SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CBSLA) — San Juan Capistrano is a mission on edge, after protestors defaced and toppled two statues of Catholic priest Junipero Serra across the state this week.

On Tuesday, the mission removed their own statue of the priest to protect it from possible destruction.

In downtown Los Angeles over the weekend, dozens of indigenous activists yanked a statue of Serra off its pedestal on Olvera Street, where L.A. was founded 240 years ago.

Those who brought it down called it a “commemoration of hate, bigotry, and colonization.”

“This is just the beginning of healing that needs to occur among our people,” one protestor said to the crowd after the statue fell.

In San Francisco on Friday, protestors took down a Serra statue there as well.

UC Riverside history professor Steven Hackel, who is considered one of the world’s leading scholars on Serra, said the Franciscan friar is a controversial figure who is seen as both a leader who brought Christianity and civilization to California in the 1700s and an agent of the Spanish Empire that treated Native Americans with brutality.

“He had the will, the administrative skill, the driving force to establish many missions in California,” Hackel said.”[He used] spanking, or some sort of physical aggressiveness that was their way of correcting wayward people, and, of course, in today’s world, we would consider that to be unacceptable.”

San Juan Capistrano parishioners are now devastated that a piece of history is gone.

“A lot of crazy bad stuff has happened in our country along with a lot of good stuff,” said business owner Kiki Macdonald. “I think the statues being kept in place is a good teaching moment to teach kids about the real part of history.”

Comments (10)
  1. KG says:

    This is a completely idiotic! SJC would not even exists without J. Serra! He was a great cultural figure, a saint! Let’s then destroy the whole US history, judging it by today’s standards (another idiotic tendency) – do you know George Washington had slaves and all of the Fathers did too, for that matter? What, are we going to destroy all the historic buildings in DC they have occupied? J. Serra may have used spanking, so did ALL the local cultures, including Native Americans. Everyone until 20th century, every nation and culture in the world used spanking. he was not doing something everyone else wasn’t already doing. What a hypocriisy! However, he brought much enlightenment to California lands, and changed local customs to the better, which before him included worshipping idols, witchcraft and violence, in some cases maybe even human sacrifices. But he didn’t change the good things, such as folklore, arts/crafts and other valuable things he encouraged. Also all his conversions were completely voluntary, never forced on anyone against their will. He also treated a lot of sick people with modern medicines of the time. If you think everyone needed to be left alone and not enlightened/touched, then let’s go back to Stone Age, with all the cruelty and violence it had! His statues are part of the best history US has to offer and should be left alone and reinstated immediately!

  2. DB says:

    During the Missions era there was a separation of Church and State. Soldiers raped, spread sexual transmitted diseases, the Church opposed the State. Junipero Serra, protested and walked barefooted twice to Mexico’s Capital and even got robbed. He moved the First Nations People away from the Spanish soldiers into a different land. The Franciscans took care of the First Nations People as human beings. Also, to add, The First Nations People were not forced into the Missions system, they chose because, to them, it made sense. The Franciscans thought like they think now. Their vows have not changed since 1226 AD; Revere the unique dignity of each person. Encourage a trustful, prayerful community of learners. Serve one another, society, and the Church. Foster peace and justice, and respect creation along with Poverty(living a simple lifestyle), Chastity (loving all, possessing no one, striving sincerely, for singleness of heart, a celibate way of loving and being love), and Obedience (to God, to the community, to the Church, and to self).

  3. Jodi Feinstein says:

    As a teacher of fourth graders, the California Missions is a big part of our Social Studies lessons. I understand the controversy about Father Serra but feel it is more effective to discuss the truth of our history, not try to destroy or hide it. We learn from our past, there is no need to topple it. Teach what happened and why, how, and make sure we don’t let others repeat it. But taking it down to hide it away, that is not the way to go about it.

  4. Teresa says:

    Those who brought it down are so full of hate, bigotry and ignorance they have no inkling of the damage they are doing. It’s a shame that these “protestors” feel their opinion is more important than history. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” That’s going to be very hard to do.

  5. Sam12 says:

    Junipero showed deep respect and love for Indians. All allegations against this fact are openly false. California Indians never were better treated by a European than when Juniper was there. In general, Indians were far more respected by Spaniards than by English-speaking Americans. You just have to consider the many Indians living in South and Central America, and the large proportion of Mestizo people in some countries (in Honduras for example 90% of the population is Mestizo), and the few Indians left in North America. Leland Stanford, who promoted Indian extermination from his office of Governor of California, is honored by the namesake University he founded on land stolen to Indians. Meanwhile, Stanford University has denied any honor to Junipero, who never killed an Indian. From 1850 to 1900 up to 90% of California Indians were exterminated. That extermination was not a side effect of American colonization, but an official project supported by funds allocated by the California administration. If Americans like the 49ers had treated Indians like Junipero did, the proportion of native people in the current California population would be far bigger than it is.

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