Junipero Serra's Canonization and its Human Rights Implications

Grzegorz Welizarowicz


In the article I attempt to problematize the recent canonization of Junípero Serra, a Franciscan missionary and founder of the California missions. Proposing that Serra’s legend should be seen as part of California’s “fantasy heritage” the article contrasts the rhetoric of the Church with the historical studies, which reveal a radically different image of Serra, than the one, as the Church held it, of a humanitarian defender of the Indians. Citing the arguments of the opponents to this canonization the article reassesses the question of Serra’s responsibility for the genocide of the California Indians, and drawing from Giorgio Agamben, proposes that it was precisely the missionary padre who is responsible for the dramatic Indigenous population drop in the state. It is in this context that the Human Rights implications of this canonization are assessed. Serra’s sainthood is revealed as the breach of UN norms and treaties and a rejection of the injunction to pursue interepistemic parity between cultures.

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