It appears that the Red Guard of America’s ongoing Cultural Revolution have no more use for Spanish saints than they do for Confederate War heroes.
This week, they vandalized the statue of St. Junipero Serra, which presides over a park in Mission Hills, California. The vandal or vandals painted the hands of St. Serra in red and scrawled “murderer” on the monument.
From what they have learned in school or the media, the Red Guard likely assumed they were doing the right thing.
As the Los Angeles Times reports on the vandalism, “To many Native Americans and others, Serra is a symbol of the mission system’s oppression. Converted natives were kept separate from those who had not embraced Christianity, and some missions flogged and imprisoned those who tried to leave.”
The story, of course, is not that simple. Before the first Spanish arrived, there were at least 100 different tribes in the state, and 70 percent of their languages were as unintelligible to one other as Mandarin is to Ebonics.
It was not until 1769 that the Spanish chose to colonize Alta California as they called it, literally high California, a translation that would ring even truer today than then.
By all early accounts, the “disorderly and beast-like” Indians of California, especially southern California, were unlike any native peoples Europeans had encountered before.
Spanish explorer Pedro Font, who traversed much of California in 1775, was appalled by all the mindless violence.
With only few exceptions, the Indians he saw were “in constant warfare between the different villages,” as a consequence of which, “they live in continual alarm, and go about like Cain, fugitive and wandering, possessed by fear and dread at every step.”
Font and just about every other European visitor were aghast at the “nakedness and misery” in which most of these early Californians lived.
This wasn’t just some sort of ignorant Eurocentric putdown either. Some of these explorers, like British Capt. George Vancouver, had seen Indians on both continents and admired many of them, but not the Californians.
“They are certainly a race,” wrote Vancouver, “of the most miserable beings, possessing the faculty of human reason, I ever saw.”
There seemed to be some consensus as to why the locals never bothered to develop a wheel or pots or even clothes. Life was just too dang easy.
“The native in his primitive condition readily finds his chief needs, food and shelter, everywhere,” observed Russian visitor Timofeevich Khlebnikov. “There is consequently no reason for exerting his intellectual capacities in improving his state.”
The Franciscan incursion would prove to be dramatically more benign than the Cortez-led incursion of Mexico more than two centuries prior, and yet its impact was very nearly as powerful.
Leading the charge with an incredibly light brigade was Father Serra. “The [Catholic] faith was a gift,” says biographer Francis Weber of Serra, “and he was determined to share it with others.” Serra and most of the early Franciscan missionaries had come directly from Spain.
Just about every set of leaders that followed the Franciscans thought they could do better with the Indians but ended up doing worse.
The fact that with minimal help from the army or state, a group of poor and unarmed Spanish missionaries pacified a huge stretch of California, converting some 54,000 Indians along the way and building 21 missions, has counted for naught with secularists down to the present day.
In 1821, Mexico broke away from Spain. This ill-starred country shifted to a nominally republican form of kleptocracy and introduced what would prove to be the enduring California sport of Christian-bashing.
Although there were only about 3,000 white people in the state at the time and likely no more than 100,000 Indians and shrinking, the sudden shift from a fully Christian state to a boldly secular one caused a major shock to the Indians who depended on the missions and to the Spaniards who depended on the old order.
“The old monastic order is destroyed, and nothing seems yet to have replaced it, except anarchy,” confirmed French traveler Monsieur du Petit-Thouars, who visited in 1837.
California historian Kevin Starr sums up those years after the rise of the secular republic: “The final decade of California’s Mexican era was a confusion of revolution, counterrevolution, graft, spoliation and social disintegration as Northern and Southern factions struggled for power in a series of internecine clashes.”
California was easy picking for the American adventurers who rescued the state from its misery in the mid-19th century.
Honoring the Spanish tradition, the Americans adapted the names of those missions to the cities that grew up around them. The names may ring a bell: San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento.
In this age of violent anti-Western, anti-Christian iconoclasm, there will inevitably a movement to rename those cities.
Some young Californians must find it deeply offensive that just to get from point A to point B they have to acknowledge saints like Barbara, Francis, and James, the Blessed Sacrament, or the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciúncula.
Time to tear down those highway signs! Renaming the cities comes next.
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