HomeOpinionPadre mascot rubs salt in sore, historical wound

Padre mascot rubs salt in sore, historical wound

Published Jan. 29, 2024


According to an article from The Guardian, on June 19, 2020, a 30-foot statue of Junipero Serra was pulled down from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, where it had stood for a century, and soaked in red paint. The article explains that way back in 1749, the padre took control over the coastal region north of Baja California. trying to protect Spain’s influence in northern Mexico and was appointed to oversee missions between San Diego and Monterey, including Carmel. 

The Guardian explains that since Serra was so adamant that Catholicism was the true and only correct religion, he, among other missionaries, pushed his beliefs, agricultural practices and way of life at the mission on California’s Native Americans, who were forced into labor to carry out the Mission’s farming projects and exposed to deadly foreign diseases, such as syphilis. 

The padre, specifically Father Junipero Serra, is a highly familiar figure among Carmel High faculty, students, alumni and Carmel residents alike. But after discussion from CUSD’s Study Group and Mascot Committee, consisting of students, staff and community members within the district, no action has been taken. Although the padre has its place in Carmel’s history, an old, white, male evangelizing figure with a past of discrimination does not represent CHS’ values, nor is it appropriate in the context of a non-denominational school. 

An article from KQED explains that missionaries raped Native American women, and when women were found trying to abort babies that were the product of forced sexual acts, mission fathers beat them for days, clamping their limbs in irons, shaving their heads and making them stand at the face of God at the altar every Sunday with a wooden child in their arms as punishment. 

The missions were “a series of picturesque charnel houses,” according to the words of journalist and historian Carey McWilliams. But the proliferation of statues, mascots and general false promotion through biased storytelling has painted the historical figure as the founder of California and a loving, Franciscan monk with a wide grin, open arms and a model of leadership. Rape, abuse and forced labor are only the start of the atrocities performed by Serra, according to KQED. 

So why should the Padre parade around at every football game and be plastered on school uniforms and merchandise as a figure representing school pride and joy after being liable for the genocide of 80,000 Native people?

According to a survey from Change.org, those in favor of keeping the Padre mascot argue that trying to cover up history in light of Serra’s past doesn’t do anything and that using the historical figure as a learning opportunity is more conducive to spreading the truth, rather than simply changing the mascot. A survey conducted in 2020 by the CUSD district’s Mascot Study Group records that about a third of those advocating to keep the mascot were over the age of 60, whereas CHS students at the time were split. 

Among the study group, five out of the nine members voted to change the mascot, despite the study group’s consensus that changing the mascot would not fully address the wrongdoings by the friars.  

Efforts to change the Padre as a mascot aren’t just present at CHS, as professional sports teams such as the San Diego Padres’ Swinging Friar have been flagged as mockery of the Native Americans or promotion of racism. The argument that the Padre could be used as a learning opportunity could be a happy medium for both sides, but there haven’t been widespread efforts to correct the figure’s image. 

Maintaining the Padre as CHS’ mascot is disrespectful to our local Native American community, no matter what the Padre means to alumni and community members. Dishonoring Native Americans is already a part of the mission’s past, so why should CHS continue to promote a malicious missionary? 

Changing the mascot should be a priority to correct the image of the padre for Carmel’s community, educating about the atrocities he performed instead of remarketing them.

Latest comment

  • Dear Mr. Miller,

    Thank you for your thoughtful look at Father Serra and his legacy. Certainly there are two ways to look at his story but I believe the behavior towards California’s indigenous people were horrible, not just by him but also by those who worked with him as they pursued colonization. The Carmel High School padre question gets the local attention but, as you stated, the colonization efforts, and aftermath, existed all over the geography of what was to become California.

    In what sometimes feels like a hopeless battle to generate recognition for the indigenous people all over what are now the United States, and the world for that matter, many months ago I placed a sign on our front fence down HWY 1 in Mission Fields which reads…

    “Thank you to the indigenous peoples upon whose ancestral land we find ourselves today…”

    It is my, white guy, way of acknowledging that I am a guest on this land that will always be authentically the land of indigenous people. It doesn’t resolve the Serra question but it gives credit where credit is do (and perhaps makes it harder to feature a padre as a mascot?).

    I am also beginning to see similar statements in other public situations which is heartening – perhaps, in the future, on each Carmel school campus? As a truth, it is not even controversial.
    Thanks again for keeping the issue out in the world.
    Peter Hiller

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