and Ysidora Bandini, box 89, folder 1, and for the petition and William Caswell Ferrell's judgment in Cave J. Coats vs. Francisco, May 6, 1858, see CT 204, box 4, Cave J. Couts Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California (hereafter cited as Couts Papers).

(50) For the Tennessee Couts's participation in slavery, see letters from John F. Couts to Cave J. Couts discussing slave purchases and transactions, CT 386, CT 388-391 (letter 1), box 8, Couts Papers. Couts served as a justice of the peace in San Luis Rey township from 1854-62. His brother William Blount Couts also served as a local justice of the peace. For Cave J. Couts's cases, see box 4, and for documents indicating Cave J. Couts's election in 1853, see CT 500, box 9, Couts Papers.

(51) Robert F. Heizer and Alan J. Almquist, The Other Californians: Prejudice and Discrimination under Spain, Mexico, and the United States to 1920 [Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971), chap. 2; Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines, chap. 5; W. W. Robinson, The Indians of Los Angeles: Story of the Liquidation of a People, Early California Travels Series, vol. 7 (Los Angeles: Glen Dawson, 1952), 2-3; Magliari, "Free Soil, Unfree Labor," 349-89. For an overview of the 1860 statutes adopted in California, see A. S. Ensworth to Cave J. Couts, Jan. 10, 1860, CT 199 (8), box 4, Couts Papers.

(52) CT 204, box 4, Couts Papers.

(53) For Couts family indenture agreements, see CT 193 (40), CT 193 (49), CT 207, CT 2615, box 4, and CT 309, box 6, Couts Papers.

(54) "Vicente & Comada, bind their son Juan to Da. Ysidora B. de Couts," Apr. 20, 1855, CT 193 (4), Couts Papers.

(55) "Vicente & Comada," Couts Papers. See also "Indenture of Indian mother, Jacinta, binding her son to Isidora Couts" for 3 years, Aug. 13, 1866, CT 207, box 4, Couts Papers. The indenture agreement, wills, and petition mentioned in this section contain no testimony from the Indian children themselves.

(56) Will cited in Michael J. Gonzalez, This Small City Will Be a Mexican Paradise: Exploring the Origins of Mexican Culture in Los Angeles, 1821-1846 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 133.

(57) There are records of 41 Yuma baptized at San Diego (including one baptism in 1805), 15 at Los Angeles Plaza Church, 4 at San Gabriel, 1 at San Buenaventura, and 6 at San Juan Capistrano, Baptism Database, ECPP. "Copies of Petition for Probate of Will of Juana Ballestero, 1859," File A5746-34, Avila Family Papers Collection No. 1239, Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California.

ERIKA PEREZ is currently a visiting assistant professor in American Cultures Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she teaches undergraduate courses on colonial American history, nineteenth-century U.S. history, and twentieth-century race, gender, and sports history. She completed her dissertation, "Colonial Intimacies: Interethnic Kinship, Sexuality, and Marriage in Southern California, 1769-1885," in August 2010 at the University of California, Los Angeles under the guidance of Stephen Aron. Her research and teaching interests include the Spanish Borderlands/American West, gender and sexuality, Native American history, and Chicano-Latino Studies. A native of southern California with family roots in El Paso, Texas, she developed her research on compadragzo after twice becoming a godmother.

Godparents                 1771-1773       1774-1775
                         (76 baptisms)   (173 baptisms)

Gente de razon               95.3%           23.2%
Baja California Indian       2.9%            36.1%
Alta California Indian       1.8%            38.1%
Zero (0)                      0%              1.3%
Dual: 1 male, 1 female        0%              1.3%

Godparents                 1800-1801        1810-1811
                         (195 baptisms)   (568 baptisms)

Gente de razon                7.1%             9.8%
Baja California Indian        0.6%              0%
Alta California Indian        52%             85.2%
Zero (0)                     36.8%             1.0%
Dual: 1 male, 1 female        3.5%             4.0%



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