People have asked what should replace it? Photo by Bernie Goldstein
by Richard Senate
Many see Fr. Serra as a controversial lightning rod figure who is blamed for all of the outrages of the Spanish Mission system. They ignore the good and focus on those things that are negative in our Spanish Past and wish to tear down the stature or “move it” to a less prominent place.
We in Ventura have traveled down this road before. What was once Main Street was once called “El Camino Real” but to the new Yankee settlers that was too Spanish sounding. We had fought a grim war with Mexico to secure the southwest and the Yankees didn’t want to be reminded of anything Spanish. So they changed the name of Spanish streets to more Yankee sounding named like “Oak Street” and “Palm.”
The pulled down historic adobes and replaced them with wood and brick building that reminded them of New England. Much of our history was lost. The removal of Fr. Serra’s statue is fully in keeping with this tradition. There is no room at the museum for the thing, the church doesn’t want it. Heck, it doesn’t even resemble Junipero Serra.
People have asked what should replace it? I have a dozen names of people who should occupy the pedestal before City Hall. Here are but a few: 1) Candalaria Valenzula the Chumash elder comes to mind. She is buried here and gave much data on her people. 2) Dr. Ceaphas L. Bard, the most beloved man in the county could grace the community he loved in life. 3) Theodosia Burr Sheppard an early business woman and horticulturalist who put Ventura on the map. She was a suffragette before it was popular and would show the progressive side of Ventura. 4) Angel Escandone, the man who set up and incorporated the city of San Buenaventura. He served in the State Assembly. He helped to set up the County as well. He was our true founder. But, he was a Spanish person and might not be popular today–besides that–he was a Republican. 5) Raymundo Olivas, landowner and rich rancher helped Ventura Grow. 6) What about Maggie Sullivan a well-known hooker who was very popular in the cow town days of early Ventura.
How about a generic Chumash Cowboy who made Ventura prosper in Gold Rush times or maybe an Oil worker who made the town rich with black gold–well, that’s not popular now. Lots of people deserve a statue in Ventura–including my favorite, mystery writer and crusading lawyer Erle Stanley Gardner, who created Perry Mason in Ventura. They will stand until the next wave of passion comes and topples them into the trash heap of history.