Letter from Fr. Mariano Payeras (circa 1820)

Description

The missions became places where disease epidemics spread quickly, as many Native people lived close together. In particular, unmarried Native girls and young women worked and lived in rooms (called monjerios) with little fresh air at many missions. However, disease struck California Indians of all age. Pregnant women, babies, and young children suffered an even higher death rate than other groups of people. In addition, the food that Native people ate in the missions was less varied and did not have the nutrients that their bodies were accustomed to in their Native diets. Many Native people also reported that living at the missions while so many of their family members fell ill and died took a major physical and emotional toll that led some to flee (known as fugitivism).

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