Los Angeles Removes Name of Beloved Catholic Saint from City Park

Junipero Serra (Frederic J. Brown / Getty)
Frederic J. Brown / Getty

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti removed the name of beloved Catholic Saint Junipero Serra from a city park in the name of “cultural sensitivity.”

In an announcement on Columbus Day – what leftists now refer to as Indigenous Peoples Day – Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Serra’s name will be removed to correct “mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

“Los Angeles is a city of belonging that takes responsibility for the mistakes we’ve made in the past,” he said. “Our indigenous brothers and sisters deserve justice and today we take a step toward delivering both greater cultural sensitivity and spaces for Angelenos to gather and perform their traditional ceremonies.”

“This is not about tearing down or erecting statues. This is about telling the complicated truth of history,” he added.

The park will temporarily be called La Plaza Park until the city decides upon a new name.

Garcetti also spoke at an Indigenous Peoples Day event headed by the Gabrielino/Tongva and Fernandeño Tataviam tribes where he said that buildings in Los Angeles were “built on slave labor,” promising to issue a formal apology to Native Americans and give them “priority access” to the park.

“The buildings that are here were built on the slave labor of native inhabitants. And we’re sorry,” the mayor said. “We’re sorry as a city for all the things that were done as a Spanish city, a Mexico City, an American city to erase the peoples whose land this is and always will be.”

As Catholic News Agency (CNA) noted, Eric Garcetti’s Civic Memory Working Group report on engagement with the past does not specifically single out the Catholic Church or Junipero Serra as perpetrators of crimes against humanity and only seeks to generally address the “history of erasure of the Indigenous people of Los Angeles.”

Social justice activists have long charged St. Junipero Serra with committing crimes against the Native Americans through the California Mission system, allegations that motivated rioters in San Francisco and Los Angeles to topple statues honoring the beloved saint. Catholic bishops have unanimously condemned the acts of violence while defending Junipero Serra’s treasured legacy.

As Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez noted:

The real St. Junípero fought a colonial system where natives were regarded as “barbarians” and “savages,” whose only value was to serve the appetites of the white man. For St. Junípero, this colonial ideology was a blasphemy against the God who has “created (all men and women) and redeemed them with the most precious blood of his Son.”

He lived and worked alongside native peoples and spent his whole career defending their humanity and protesting crimes and indignities committed against them. Among the injustices he struggled against, we find heartbreaking passages in his letters where he decries the daily sexual abuse of indigenous women by colonial soldiers.

For St. Junípero, the natives were not just powerless victims of colonial brutality. In his letters, he describes their “gentleness and peaceful dispositions,” he celebrates their creativity and knowledge; he remembers little acts of kindness and generosity, even the sweet sound of their voices as they sang.

In July 2020, the Ventura City council also voted unanimously 6-0 to remove the statue of St. Junipero Serra from its city hall.

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