One could well argue that a man from Petra in the centre of this island is the most famous Mallorcan ever. Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer is better known as Fray Junípero Serra, a name he adopted in honour of Saint Juniper when he joined the Order of Friars Minor, commonly called simply the Franciscans, in Palma in 1731, at the age of 16. In 1738, he was ordained a priest, having acquired a degree and PhD in theology. In 1749, he travelled to Mexico as Apostolic missionary together with other Franciscan monks to spread the word of the Bible.
Junípero Serra never returned to his homeland but instead died in Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel in upper California in 1784, at the age of 70. He had set up Catholic missions in Mexico and California, including San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. California (USA) hails this missionary from Mallorca as the Founding Father of their state.
The pueblo of Petra is very proud of its famous son. The town celebrates Saint Juniper’s acolyte with a number of memorial plaques, erected in recognition of the missionary’s accomplishments in Mexico and in the province of Las Californias, present day’s state of California, including not only the not-quite birthplace but also, a museum dedicated to the man who was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1988. This year, Petra and the whole of Mallorca are busy preparing commemorative acts for Junipero Serra’s tricentennial anniversary of his birth.
The museum in the missionary’s name and in his honour, the Casa-Museo Fra Juníper Serra is well worth a visit to anyone interested in the history of Mallorca, or the history of the United States of America, or the history of missionary efforts by the Catholic church and all the implications relative to that. The museum visit is free of charge but a small donation would be expected. One can also visit a neighbouring house where Serra is said to have spent his childhood.
Amongst a number of projects, a cinema film is currently in a phase of pre-production, launched by the Mallorca Film Commission, in collaboration with the Cluster Audiovisual de Baleares and the Mallorcan IB3 television channel, aiming to portray on-screen the life and vocation of Junípero Serra.