At Los Angeles toppling of Junipero Serra statue, activists want full history told

Los Angeles Times

June 20, 2020

By Carolina A. Miranda

It began with a prayer and ended with a loud clunk.

On Saturday afternoon, a group of about five dozen indigenous activists of all ages — children and elders included — gathered at Father Serra Park in downtown Los Angeles, just south of Olvera Street. As Tataviam/Chumash elder Alan Salazar burned sage and invoked the spirit of his ancestors, a group of young activists bound the nearby statue of Father Junipero Serra with ropes and tore him off his pedestal to chants of “Take it down! Take it down!”

After the statue flew off its pedestal, the crowd erupted with shouts and drumming.

Statues of Serra, the 18th century Franciscan friar who served as principal architect of the California mission system during the era of Spanish colonization, have long been a flashpoint among indigenous activists. The mission system was designed to convert and acculturate the Native population to Catholicism and European culture, and this was done by confining them to missions up and down the coast. Natives who tried to escape were captured. Those who disobeyed were beaten. Indigenous beliefs and customs were banned.

Nonetheless, the Catholic Church — quite controversially — canonized Serra in 2015.

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