Mission San Diego de Alcala is the first mission in San Diego and has a long history of local influence. It is now a National Landmark due to its 1769 start that has molded the city. Thousands of visitors come to the landmark to see the early beginnings of Western influence in the area. Prior to this, Native Americans lived in the region and maintained natural lives unseen by outsiders. The mission was an attempt to colonize and convert these locals while maintaining ownership of the land.
The European story starts with the arrival in 1542 of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. There was no interest in colonizing the area until 1768 when King Carlos III of Spain became aware that Russians were fishing off of California. The push to build settlements became a heightened need to ensure that the land was controlled by Spain.
The first mission was established in On July 16, 1769 by Father Serra. It overlooked the bay but only lasted five years because of a lack of water and ability to maintain crops. The new mission was moved closer to the Native American tribes at the mouth of the river. However, discontent broke out in the Native American villages and 800 warriors sacked the location fearing the mission’s intent.
Because of the sacking, the mission was rebuilt like a fort to protect the inhabitants. It was a poor area but eventually with time, effort, and Native American interest it became self-sustaining and productive. It stayed untouched until secularization removed some of the religious leaders after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821.
Once the U.S. claimed the area, the military in 1853 brought its cavalry and artillery to ensure control. They improved mission infrastructure but eventually abandoned it until nuns came and started a school. It moved back into an active parish and historical landmark visited by people studying California history. The cost of admittance is $5.