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March 3, 1861: Ventura

March 3, 2011

Ventura Tidepools

Ventura Tidepools; by watch4u, on Flickr

Camp 17

[Today] we strolled down to the beach in the morning and made the discovery of multitudes of cockles (small clams) in the sand. Soon we were all digging with our fingers; we got so many in a few minutes that they are not eaten yet. After a feast on raw clams, we went into town to Mass.

The church was precisely like the others seen here, only in better condition. A description of it will do almost as well for Los Angeles or San Gabriel. The walls are very thick, built of adobes; the ceiling is of timber and boards laid across, painted; the walls are painted rudely in pilasters, festoons, etc.; the floor is of large square bricks. The room was a parallelogram in shape, three times as long as broad, probably 120 or 130 feet long, ceiling high, with two entrances, one at the end, one at the middle of one side. Over the end and main door is a small wooden gallery for the singers; opposite the door is the altar decked with tinsel and silver, a few old images standing in various places about the altar and about side shrines—once brilliant with paint, tinsel, and gilding, now faded, dingy, and dilapidated. A few pictures hang on the walls, some really quite good, but dingy, their gilded frames worm-eaten and tarnished. All speaks of decline, decay.

mission san buenaventura chapel

Mission San Buenaventura Chapel; by 1600 Squirrels, on Flickr

At the altar was an Italian priest, saying Mass. Kneeling, sitting, or standing on the floor, was the congregation of about fifty women and half as many men, reverent, devout, and attentive. The effect was very picturesque. The women, sitting or kneeling, had shawls over their heads, hanging down behind and held or pinned beneath the chin, as is the custom here—some black, but most of very gay colors. A few children were among them; here a babe in arms—black hair, blacker sparkling eyes, and dark skin—peeping over some mother’s shoulder; there a little girl, just learning to cross herself and read her prayers, beside her mother or larger sister. Most of them were Indians, but there were a few Spanish or other whites. Some of the half-breeds were really pretty. Some of the men wore moccasins, leggins, and Indian costume, others the Spanish or common. The women wore frocks, some with many flounces, while a few hoops and flat hats told of inroads of modern fashion in this place….

After Mass we went back to camp, a mile from town, but Guirado stayed with some friends during the afternoon and came back telling of spirited horse races—six horses changed owners by betting—billiards, dancing, and a fight—common accompaniments of a Spanish Sunday. What things we purchased there we paid a most exorbitant price for, except cigarritos, the only cheap thing found in the place.

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