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Steven Rios, a lifelong San Juan Capistrano resident, is doing well and the San Juan Capistrano city seal no longer shows Junipero Serra embracing an Indigenous boy.
“I’m glad I changed,” said Rios, who lives on Los Rios Street and has deep ancestral ties to San Juan. Not all priests loved children Not all priests loved people We know the story We have experienced it ourselves I know the atrocities that have been committed.
Members of the local Juaneño/Achaquemen community (the first Native Americans to live in what is now San Juan) recently shared their views on Serra’s legacy, the old city seal, the new city seal, and the historical evangelism system in general. shared. Capistrano dispatchA new sticker on the mission bell still has Sera’s name on it.
The city’s seal was recently redesigned to feature Native American Kiicha huts, horseback riding, the Saddleback Mountains, and other local features. The reason for changing the seal was to make it easier to see on smartphones, but criticism of Cera and Mission Systems’ past treatment of indigenous peoples has come up over the years. New seal design.
In particular, Indigenous peoples and advocates believe that using Native Americans to build Mission San Juan Capistrano and other California missions was tantamount to slave labor, and that European colonization of the region It claims to have wiped out Native American culture. Junipero Serra, canonized in 2015, is considered the founder of what is now San Juan because he founded the mission.
Another lifelong San Juan resident, Jerry Nieblas, said his family has lived in the town for generations and previous seals conveyed the message that people existed in San Juan Capistrano for a mission. .
“That ruled everything, and I was in mission school, so I was uncomfortable with that seal. When I saw that statue, it always bothered me,” said Niebrus. “I remember in his sophomore year, when we went on a field trip to the main gate, he asked, ‘Why is this priest this native he’s standing over an American boy?’ Why does he look angry like he’s chasing him?”
Nieblas was told that the priest was not chastising the youth, but teaching the boy about God and the Catholic Church. Niblus further wondered why the boy could not face the viewer or stand alongside the priest inside the old seal.
“[The change of seal]has been long overdue, because the mission is here for our people, our Native American side,” said Neeblas. It’s the blood that gave this community a mission That mission exists for us We don’t exist for a mission This town doesn’t exist for a mission Really, It’s just another chunk, another layer of this community.”
San Juan’s history exists beyond its Mission, including Los Rios Street, Montanez Adobe, and Blas Aguilar Adobe, Nieblas said.
Serra was “a small part” of an evangelistic system that was “disruptive” to Native Americans and wiped out tradition and culture, Niblus said.
“The words are broken. Religion has stopped. Everything has stopped for them,” said Niblus. “What I try to explain when I tour people and educators is imagine someone coming into your house and suddenly saying, ‘You can’t look like that.’ Let me dress you, all this has to go, I don’t want you to live here anymore, I want you to change your name, I don’t want you to talk about the past.”
Rios advocates an ongoing dialogue about the history of Serra, the Mission and San Juan.
“I’m not a cancel culture. I don’t like a cancel culture,” Rios said. I don’t think we should cancel these people who may have done it, maybe we should put them in the right place and let the discussion continue.”
Gigi Neiblas, cousin of Jerry Niiblas, likes the new seal design, which includes a depiction of orange.
“I love different parts of it. Most of it. I used to ride horses and eat oranges, so I love oranges,” said Gigi Nieblas. “They were abundant. Orange trees have always been a part of the area since I came here.”
Gigi Neeblas also likes the walnut depiction on the new Seal. Her ancestors tended the walnut grove at what is now an ecological center.
Rios also praised aspects of the new Seal.
“This is successful in a lot of ways. “I like it. For all our history going there and all the people going there.”
Others familiar with Serra, Capistrano dispatchincluding Principal Rich Meyer of JSerra Catholic High School.
Serra left a legacy through his contributions to Southern California and as a “spiritual father” of the West Coast, Meyer said. Told.
“We’re not really upset,” Meyer said of the criticism of Serra. “His legacy is a testament to someone who gave his life to others.”
Meyer said Serra should continue to be “unequivocally” honored, and that his memory is painted “everywhere you look” in San Juan Capistrano. Meyer said Serra did a lot for a lot of people and showed fortitude.
“It’s always easy to criticize history from a modern perspective,” Meyer said.
There are no plans to change the name of the JSerra school. Meyer declined to comment because he is not familiar with the new San Juan seals.
Janet Bartel, a volunteer historian at Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, also spoke in defense of Serra. In addition to being involved in education and philanthropic work, Bartel said.
“These missions are recognized all over the world,” said Bartel, who has been involved in mission history for 37 years. He serves on the boards of the California Mission Research Association and the California Mission Foundation and is not of his native American descent.
Serra advocated for indigenous rights and a “peaceful transition” to improve the lives of indigenous peoples, Bartell said.
Objections to the previous San Juan Capistrano seal reflect more on the individual than on the actual visual depiction, Bartel said.
Bartel said it’s human nature to want to reach out to each other, and cited a photo of children hugging a sports coach as an example of how she felt the image wasn’t offensive.
“He did everything to protect the natives,” Bartel said. “The natives were hunter-gatherers and probably thought their lives were idyllic, but Father Serra knew he could see into the future and that it wasn’t always idyllic. rice field.”
In response to Serra’s criticism, Bartell said few people consulted primary sources of the mission’s history, and that critics were unaware of the exact sources where the negative allegations originated. He said the abuse and downfall of indigenous peoples began during the Gold Rush.
Bartel said Native Americans are welcomed and given food and water when they show up at protests.
“It’s their holy land,” Bartel said. “There is never a time when they are not welcome at Mission San Diego.”
Serra’s statues were torn down across California during “Black Lives Matter” protests in 2020, but remained intact in San Juan Capistrano, including JSerra and Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Due to the controversy surrounding Serra, San Juan Capistrano’s continuing school, Serra High School, will revert to its original name of Capistrano Union High School in 2021. School and community members.
Collin Breaux is City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch, covering San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news. Before he moved to California, he covered politics and education in Hurricane He Michael, Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org..
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