This page is the place to start when preparing a report on the mission. Below is a brief history of La Purisima and a list of vocabulary words. This website contains a number of additional resources and we continue to add new items. To get started, check our "virtual tour" made especially for students, building maps, a detailed history, and photo galleries.

Mission History

The area surrounding the La Purisima Mission was originally inhabited by tribes of native American Indians known collectively as the Chumash. They had shamans (holy men) who healed people and other shamans who controlled the weather. Their religion centered on a belief that all things potentially possessed power.

But at the same time, in the early 1800's, Spain was concerned with expanding its empires. It already occupied Mexico so it sent priests, known as padres, to establish Missions up the coast of California, to convert the local Indians and educate them into becoming regular citizens of Spain. The first padre, Father Junipero Serra, established missions in San Diego and Monterey. Then the padres started establishing missions up and down the California Coast. In 1787 two padres founded the eleventh mission now known as La Purisima Mission, some 50 miles north of a presidio (fort) at Santa Barbara...

Life at the Mission was very self-contained and self-sufficient. The people at the Mission grew corn and raised cattle. But the padres had changed their lives. Once they had been seed gatherers; now they were farmers and ranchers. Then things changed again for the Indians. Diseases brought in from Europe decimated the Indian population. A revolution occurred in Mexico and reduced the support for the padres. Mexico fought and won its independence from Spain in 1822.

Eventually the new Mexican government took control of the Mission from the padres, the mission system collapsed and the mission fell into ruins.


adarga - A Soldado's shield -- made of bullhide.

alcalde - A judge in the community, or Justice of the Peace, or the Mayor

adobe - Bricks that are formed with adobe dirt, straw and manure and then dried in the sun

'anchum - Also known as "Bead Money" -- Disks were made from the Olivella shell and were used as money between the Chumash.

'ap - Also known as a "Tule House" -- This was a traditional Chumash home. It was made of willow poles which were set into the ground in a circle and then bent inwards to form a dome. The outside was then covered with tule, a reed which grows along rivers, lakes and marshes.  There was a hole in the center to allow air circulation and the smoke from fires to escape. Houses were 12-20 feet in diameter.

atole - A hot cereal or porridge, (similar to cream of wheat), could be made out of many ground, roasted grains, such as wheat/corn. Served at breakfast and dinner at the mission.

carretta - A two-wheeled cart pulled by oxen. Main transportation for goods in alta California.

cocina - Kitchen

corral - An enclosure designed to confine livestock (noun)

cuera - The leather vest worn by a Soldado

El Camino Real - The road that connected the California Missions (In Spanish means "The King's Highway".

fanega - A dry unit of measurement (i.e. to measure grain or seed). Varies from 1 to 2 bushels. The term 'fanega' can also be used when referring to a measure of land (i.e. 'fanega de tierra').

fiesta - Festival, often on a religious holiday, such as a Saint's day

hacienda - A large estate of land

horno - An oven shaped like a bee hive used for baking bread

iglesia - Church

infirmary - The mission hospital

ladrillo - Brick

la sala - The living room

latrina - Bathroom (commode)

lavandería - The mission laundry

majordomo - The person who oversaw the business responsibilities of the day-to-day operation of the mission.

monjerio - The girls' dormitory where Chumash girls of 11 and unmarried women lived where they were trained by a Duena in domestic responsibilities of the Spanish housewife and where they were taught the catechism of the Catholic Church.

neophyte - A convert; a baptized mission Indian

padre - The mission priest

plaza - Central Square

pobladore - Founder; gives birth to

presidio - A military fort. There were 4 in California: San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Diego

pozole - Thick stew with meat and vegetables, often made with hominy and pork; main meal at noon at the mission.

pueblo - A town or village

rancheria - An Indian Settlement

rancheros - Ranchers

rancho - Ranch where cattle was raised

secular - Not religious

secularization - To take what is religious or sacred and make it not religious or sacred

siesta - A short rest or nap usually taken in early afternoon

soldado - Soldier

soldados de cuera - Leather jacket soldiers

tallow - Rendered fat of sheep and cattle. Used to make candles and soap

tienda - Store

tomol - A plank canoe made by the Chumash Indians that could hold from three to 10 people and could range from 8 to 30 feet long. It was made either of driftwood or redwood. The planks were glued with Yop (a mixture of asphalt and pine pitch), and then tied together with Indian hemp.

tortilla - A very flat (pancake-shaped) bread made from masa or wheat and baked on a hot surface

tule house - Please see 'ap

vaquero - Cowboy (Usually an Indian Cowboy)