Fuera Con Serra
“Lets go lets do it if there’s any time we need to do it now!” exclaimed the sister at a meeting. The subject? The removal of the Junipero Serra statue across the street from the San Fernando Mission in San Fernando, California. There had been various efforts at bringing attention to that statue in particular and the genocidal legacy left by Serra in particular during his Canonization by the Pope in 2015. California tribes and other Raza had been demanding he not be canonized and instead that people know about the crimes of Serra who oversaw most of the California Missions.
For thousands and thousands of years prior to the European invasions people already inhabited these lands. The Tataviam people created a vibrant culture in what is today named the Valle de San Fernando, Santa Clarita and the eastern portion of “Simi Valley”. The site where the Mission was forcefully built was a village by the name of Achoicominga south of there lies present day Pacoima or originally called Pacoinga which means “The Entrance”. The Tataviam nation is also a Uto-Nahuatl or Uto-Aztecan speaking people.
Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer
Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer born in Spain became a Catholic Priest of the Franciscan Order. He came to what was then under Spanish colonial Rule “Nueva Espana” to help bring a subservient workforce for the Spanish crown via Catholicism. Let us not forget what Spain wanted was to expand its empire and extract from the colonized lands and people as much as it could. To do this it had to have a steady work force that wouldn’t rebel or successfully organize against it ergo Christianity/Catholicism. Now this is not meant to insult anybody’s faith but this is how Catholicism came to the “Americas” cross in one hand, sword in the other, submit or die. Again the purpose in all this was not that the Spanish crown literally believed in “the word of God” but that they needed the people to work for them and the only way you’d take a free human and make them submit is by instilling fear and subservience in them via a system beliefs meant to make them feel they have a predestined destiny and this was it, in this case and historically Religion has played much of that role for the most part.
Serra went on to found 9 of the 21 Missions in California and although he came with words of love and brotherhood it was violence that made him successfully enslave people to build the missions then work the land and tend to livestock all to send back to Spain or whatever colonial authorities in the former Tenochtitlan. This time was also marked by several rebellions and escape attempts yet in the end around 40% of the people of California died due to the Genocidal Mission System. More where to die eventually.
Floggings, executions, rapes, beatings, massacres, shackling, torture, raping and abuse of children and deaths from overwork or preventable or curable diseases abounded in the Missions. Why we should ask ourselves should we permit public displays of veneration and honoring that horrible wound in our history? Shouldn’t somebody that is of faith see the disgust and irony in honoring such a person as Junipero Serra and his Mission system?
The USA inheritor of Spanish Colonialism
It was barely 20 years after Mexico gained its independence that another foreign occupation came to the Southwest (Aztlan) and reached all the way to California. The US invaded Mexico and stole the northern portion in one fell swoop laying false claims over a huge portion about 1/4th of its present territory. In that acquisition was obviously included San Fernando whose original name is Tataviam. In one fell swoop the areas native inhabitants’ both tribal and not became “foreigners in their own land”. Not only had we been forced to learn Spanish, now we were chastised for that and forced to learn English.
A new order was forced on the people only this time we were meant to be completely replaced by droves of invaders/settlers that drove Tribes and Mexicanos off of their lands by force or coercion. A clear example is the tragic story of Tataviam elder Rogerio Rocha who was repeatedly harassed by Charles Maclay over and over to sell him his land, Rocha refused everytime. Why shouldn’t he have? One day Charles Maclay arrived with the Sheriffs and forced our Tataviam elder Don Rocha and his family out into what can only be described as a death sentence. An elderly man with his elderly wife and family died due to Pneumonia after living as a homeless person in Lopez Canyon. Charles Maclay went on to have a main street named after him in San Fernando…
A full 76 years after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo a group by the name of “San Fernando Mission Land Company” decided to erect a statue to Junipero Serra. Almost 100 years after the expulsion of Spain from these lands this organization decided to “honor” the past by placing a statue to a brutal colonizer and a reminder to the indigenous people in Tataviam including Chicanos Mexicanos of who remained in charge. European invaders. The statue erected in 1924 was not even at the Mission itself but across the street at Brand Park in other words on public property. For years the community demanded its removal which basically fell on def ears. We even had organized a previous march in 2018 for the same reason!
