Did others in San Luis Obispo besides me feel uncomfortable in learning that Pope Francis will canonize Father Serra, who came here in 1772 to found the mission that was the foundation for our city? (“Serra, soon a saint, not universally beloved,” Jan. 17)
Serra knew of the oppressive conditions in which Chumash natives built the buildings, grew the food and made the clothing. Here and elsewhere, mission Indians were treated like children, beaten for offenses, and died prematurely from European diseases. True, Serra was acting like a person of his time. But do not saints rise above their times?
But simply blaming Serra or Francis for having narrow views is a dead-end reaction that keeps the focus on them. We could rather use this issue to finally and publicly tell the Chumash story. Could a prominent sign in front of our lovely mission give credit where it is due: “Built by the Chumash”? Or much better — could we inaugurate a citywide annual “Chumash Heritage Day,” with panel discussions, art displays and publicschool events? If we can devote five days to Bach’s music, might we devote one to our native ancestors?