City leaders are backing an effort to provide better context for the historical Santa Cruz Mission and will weigh potential removal of all the city’s mission bells.
The move came Tuesday, more than a year after representatives of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band worked with the UC Santa Cruz administration to ceremonially remove the campus’ mission bell. The bell markers originated in the early 20th century as a tourist attraction celebrating the state’s Spanish colonial past through its Catholic missions. Tribal Band Chairman Valentin Lopez cited concerns, however, that the bells serve as an ongoing racist symbol that glorifies the killing, dehumanization, forced labor and imprisonment of their ancestors, according to a council staff report.
In June, the state-run Santa Cruz Mission was vandalized with red spraypaint by protesters and the mission’s bell, donated in 1998 by the Santa Cruz Woman’s Club from the California State Automobile Association, removed.
“It was kind of a catalyst for a community conversation,” city Parks and Recreation Director Tony Elliot, speaking to the council, said of the vandalism.
Elliot said that, following in the footsteps of past similar efforts, the city gathered a sizeable group with representatives from Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, the nearby Holy Cross Catholic Church of Santa Cruz, State Parks, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History and other stakeholders to come up with a way to include a more accurate depiction of the area’s history. The point, he said, was not to remove one aspect of history and replace it with another, but to include multiple points of view.
“The goal of the group was how to start to convey a more complete and accurate history of the Mission Plaza Park area in particular and specifically by including the indigenous voice and experience,” Elliot said.
The council’s vote sets up the city Historic Preservation Commission to consider a proposal for removal of two remaining mission bells from city streets, including markers at the Mission Plaza site and another at Soquel and Dakota streets, installed in 2006. The commission’s recommendation will come back to the council for final approval. According to a city report, the process for installing the city’s mission bell markers was initiated through the Historic Preservation Committee in 2005/2006, through the acceptance of a grant from the Questors Group.
The above comes from an Oct. 13 story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.