Seeing everything going on as the world is going through a significant period of challenges to the status quo and seeing how throughout this prison of nations people have been successful at either bringing down or forcing the colonial state to bring down symbols of conquest and colonization we decided to strike. On Saturday, June 27th we marched starting from Rudy Ortega Sr. Park (named after a Tataviam leader and elder) on Hubbard and turned on San Fernando Road and marched past the old Barrio San Fer and turned again on San Fernando Mission Blvd straight up towards Brand Park. To the chants of “Viva Tataviam!”, “Fuera, Fuera, Fuera Con Serra!” and “Esta es Mi Tierra! Esta es Mi Lucha!” We took over the Boulevard. As is basically tradition in the Chicano nation, the Huehuetl or tambores guided la marcha. La Raza from the Barrio came out to view what was going on and shouted and waved fists in support. At the park we were greeted by more Raza that had gathered there. People from different organizations and supporters and activists chanted. Organizers of the event spoke on why we were there. Caroline Ward a Tataviam member, spoke on the crimes of Serra and the Church on the Tataviam and indigenous peoples. A small group of counter-protestors were also there and one of them tried to push, kick and jump over a small fence to get to the statue when La Raza put trash bags over it. The violent man instead of being arrested was escorted back to the Mission. A parking lot full of police also awaited us down the street but the event ended without any real incident. The supporters of the genocidal rapist Serra even came in after most of us had left and surrounded the statue and chanted in a rather odd fashion to this inanimate object of a man holding a child. A man that sanctioned Child abuse. They even put a frame of the Virgin Mary which strangely or maybe rightfully was blown over by the wind causing it to fall and almost break. To our surprise yet also thanks to our collective and coordinated effort the following morning the disgusting statue was gone.
The Statue Represents Colonialism.
The Serra statue like all these other statues and symbols of Empire represents the relationship we as colonized nations have with the colonizer. Serra was a colonizer, the US and its European-American settlers are colonizers. European Americans erected the statue. 96 years later we forced their hand at bringing it down. Is this fight over? Definitely not. What we should aim to do is continue organizing and mobilizing among our people both Tribal and Chicano Mexicano. We must continue studying our history and present condition. If we are to do this we would realize that in the Southwest many times the struggle of Chicanos Mexicanos intertwines deeply with the struggle of the tribal nation whose historic territory one may be in. In every old Barrio throughout what many Chicanos call Aztlan if you study the history you will find that most of these Barrios started off close to or where the original peoples inhabited. San Fernando is a perfect example. The old Barrio in which my family is from is down the street from the San Fernando Mission. Throughout my life I heard of how what the Anglos called “SonoraTown” was basically a separate village in which tribal and Mexicano lived as neighbors, intermarrying and at times technically the same people. The only place Raza could live was there and by Raza I mean any indigenous person living here. Whatever you needed was there, poor and humble but it was there you only ventured out of the Barrio if you had to conduct some business or go to work. To the colonizer everyone there was just “Mexican” and for the most part people probably mostly identified as Mexican including Tribal members who had no other choice or suffer having their families torn apart according to US colonial law and or being forcefully relocated somewhere far away, away from their homelands in this case Tataviam.
This is something key to remember because it should remind us that despite the horrors we have lived both tribal and Chicano Mexicano peoples in particular in the Southwest are closer than they’d want us to notice, and if we are to move forward as a people across the Southwest (Aztlan) we need to begin this dialogue. I don’t think there is any contradiction and in fact both struggles empower each other as it literally is the land that we fight for not just aesthetic changes. How does that look like locally would be that the San Fernando Mission along with all the territory currently held by it be returned to the Tataviam nation, the streets honoring brutal colonizers both Spaniards and AmeriKKKans be changed immediately and that the history of the Tataviam peoples along with that of the Chumash and Tungva be taught to all students in the Los Angeles and Greater Los Angeles areas. This in essence would make the masses of Chicanos/Raza see themselves in their Native brethren and uphold the history and culture of our original ancestors on this land. Not only should we identify with our Mexica ancestors but let us recall that before they were Mexica various nations migrated down south and their mark is still carried in the Uto-Nahuatl roots throughout the Southwest something we should be proud of and something that MUST connect us to the First and Tribal Nations of the southwest and thus sowing the seeds for a National Liberation struggle that will change the course of history.
Que Viva TATAVIAM, Calif-Aztlan!
La Raza Unida
Telejaguar Minister of Meme Defense