Junipero Serra (1713-1784) was a Franciscan friar who founded a series of Missions in what is now California. Born in Majorca, Spain in 1713, he joined the Order of Friars Minor in 1730 and asked to be sent to the Sierra Gorda mountains of Mexico. Serra later became the "presidente" of missions in Alta California. He helped to found nearly a dozen missions himself, and influenced those who founded the remainder of the 21 California missions stretching from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north.
Serra was the father of California's missions and he helped establish Spanish control of the California coast during an era in which Spain's authority over the area was under threat from England and Russia. Serra's missions were influential in converting to Christianity all of the natives along the entire California coast as far north as Sonoma. The missions also constituted the first major European presence on the American Pacific Coast. California remained an important area of Spanish control until the beginning of the Mexican-American War in 1846, when it was captured by a group of Americans led by John C. Frémont.