Junípero Serra (November 24, 1713 - August 28, 1784) was a Spanish Franciscan who founded the California mission chain. Born Miguel José Serra in Majorca, he renamed himself in honor of Saint Juniper, who had also been a Franciscan and a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. Once he entered religion, he taught philosophy in Palma, but in 1749 he went to North America, first to Mexico City, where he taught at the College of San Fernando.
In 1769, he accompanied Gaspar de Portolá on his expedition to California. When the party reached San Diego, Serra stayed behind to start the Mission San Diego de Alcala. When Monterey was reached and Mission San Carlos Borromeo founded, Serra remained there as president of the Alta California missions. In 1771 he moved the mission to Carmel, which became his headquarters. Under his presidency were founded Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, Mission San Luis Obispo, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de Asís, Mission Santa Clara de Asís and Mission San Buenaventura.
In 1784, at the age of 70, Father Serra died at Mission San Carlos Borromeo and is buried there under the sanctuary floor.
Serra has been declared a "Blessed" by the Catholic Church, and many are pushing for his canonization. However, Native American groups are opposed to this, on the grounds that his missions enslaved their people.