Mission to Glory:  A True Story (1977)




Director:     Ken Kennedy.

Starring:     Richard Egan (Padre Kino),  Ricardo Montalban (General La Fuente), John Ireland (Father Moray or Martin?),  Cesar Romero (Admiral Juan Atondo),  Joseph Campanella (priest),  Stephen McNally,  Anthony Caruso,  Rory Calhoun (Captain Juan Monje),  Keenan Wynn (priest),  Aldo Ray (mine overseer),  Michael Ansara (Pima Indian beaten by soldiers),  John Russell,  Joe Petrullo,  Victor Jory (Chief Tumanec),  William Dozier.

the story of Jesuit missionary Father Kino working in the lower southwest region of the future USA


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

On three previous occasions, the Italian Father Kino had tried to establish Spanish missions.  Father Kino tells the miliary officer that he would like to be able to follow the coastline of California until they hit a place with a good port to anchor the ships.  The officer says that it is said that Sir Francis Drake sailed all the way around the island of California.  Father Kino says that one of his professors told his students that California is not an island.  It is connected to a vast main land.  He thinks California is just a peninsula. 

Over 250 years ago, the Padre of the Southwest, worked for 24 years blazing trails in northern Mexico and southern Arizona.  His parish covered 50,000 square miles.  The Father build 19 ranches.  He crisscrossed his land some 50 times.  Father Kino established 24 missions.  Furthermore, in 1684 he was with with the first party (the Atondo party) ever to cross the peninsula of California (Baja California).  The party traveled for 21 days.

On Christmas they arrive at a mission. Father Kino learns from the priest there that things are pretty bad.  Four  of Atondo's soldiers have died of scurvy and another man is about to die.  No ship has reached the basin in over a month.  And the last shipment that came in only consisted of  flour, rice and beans.  Father Kino complains that they don't bring the live animals that he has asked for.  There is more news for Kino.  Admiral Atondo is to remove all personnel from San Bruno (established in 1683).  Moreover, the California enterprise has to be abandoned.  This is disappointing news for Father Kino. 

Atondo, Kino and the local priest watch as local Indian children plant various types of plants in the holes they have dug in the ground.  The ship the Capitan is coming into port.  Atondo says that his men will load aboard at first light tomorrow.  Father Kino will also go with the ship.

The ship sails east across the waters of the Gulf of California.  Kino will revisit native peoples he had visited two years ago on the mainland of Mexico  He meets with Father Moray who accuses Kino of writing romanticized accounts of California.  After all, Atondo's reports revealed the great hardships suffered in California.  Kino disagrees with this. When the Father Provincials comes in, Kino quickly lets him know that it is a sin to have to abandon California, especially now since the natives are so eager to pick up the Christian faith.  The priest says the decision was not in his hands.  Others made the decision.  Kino tells him that he must find a way to return to the peoples of California.  The Viceroy has three ships being repaired.  The ships can be ready to go in three to four months.  But Kino himself will have to raise the supplies for the expedition. 

Kino brings cattle, chickens and goats in to be transported to California in the morning.  Kino receives a letter from Juan Atondo.  The letter says that the three ships have been assigned to support the China trade and that Kino is to report to Guadalajara.  Kino will be sent on a mission to the Serra Indians.  Father Kino now thinks that he can build a boat and drop the supplies in Sonora just south of California. 

On his way to Sonora, Father Kino sees native peoples being used as slaves and he sees these slaves being abused.  He comes across Indians tied to a rope and dragged along by the horse the rope is tied to.   He comes to the rescue and cuts the ropes from the Indians.  The man in charge comes over to Kino and the priests asks him:  "What in God's name are you doing?"  The man says that these Indians ran away from the mines and it is his duty to bring them back.  Kino tells the man that he is going to make sure that the conditions for these poor people are changed for the good. 

Kino goes back to see the provincial priest and he admits that these types of offenses have been committed against the Indians.  He assures Kino that a decree is arriving soon that will address this serious problem. 

