Eusebio Francisco Kino S.J. (August 10, 1644–March 15, 1711) was a Catholic priest who became famous in what is now northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States (primarily Sonora and Arizona) for his exploration of the region and for his work to Christianize the indigenous Native American population, including primarily the Sobaipuri and other Upper Piman groups. He proved that Baja California is not an island by leading an overland expedition there from Arizona. He established over 20 missions and visitas ("country chapels"), and was known for his ability to create relationships between indigenous peoples and the religious institutions he represented.
In addition to his pastoral activities as a missionary, Eusebio Kino also practiced other crafts, and was an expert astronomer, mathematician and cartographer, who drew the first accurate maps of Pimería Alta, the Gulf of California and Baja California. Father Kino enjoyed making model ships out of wood. His knowledge of maps and ships led him to believe that Mexican Indians could easily access California by sea, a view that was taken with skepticism by Mexico City missionaries. When Father Kino proposed that a boat be made and pushed across the Sonoran desert and to the Mexican west coast, a controversy arose, as many of his co-missionares questioned Father Kino's mental abilities.
Father Kino arrived in Sonora in 1687 to work with the Pima, and he quickly established the first Catholic church in that province. Kino traveled across Northern Mexico and to California and Arizona. Roads were built to connect previously inaccessible areas. His many expeditions on horseback covered over 50,000 square miles (130,000 km²), during which he mapped an area 200 miles (300 km) long and 250 miles (400 km) wide, and deduced that Lower California was a peninsula. Up until Kino's arrival in Sonora, it was believed that Baja California, like Isla de Mujeres, was an island and not a peninsula that was actually attached to the North American continent. Father Kino led the first ground expedition to Baja California, proving that the previous assumption about that area was wrong. A fervent believer in the idea that Indians needed better ways of living, Kino was important in the economic growth of Sonora at the time, teaching the Indians the basics of farming and bringing them farm animals and seeds.
One fact that is widely known about Kino is that he fought hard for the Sonoran Indians, opposing the hard labor in silver mines that the Spaniards had imposed on them. This also caused great controversy among his co-missionares, many of whom acted according to the laws imposed by Spain on their new territory. Father Kino was also a writer, authoring books on religion, astronomy and maps. He built missions extending from the interior of Sonora 150 miles (240 km) northeast to San Xavier del Bac, still standing and functioning as a Catholic parish near Tucson. He constructed 19 rancheras, which supplied cattle to new settlements. He was also instrumental in the return of the Jesuits to California in 1697.
Padre Kino is also the name of Mexico's best known table wine.
Portions of this biography are courtesy National Statuary Hall.