There’s disbelief in Petra over calls in the United States to remove a statue of the Majorcan Missionary Junípero Serra, who was canonised in 2015 by Pope Francis for the evangelisation of California in the 18th Century.
After the banishment of images of personalities from Confederate states in Washington DC, the demolition of their statues in the public squares in the south and the destruction of Christopher Columbus statues, attention has now turned to the Majorcan Saint.
Activists have called for a peaceful rally in the Californian City of Ventura to demand the removal of the statue of Junípero Serra which has stood outside City Hall for decades. The protest organisers claim to have the support of the Chumash Indian Reserve Council.
"It's very nice to see all those Confederate statues fall in the south and east of the United States, but here in the west, we have our own tradition of celebrating the colonisers. Ventura! Knock down this bitch and build a monument to honour the local Chumash Indigenous People,” they said.
News of the rally to have Junípero Serra’s statue removed caused astonishment in his hometown of Petra, especially within the Association of Fra Juníper Serra and the Franciscan Order.
Fray Carlos Enrique Díaz Urbina, (Chiapas, 1978), one of the three Mexican friars who reopened the convent of Petra in 2019, said the situation is worrying.
"Judging a historical figure by today's parameters is unfair. We must put ourselves at the time of the 18th century and in the work that was done in pursuit of the greater good,” he said. “Making historical judgments based on the ‘black legend’ is not very rigorous. Junípero Serra not only evangelised California, he also brought Western civilisation there. His statue in front of Ventura City Hall does not determine a fact of injustice today, but a historical fact of the past and serves as a reminder, otherwise, future generations have no parameters to distinguish the good from the bad,” said Diaz Urbina.
“Juníper Serra acted as an intermediary and peacemaker, avoiding a war massacre when the natives burned the San Diego Mission. He always had great respect for the natives, their customs and their lives,” said Catalina Font, Vice President of the Associació d’Amics de Fra Juníper Serra.