Father Francisco Saeda rushes over to Father Kino to tell him that the authorities in Guadalajara have given him everything he wanted.  The only exception is the five year period Kino asked for.  The decree, however, says that baptized Indians will be free from being grabbed as slaves for a period of 20 years.  Kino is happy at the news.  One drawback is that Kino is being sent to see Father Cannon in Opasura (?), the most isolated of all the missions.   

Father Kino and two priests visit an Indian village where one of the elders is dying.  They baptize the old man, which was his dying wish.  Chief Coxie comes over and says he has been asking for a priest to be assigned to his village to teach them the bests ways to do important things.  Father Kino speaks up and says he will be the chief's priest and he will make the village of Cosari his headquarters for outreaches to other Indian villages.  (Kino changes the name from Cosari to Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, Our Lady of Sorrows.)  The chief is thrilled and announces to his people that Father Kino will be their village priest.  The chief now shows the priests the outdoor altar his people made for their priest.  Father Kino tells everyone that the altar will be just fine.  (Someone has snatched Jesus on the Cross from the priests.) 

Father Kino teaches the people how to make bricks to build adobe buildings.  He makes regular visits to different tribes around the village of Dolores.  He hears confessions outdoors.  Father Kino helps build fences.  He helps plant trees.  The Indians build a fine church for the town.  A church bell is installed.

Not all the Indians like Christianity. In the village of Remidios the fellow who stole the big Jesus on the Cross crucifix says that the priests worship a god of torture.  Furthermore, they must not let the priests destroy the Indian gods.  As the man talks, Father Kino rides up to him.  The man tells Father Kino to leave.  He virtually threatens Father Kino, so he leaves the village.  When he returns to his church headquarters, he meets a priest named Juan Silva di Tierre (?).  The fellow has been sent by Father Provincial to inspect the missions of the north.  He tells Kino that sometimes trouble starts far away and then spreads out from there.  He wants to see Remidios first.  Father Kino warns the visiting priest that Remidios has become a center for the Indians who oppose the spread of Christianity.  Father Juan says he still wants to go there first. 

Chief Coxie tells the visiting priest that Remidios is a village of devils.  They are all against Christianity there.  Father Juan tells Father Kino that tomorrow will be an interesting day.  

At night a Mexican guard grows very sleepy, but he is awake enough to tell that an enemy is near.  He fires his rifle into the air as a warning shot to the village.  The village chief rushes over to say that these Indians now in the village are from Remidios and says that the Apaches attacked their village.  Father Kino tells the chief to tell the Indians that they can come in and have some food and the Christians will help them.  The chief doesn't like this, but he will follow the direction provided by Father Kino.  The chief now asks Father Juan if he and the Mexican soldiers will help them fight the Apaches?  Father Juan is ready and willing to fight the Apaches. 

The Apaches attack a  Pima Indian village, but Father Kino, the Pimas and the Mexican soldiers are ready for them.  The attack fails. 

Father Kino tells Father Juan that his dream was to establish ranches to supply food to the peoples of California, but he was forced to stop.  "Success in Sonora can mean new life for the church in California."  Now he mentions building a boat.  Father Juan is a bit skeptical of the idea of Father Kino building a boat since he has no knowledge of boat building.  Father Juan is going on to Guadalajara.  Father Kino mentions that he's a little worried about Father Juan's report to Father Provincial.  Father Juan laughs and says that not only can Father Kino keep the four priests with him, but the report will recommend sending four more priests to Sonora.  In fact, Father Juan says he wants to be one of the four priests. 

Father starts building his boat.  A troops of Mexican soldiers comes into the settlement.  Captain Juan Monje comes over and introduces himself to Father Kino.  The Captain is the new Civil and Military Authority for this region.  He asks Father Kino what the heck is he building here?  A ship.  A ship so far from any water?  Father Kino says they will take the boat in sections to the coast and reassemble it there for the trip to California.  Then Father Kino tells the Captain that the Indians are very nervous around Mexican soldiers.  Captain Solis (?) chased down a group of Pima Indians and punished them for committing a crime that they did not do.  It was the Apaches who were at fault.  Captain Monje assures Father Kino that the priest' interests are the interests of his troop of soldiers and himself.  

