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A monument in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, honors Saint Junipero Serra as a “tireless apostle and missionary.” Photo: Fred Swegles

Staff report

Statues of Father Junipero Serra in San Juan Capistrano have been moved due to safety concerns after protesters toppled other Serra statues throughout California during protests against systemic and historical racial inequality, amid the removal and calls to do so of other statues throughout the country.

Statues in San Francisco and Los Angeles were recently toppled by protesters, and city and community leaders in Ventura announced a statue near City Hall would be removed, according to news reports. Serra has been canonized as a saint and was instrumental in promoting Catholicism in the Western United States, though critics say he was part of imperialism that harmed Native Americans.

A statue at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano has been temporarily removed, because it was not determined to be in a secure location. Another statue at Mission San Juan Capistrano was moved this week to an indoor location, still on the Mission grounds and for public display. It is considered to be in a secure spot. Serra founded missions throughout California.

Mission San Juan Capistrano Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence Adams said the statues are on private Catholic property, declining to comment on statues coming down throughout the state.

Serra is also the namesake of JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano. JSerra President Rich Meyer said on Wednesday, June 24, that the school will not change its name.

Though conceding that Father Junipero Serra wasn’t perfect, Meyer said Serra’s legacy is a love for the people of California. Meyer also said the removal of statues makes him sad and that there are historical accounts of Serra protecting Indigenous people. The school has heightened security around its statue and will protect its private property, Meyer said.

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