Founded by Franciscan missionaries from Spain and Mexico, the 21 California Missions are an important part of California history. And today, each of the missions represents life in California more than 200 years ago. The first mission was founded in San Diego in 1769. The last mission was founded in Sonoma in 1823. Each mission was founded to convert California Native Americans to Christianity and to teach the native population how to live in a Spanish society. While today we may not all agree with the methods used by the Spanish in colonizing California, each mission played an important part in the life of the Native inhabitants of its region during the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods.