By David Kier
Co-author of ‘The Old Missions of Baja & Alta California, 1697-1834’
San Juan Bautista de Ligüí mission was founded by the Jesuit Padre Pedro de Ugarte in November of 1705 among the Monqui Indians. Located near the beach 22 miles south of Loreto, Ligüí was the Monqui name for the location. In time, the mission was repopulated with Cochimí Indians, who called the place Malibat. A third group of Indians lived on the nearby islands, and they were the fierce Pericú tribe who often raided the mission. Ugarte’s first church was made from sticks, but he was eventually able to get help from the neophytes to make an adobe chapel. Two boys would become Ugarte’s assistants, but when he fashioned clothes for them to cover their nakedness, the other members of the tribe laughed and teased them so much that they removed their garments when they went outdoors.
The mission here was never very successful due to poor water and Indian raids. A Jesuit was not always stationed here after ill health forced Ugarte to depart for the mainland, in 1709. Another blow to the mission happened when its benefactor (Juan Bautista López) went bankrupt and funding was lost. Ugarte was replaced by Padre Francisco Peralta who served San Juan Bautista mission from 1709 to 1711. The last Jesuit assigned to the mission at Ligüí/Malibat was Padre Clemente Guillén from 1714 to 1717, and again from 1719 until the mission was closed in August of 1721.
With a new benefactor providing funds, Padre Guillén re-established the mission over 50 miles south at a well watered site called Apaté. The new mission was named Los Dolores and was much more successful than Ligüí. To read about the founding of the other California missions, see ‘The Old Missions of Baja & Alta California, 1697-1834’ by Max Kurillo, Erline Tuttle and David Kier.