Captain Monje notices a fire on top of a large hill.  Father Kino says there is a ranch there.  Those people may need help.  The soldiers and Father Kino hurry to the ranch.  One of the Indians says he told the soldier that they will fight the Apache, but the soldier says the Indians are going to kill the white man, not the Apache.  And he is afraid that the soldiers will come back and beat all the Pimas in the area.  Father Kino tells the Captain that it looks like they have another Captain Solis on their hands.  The Captain says the man who led the troops might just be "the" Captain Solis. 

Father Kino asks the beaten Indian not go to after all whites because of what the military did to him.  He adds that some Christians are just not Christian in their behavior.  Captain Monje apologizes for what happened to the beaten Indian and says he will personally investigate this and will turn over the facts to General La Fuente.  Captain Monje now gives the Indian a symbol of authority, but after the white men leave, the Indian just throws the symbol into the fire. 

Kino has been ordered to stop building his boat.  He will be receiving new priests to work with him in the area of Pimera Alta (that is, southern Arizona and northern Sonora).  Father Francisco Saeda reports in.  Father Kino and he have already met, but Francisco now meets Fathers Cannon and Aquilar.  Father Cannon says they were just trying to choose some sites for new missions.  There is San Gitano, San Ambroso de Tucapadia or at Gaborca.  The decision is to build at Gaborca.  Father Saeda will be the priest there. 

The Indians at Gaborca welcome Fathers Kino and Saeda.  Father Saeda tells Father Kino:  "Thank you for my family, padre." 

On his way back to Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, Father Kino stops to speak to the Indian that was beaten by the soldiers.  The Indian has come to the mission nearby because his people were starving.  Now he works in the agricultural fields. He is still very distrustful of the priests and soldiers. 

Father Kino moves on and helps with the building of a dam across a stream for the purpose of irrigation.  Father Saeda comes to visit Father Kino.  He tells Father Kino that he is going to the various missions in the area begging for some help.  He adds that they are almost finished with the new addition to the church. 

The starving Indians that had to move to a mission are being mistreated by the foreman.  When the foreman starts beating an Indian the leader strangles the foreman to death.  The leader now says they will burn the church and go elsewhere. 

 News of what happened at Tumabatata (?) reaches Father Saeda.  The church has been burned and Antonio has been killed.  And they don't know the fate of Father Danielle.  Father Saeda finishes his letter to Father Kino and tells the messenger to get the letter to him as soon as possible.  The hostiles reach the mission run by Father Saeda.  The priest welcomes the Indians but the leader says that he wants all Christians dead.  Two arrows hit Father Saeda. Now they burn the church. 

Father Kino blames himself for the death of Father Saeda for he says he never should have sent the young man so far away from any protection. Father Cannon brings news that Father Provincial is very upset at the Indian uprising and is sending troops into Pima Land to punish the hostiles.  And, what's worse, they will be under the command of Captain Solis.  

Captain Monje brings Father Kino some mementoes of Father Saeda that were not burned by the hostiles.  Father Kino says the evildoers must be punished, but they must first make sure they are punishing the actual guilty ones, or all the work the fathers have done will be for naught. 

Captain Solis comes with his soldiers to Nuestra Senora de los Dolores.  Father Kino assures the Indians that they will not be hurt.  But Captain Solis gives his troops the order that no one must be allowed to escape alive.  Captain Solis speaks to Father Kino, but he doesn't listen to anything the Father says.  When he tells his soldiers to bind the Indians' hands behind their backs, the Indians start running. And now the soldiers shoot the Indians down.  Father Kino is able to save only three of the Indians by using his body to shelter them.  The Father asks the Captain:  "Are you mad?  Are you insane?"  He says the Pima are a peaceful people, but this atrocity will inflame the people and the frontier will be ablaze. 

