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Prebys donation aims to restore California pioneer “to his proper place.”

Museum Peace

No room for the cross in the public square: over the past two years, numerous statues of St. Serra have been toppled from their pedestals in public places. Clockwise from upper left: San Gabriel, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Elsewhere, as in Ventura and even at the San Luis Obispo mission, the statue was simply removed and placed elsewhere. And of course, Junipero Serra High in Tierrasanta was recently renamed Canyon Hills High School.
No room for the cross in the public square: over the past two years, numerous statues of St. Serra have been toppled from their pedestals in public places. Clockwise from upper left: San Gabriel, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Elsewhere, as in Ventura and even at the San Luis Obispo mission, the statue was simply removed and placed elsewhere. And of course, Junipero Serra High in Tierrasanta was recently renamed Canyon Hills High School.

Last week, the Contrad Prebys Foundation announced that it was donating $330,000 to aid in the restoration of the Junipero Serra Museum, home to the collection of the San Diego History Center. Given the controversy that has surrounded Fr. Serra — a Catholic missionary who was recently declared a saint by Pope Francis but even more recently declared a monster by a number of activists who condemned his behavior toward California’s indigenous population: forced labor, corporal punishment, and the promise of eternal hellfire for those who did not convert to Christianity — some observers were surprised by the announcement. Happily, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria was on hand at the donation ceremony to provide important context. “First of all,” said Gloria, “I would like to acknowledge that the Junipero Serra museum is built on stolen land, just like every one of the missions that Junipero Serra built as part of his effort to colonize California. Mind you, we’re not about to give that land back, or make any kind of reparations to the descendants of those despoiled peoples. But we thought it would be nice to acknowledge it, all the same. Second, I would like to thank the Prebys Foundation for its generous help in preserving San Diego’s history for future generations, here on the very site of San Diego’s original European settlement. By restoring this building that bears Fr. Serra’s name, we’re sending a clear message: that both Serra and the Eurocentric outlook that his work and this building represent are things of the past, which visitors to the museum can look back on and remember with an admixture of wonder and horror.”

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No room for the cross in the public square: over the past two years, numerous statues of St. Serra have been toppled from their pedestals in public places. Clockwise from upper left: San Gabriel, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Elsewhere, as in Ventura and even at the San Luis Obispo mission, the statue was simply removed and placed elsewhere. And of course, Junipero Serra High in Tierrasanta was recently renamed Canyon Hills High School.
No room for the cross in the public square: over the past two years, numerous statues of St. Serra have been toppled from their pedestals in public places. Clockwise from upper left: San Gabriel, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Elsewhere, as in Ventura and even at the San Luis Obispo mission, the statue was simply removed and placed elsewhere. And of course, Junipero Serra High in Tierrasanta was recently renamed Canyon Hills High School.

Last week, the Contrad Prebys Foundation announced that it was donating $330,000 to aid in the restoration of the Junipero Serra Museum, home to the collection of the San Diego History Center. Given the controversy that has surrounded Fr. Serra — a Catholic missionary who was recently declared a saint by Pope Francis but even more recently declared a monster by a number of activists who condemned his behavior toward California’s indigenous population: forced labor, corporal punishment, and the promise of eternal hellfire for those who did not convert to Christianity — some observers were surprised by the announcement. Happily, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria was on hand at the donation ceremony to provide important context. “First of all,” said Gloria, “I would like to acknowledge that the Junipero Serra museum is built on stolen land, just like every one of the missions that Junipero Serra built as part of his effort to colonize California. Mind you, we’re not about to give that land back, or make any kind of reparations to the descendants of those despoiled peoples. But we thought it would be nice to acknowledge it, all the same. Second, I would like to thank the Prebys Foundation for its generous help in preserving San Diego’s history for future generations, here on the very site of San Diego’s original European settlement. By restoring this building that bears Fr. Serra’s name, we’re sending a clear message: that both Serra and the Eurocentric outlook that his work and this building represent are things of the past, which visitors to the museum can look back on and remember with an admixture of wonder and horror.”

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