Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that La Plaza park, known as Father Serra Park, will be renamed and that an “indigenous cultural easement” would be created “to give local indigenous communities priority access to the park for practice of traditional ceremonies.”
“Los Angeles is a city of belonging that takes responsibility for the mistakes we’ve made in the past,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Our indigenous brothers and sisters deserve justice and today we take a step toward delivering both greater cultural sensitivity and spaces for Angelenos to gather and perform their traditional ceremonies.”
The press release said that the city will remove Saint Junipero Serra’s name from a portion of the park and will be referred to as La Plaza Park until a new name is adopted.
Garcetti had convened a “civic memory” working group in 2019 to give recommendations as to how the liberal city could “engage” with its past. But as the group was working, left-wing activists took matters into their own hands and ripped down the statue of Serra in 2020. Another statue of Serra in Sacramento was also vandalized.
Serra, who lived from 1713 to 1784 and was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015, is seen as the father of the California missionary effort.
Serra is heralded as bringing Christianity to Western America and assisting in the conversion of many Native Americans. Canonizing Serra at a mass in Washington D.C. in 2015, Pope Francis implicitly rejected claims that Serra was involved in the mistreatment of Native Americans.
“He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters,” he said. “Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last month that allows the statue of Serra at another park in the blue state to be replaced with a monument honoring Native American tribes.