Tearing Down Saint Serra Statues in California

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My new cartoon depicts the bear on the California flag pulling down a statue of Father Junípero Serra, the controversial Catholic saint who oversaw the opening of nine missions in colonial California.

Serra participated in the Spanish Inquisition and enslaved native Americans, imprisoning them at his missions. Statues of Serra have been vandalized recently as many protests toppling statues commemorating racist historical figures have swept the nation, and the world, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing while in Minneapolis police custody. Last week two Serra statues were toppled, in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The California bear is something of an “everyman” character. I like seeing the movement to purge symbols honoring racist historical figures. Perhaps it is a bit of wishful thinking on my part to see California’s “everyman” tearing down Serra since there is quite a bit of support for defending the many Serra statues that dot our state like a pox.

President Donald Trump is using an executive order to boost penalties for defacing racist historical monuments. My depiction of the California flag is more a symbol of hope that these protests succeed than a depiction of today’s reality.

The statue is based on one located in San Juan Capistrano that was relocated recently to protect it from protesters. I lifted Serra’s robe a bit so that I could get some Saddam Hussein action going with his ankles.

When I was in third grade, I was required to build a model of a California mission and I was taught a false, fairy-tale story about Padre Serra. Thirty years later my kids went through the same thing in school.

California students have been required to build those models and have been fed a whitewashed version of history for many decades. That may be changing now as the protests continue. Maybe our “everyman” state bear will finally see those Serra statues taken down legally.

Daryl Cagle is an editorial cartoonist and columnist; see his work at DarylCagle.com. Daryl runs the CagleCartoons.com newspaper syndicate distributing editorial cartoons to more than half of America’s daily, paid-circulation newspapers, including the paper you are reading now. Comments to Daryl may be sent to [email protected]