Eusebio Francisco Kino
Eusebio Kino was born in 1645 in the small village of Torra, in the parish of Segno, Italy. Although we do not have the day of his birth we do know that he was baptized on August 10, 1645. His father and mother were Franciscus and Margherita Chinus. The family surname is spelled a number of different ways, but in later years Eusebio chose to spell it Kino. Also in later years he added Francisco to his name in honor of his patron saint San Francisco Xavier. The family was well-thought-of and well-to-do and young Eusebio was able to enter first the Jesuit College in nearby Trent and later the Jesuit College of Halla near Innsbruck.
In 1663 while studying at Halla he became seriously ill and feared that he might be dying. He made a vow to his patron saint, San Francisco Xavier, Apostle of the Indies, that if his life was spared he would renounce all worldly possessions, join the Jesuit order, and seek a missionary position in a foreign land. He survived his illness and in the fall of 1665 began his novitiate prior to joining the Jesuit order. In 1667 he willed all of his property to the Jesuit order and transferred to the University of Ingolstadt in Germany. In 1670 he returned to Halla as a teacher and remained there for three years before returning to Ingolstadt in 1673 to continue his studies. In 1677 he moved to Oettingen to complete his scholarly preparation for life as a Jesuit priest.
During his days as a student, Eusebio developed a desire to go to the Far East as a missionary. In 1678 he was selected for a position as missionary in New Spain. He travelled by land through Munich and the Brenner Pass to Genoa. In Genoa he boarded a ship bound for Cadiz, Spain, where he was to join the Spanish fleet which was sailing to the Indies. Unfortunately he missed the departure of the fleet and remained in Spain awaiting another ship bound for New Spain. One attempt to get on his way resulted in a ship wreck in the harbor of Cadiz and it was not until 1681 that he was able to depart Cadiz. After a 96 day voyage he landed at Vera Cruz and quickly moved on to Mexico City, then capital of New Spain.
In Mexico City Father Kino continued to lobby for an assignment to the Far East but was not successful. Instead he was selected for a mission into Baja California. He was one of three Jesuit priests that would accompany Don Isidro Atondo (sometimes spelled Otondo), the governor of Sinaloa and Sonora, in an effort to colonize what was then believed to be the island of California. The expedition departed from Chacala in Sinaloa Province on January 17, 1683, but weather forced them back to the mainland and it was not until April 1, 1683, that they were able to land at what is today La Paz in Baja California. In July, after a number of Indians were killed by the Spanish, Atondo was forced to leave Baja California and return to Sinaloa. He refitted his ships and replenished his supplies in Sinaloa and on September 29, 1683, departed for Baja California. This time they landed on October 6, 1683, at what is now known as San Bruno.
During the Spring and Summer of 1684 Atondo and Kino explored the peninsula and Kino is credited as being the first European to cross it. They also looked into the pearl fishing industry but were unable to find very many worthwhile pearls in spite of the legends that circulated at the time. Agricultural efforts were unsuccessful. The Atondo effort to colonize Baja California was carried out under difficult circumstances and ultimately failed. In September 1685 Atondo abandoned his settlements and returned to the mainland. Father Kino was heartsick over the abandonment of the Indians. During his stay in Baja California he had developed a great affection for the Californian people that he met and began working on a strategy that he hoped would ultimately make it possible for his fellow Jesuits to establish permanent missions there.