Captain Solis doesn't care what the Father says.  He goes on to his next victims.  Pima Indians wait in ambush for the soldiers.  One after another of the soldiers are killed.  Captain Solis brings the survivors behind some large rocks for protection.   The soldiers kill a number of the Indians.  Solis then decides to take the remaining soldiers and himself south out of danger.  He only has only has five soldiers left and two of these are wounded.  Solis has to come back to Nuestra Senora de los Dolores.  He tells Father Kino that he was right.  There are no missions north of here that haven't been burned.  The only two missions that have not been burned are those of Father Kino:  Nuestra Senora de los Dolores and Remedios.  Captain Monje says that means that the Pimas still trust Father Kino and he will be able to talk with them.  Father Kino says he has to have General La Fuente with him or the Indians will not believe what he says about the soldiers.  Captain Monje says he will ride to get the General now.  Kino tells the Captain to ask the General if he could meet with the Pimas in ten days time?  He is to come here to Dolores.  The General will have to talk to the Pimas alone.  Father Kino says that Solis will ride with Monje and he can give his full report as to what happened to his troops. 

Chief Coxie of Dolores and Father Kino meet in private with Chief Tumanec, who asks if the General is ready to surrender to the Pimas?  Father Kino hesitates but then he says yes, but the word surrender means peace and working together to help one another.  Chief Tumanec likes the idea. 

The General arrives in Dolores alone, but he tells Father Kino that 300 soldiers are just over the hill not that far away.  La Fuente asks what Father Kino wants him to do?  The General is to surrender.  The General can't believe what he is hearing.  Kino says that to the Pima surrender means no more fighting and killing  -- in other words, peace.  Chief Tumanec now meets the General.  He says they will capture or kill the remaining hostiles, help rebuild the missions and want the priests to return.   The General says he will not send his soldiers against the Pima, but rather will hunt down their enemy:  the Apaches.  The General now leaves.  

Father Juan brings news that is both good and bad.  They are sending Father Juan and three priests on a California expedition.  He says he tried his best to convince them to send Father Kino since it was his dream.  The higher-ups said that Father Kino is still needed in Pimera Alta.  Father Kino goes inside and brings out his dictionary of many of the common words in the language of the Indians of California.  After Father Juan leaves, Father Kino can let out some of his disappointment.  He lays his hands on the table and then rests his head on his hands.

Father Kino looks at the large shell he brought back from the California beaches.  He suddenly realizes that the shell  necklace the Indians recently gave him is made out of the same type of shell as he brought back from California, but only smaller.  He calls Captain Monje and Chief Coxie over to tell them the good news that if these types of shell necklaces came from California, that means there is a western land route open to California.  He wonders aloud does he dare travel that far without getting the permission of Father Provincial?

Father Kino and Chief Coxie with some Pima Indians start out to follow the land route to California. 

"On October 7th, 1699, Father Kino reached the Colorado River just above what is now the town of Yuma, Arizona.  Kino crossed the river on his first step to rejoin the natives he was forced to abandon.  This was now proof to the world that Baja was indeed a peninsula."

By the Colorado River Father Kino performs various services for a small group of Indians.  And Chief Coxie says he wants to get baptized.  Kino gladly baptizes his dear friend.

"Kino found the land route to California  -- visualized a chain of missions from Mexico City to the Pacific Ocean, south to Loreto and beyond.  Father Kino was no longer on the brink of discovery.  He crossed the Colorado, chartered the approaches to the California coast, crisscrossed the head of the gulf and defied the great desert itself.  Padre Kino had come to a desert among abandoned people and he rode the arid trails.  He bore the acid criticism because he recognized that the paradox of Christianity is locked in the paradox of the desert.  Life is more meaningful where life seems not to be.  People are dearer where people seem they could not be.  Peace is more possible where many recognize the potential of war.  The land has responded to Kino's vision and we are living in his dreams."


I wanted to see another film on the Spanish Missions in northwestern Mexico and southwestern USA and I got it in this film about Father Kino.  The father was very much an explorer.  He loved searching for new routes through this area of Mexico and the future USA.  But Father Kino also really wanted to help the native indigenous peoples of the area.  His idea was to establish some very profitable ranches to supply food to the poor natives.  He was an extremely valuable priest during the period in which he lived.  He established missions and ranches to help the Mexicans and the other residents of Pimera Alta.  He was the first to discover a number of things.  Richard Egan did a good job as Father Kino. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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