Touring the Mother Road

Author Robert A. Bellezza presents an incisive history of the missions, premiering many newly discovered glass-plate images from the 1920s-30s, selected rare prints, vintage postcards, and his own contemporary photos. His series from 2012-13, included 5 vintage photography books on the Pioneers and Founders of California featuring the author's images, vintage drawings, photographs and postcards as part of "Images of America", published by Arcadia Publishing. The ground-breaking books premiered never-before-seen rediscovered black and white images of California's monumental missions and features landmark adobes and presidios. During his 25-year media career with California Tour & Travel Magazine, he spent decades designing and editing a national coffee table magazine specifically for visitor centers, AAAs, and Barnes & Noble, targeting national advertisers. His original video production, The "Woodbridge Winery Harvest Tour", was produced in association with Robert Mondavi and is used in their international marketing campaigns. A latest release in November 2017, San Diego UnTapped! details in a 200-page guidebook award-winning breweries and includes updates on newly opened breweries! Up-close personal interviews are featured with dialogue, narrative and insights from over 50 San Diego brewery tours with neighborhood brewery tap & tasting touring map, 3-pages for tasting notes, details on San Diego Craft Breweries, Brewer Competitions & Awards, and Brewery Tasting Room addresses, phone numbers and websites.

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The first volume, The Missions of San Diego tells of the storm-tossed caravel ship San Salvador passed the coastline of Point Pinos in 1542, propelling Portuguese shipwright and sailor Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo into history with the discovery of Alta California for the Spanish crown. An enduring legacy followed with Fr. Junipero Serra’s landing in San Diego and the founding of his first mission in 1769. Into Alta California entered explorers, soldiers, and Franciscan missionaries bringing their culture, faith, and intent to colonize the New World. Father Serra’s 1770 journey to Monterey, carefully planned in Mexico City, involved the arrival of a few hundred intrepid travelers over land and sea to secure Alta California’s new capital. A small group consecrated Mission San Carlos de Borromeo in the pine-forested flat of New Spain’s presidio. The momentum of the missions over the next 80 years resulted in California’s statehood and in the raising of the American flag in Monterey by 1850.

Visiting Santa Barbara

Alta California -  Spanish Missionary Pioneer History

by Robert A. Bellezza 

A 5-volume series for "Images of America" 

Available from Arcadia Publishing

Each volume is the work of research, travel, and present day discovery of an ancient long lost period of time in history of the settlement of Alta California by Spanish friars and soldiers. As author of five books on the subject, my own interest was sparked by an accidental discovery not unlike the subjects in the books. My serendipitous finds include unearthing over 150 lost photography glass negatives from the 1920s and 1930s. The rediscovered photos were found for sale at and Estate Sale in Grass Valley, CA. The saga of California begins with the journey from Mexico City and a long term ambition of Fr. Junipero Serrra and the Baja governor, Gasper de Portola to bring armies of soldiers, ships with supplies, and their agricultural practices invading the rich territories of Alta California in 1769. The progression of settlements within the new territory formed a chain of Spanish Missions each as unique from the other in design, but unified in a single purpose of converting neophyte California Indian Natives to Christianity. The elaborate planning of the friars spread along a 600 mile pathway called El Camino Real, today surviving as a main artery of travel from San Diego north to Sonoma, near San Francisco Bay. The enviability of progress left only 20 or so mission buildings standing through centuries in decayed condition, resurrected through public funding to complete renovation in present day. The tale of California's missionary settlements became a lasting force during California's first 52 years of settlement, however the government of Mexico, once secession had been accomplished encountered trouble governing and after enforcing secularization of the lands, created havoc among the missions, missionaries and farming communities. The outcome led to the U.S. Army's pursuit of, and capture, of the Mexican General Mariano Vallejo in Sonoma with the Treaty of Hildago ceding Alta California to the United States in 1848. The ensuing Gold Rush of 49 brought 100,000s of settlers worldwide into California's goldfields in the foothills creating a new momentum and ultimately the most successful state in the Union.