California's Mission System
Digital History ID 527
Here, the widow Eulalia Pérez describes her responsibilities in 1823 as a housekeeper on a California mission.
The duties of the housekeeper were many. In the first place, every day she handed out the rations for the mess hut. To do this she had to count the unmarried women, bachelors, day-laborers, vaqueros.... Besides that, she had to hand out daily rations to the heads of households. In short, she was responsible for the distribution of supplies to the Indian population and to the missionaries' kitchen. She was in charge of the key to the clothing storehouse where materials were given out for dresses for the unmarried and married women and children. Then she also had to take care of cutting and making clothes for the men.
Furthermore, she was in charge of cutting and making the vaqueros' outfits, from head to foot--that is, for the vaqueros who rode in saddles. Those who rode bareback received nothing more than their cotton blanket and loin-cloth, those who rode in saddles were dressed the same way as the Spanish-speaking inhabitants; that is, they were given shirt, vest, jacket, trousers, hat, cowboy boots, shoes and spurs; and a saddle, bridle and lariat for the horse. Besides, each vaquero was given a big silk or cotton handkerchief, and a sash of chinese silk or Canton crepe, or whatever there happened to be in the storehouse.
They put under my charge everything having to do with clothing. I cut and fitted, and my five daughters sewed the pieces. When they could not handle everything, the father was told, and then women from the town of Los Angeles were employed, and the father paid them.
Besides this, I had to attend to the soap-house,...to the wine-presses, and to the olive-crushers that produced oil, which I worked in myself....
I handled the distribution of leather, calf-skin, chamois, sheepskin, Morocco leather, fine scarlet cloth, nails, thread, silk, etc.--everything having to do with the making of saddles, shoes and what was needed for the belt- and shoe-making shops.
Every week I delivered supplies for the troops and Spanish-speaking servants. These consisted of beans, corn, garbanzos, lentils, candles, soap and lard. To carry out this distribution, they placed at my disposal an Indian servants named Lucio, who was trusted completely by the missionaries.
When it was necessary, some of my daughters did what I could not find the time to do....
I served as housekeeper of the mission for twelve or fourteen years....
Source: Carlos N. Hijar, Eulalia Pérez, and Agustín Escobar, Three Memoirs of Mexican California, 1877, University of California, Bancroft Library.
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