By Leonard Rodriguez
This column highlights inspiring stories of Latino leaders. For more than 500 years, Latino men and women have positively influenced the face of United States society. Let us celebrate these outstanding hispanics.
Fray Junípero Serra began working with the Pame Indians of Mexico in 1749. In 1770, his contributions in what was to become the U.S. began when he founded Mission San Carlos Borromeo, which he later relocated to Mission Carmel-by-the-Sea. There, he served as president of the Alta California missions where he baptized and confirmed more than 600 Native Americans and protected them against the abuses of colonists. Under his leadership, a chain of nine missions was founded from San Diego to San Francisco. The day after his death, more than 1,000 Native Americans attended his service. Some 200 years later, in 1988, Pope John Paul II beatified Fray Junípero Serra for his protection of the Native Americans and work on the mission trail.