Let’s get this straight. Junipero Serra, in the Brown/Indigenous sense that the Church and it’s media cohorts are trying to imply, is not “Hispanic”. Nor is Pope Francis the “First Latino Pope”. In desperation to gain support for their questionable canonization of Junipero Serra, and to rejuvenate dwindling church membership, the Catholic Church via the Los Angeles Archdiocese has launched a campaign to reshape Serra’s image. An image which is tainted by the fact he was usher to the cultural genocide of California’s Indigenous peoples.
The strategy employed by the Catholic Church is to frame Junipero Serra and Pope Francis as, what I call, the “so-called Hispanic” or “so-called Latino”. The Catholic Church is making the inference that opponents of Serra’s canonization are somehow attacking and/or have racist motives toward the Spanish-speaking Native population of the Americas (Mexican/Central Americans, etc.) that most have been conditioned to think of as being Hispanic/Latino.
The terms Latin(o) and Hispanic in their true definition, refer to Latin-Roman language speaking peoples of European Iberian peninsula origin. Namely the people of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France– the people who initiated the colonization of the “Americas”. However, after hundreds of years of colonization and genocide by true Latino countries, most Mexican, Central and South American Indigenous (Brown) people now identify with the colonizer’s identity. The fact that most Brown people now have Latin surnames and speak Latin languages like Spanish, results in our Indigenous identity and existence being obscured. Not only are we oblivious or ashamed of our indigenous identity, most of the world has also been domesticated to view us as non-original peoples . The domestication is so ingrained that most of Brown people will even identify with a European person or place that also has no cultural or ethnic continuity with our Indigenous roots.
My good friend Grace Sesma expresses the situation very well..
” Latino and Hispanic are words that were concocted by the government— those words more correctly identify White European people from Italy and Spain. The invaders of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico (North, Central and South America). Those of us who are descendants of the original peoples of what is now the Americas are NOT ethnically Latino nor Hispanic. We are Indigenous peoples or as some people self-identify, Mestizo.
Latino and Hispanic are “catch-all” terms for people who speak Spanish and/or were colonized by the Spaniards, including Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Peruvians— basically everyone whose ancestral lands were invaded by the Spaniards. That is why we speak Spanish, not because it is our original language.
The Catholic church is using these words to fool people who do not know the difference into thinking that by supporting the canonization of Junipero Serra they are supporting the first “Latino” or first “Hispanic” man in California/United States to be made a saint. What is actually happening is that they are supporting one of the main people responsible for the enslavement, torture, and killing of their own ancestors as well as the main instigator of the cultural genocide of hundreds of tribes in Mexico and California.
Junipero Serra is not a saint. Not even by the church’s own standards of verifiable miracles.”
Spanish-speaking Indigenous people make up the majority demographic in the western hemisphere. We are also known for being some of the most faithful and dedicated Catholics. But in a time when Christian numbers are significantly dwindling worldwide, especially that of the Roman Catholic Church, us Spanish-speaking Natives are no doubt the prized demographic for predatory non-Indigenous religions looking to find converts in this vacuum. Brown people are also the demographic the Catholic Church is betting on to emotionally trigger into defensive action for Junipero Serra’s canonization. They are also the ones the Catholic church is trying to win back by marketing the Pope as “one of them.”
The premise for converting people to Christianity was the alleged inferiority of Indigenous people, our culture, and spirituality. The Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave European explorers and the monarchs they served, the right to claim and exploit any land not inhabited by Christians. This campaign of religious imperialism via Pope Alexander VI’s desire to “subjugate barbarous nations”, is the foundation in which Junipero Serra set out to build the California missions. By supporting the canonization of Junipero Serra, you are validating the racist colonial mindset which gave environment to the cultural genocide of California’s Indigenous peoples.
Wake up my Natives, Junipero Serra and Pope Francis are just Latin-Roman Europeans in Indigenous lands holding the same colonizing stick, book, and plan. Don’t fall for the colonizer’s tricks. This is 2015, Humanity can’t afford to have it’s values stuck in the 1700’s.
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