Pablo Tac, Conversión de los Saluiseños de la Alta California (c. 1840)

Conversión de los Saluiseños de la Alta California (Conversion of the Saluiseños of Alta California) (c. 1840) by Pablo Tac is the only published document written by an indigenous Californian during the Spanish-Mexican period. Born at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, north of San Diego, California in 1820, Tac wrote the manuscript while studying to be a Catholic priest at a seminary in Rome. Conversión de los Saluiseños is Tac’s attempt to present the history and customs of his people, the Quechnajuichom (Luiseños), to a readership unfamiliar with Native American life.

While part of the work deals with the encounter of the Tac’s ancestors with Spanish missionaries and soldiers that ultimately led to the founding of Mission San Luis Rey, the bulk of Conversión de los Saluiseños paints a portrait of life at the mission through the eyes of a native person. Tac portrays the mission as a native community under Spanish dominion, which strives to preserve its traditional ways while adapting to a new political and cultural order. As an indigenous ethnographer addressing a European audience, Tac is perhaps the final representative of a group that includes personalities such as Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Huaman Poma de Ayala and Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl.

[English version] [Spanish version]

Have you used this unit in the classroom? Please share your experience in the comments!