The decapitated head of a statue of 18th century Roman Catholic missionary St. Junipero Serra, which went missing this past October, was discovered by a young girl during low tide Saturday afternoon, just off the coast of Monterey.
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) April 3, 2016
— SFGate (@SFGate) April 3, 2016
According to local KSBW Action News 8, police said Serra’s head was found covered in algae, which means it could have been in the water for a while.
The beheading of Serra’s statue followed Pope Francis’s canonization of the Roman Catholic missionary on September 23 in Washington, D.C. The Pope’s decision was seen as controversial due to Serra’s alleged treatment of Native Americans during his time overseeing the missions for which he was responsible. This was the Pope’s first canonization to take place on U.S. soil.
KSBW notes that police in Carmel thought the beheading was related to two other cases of vandalism of Junipero Serra landmarks that took place earlier.
The first incident took place in late September when a Junipero Serra statue was vandalized at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission. In November, another Serra statue was vandalized. Police noted that red paint was also splattered on the wooden doors of the Santa Cruz Mission including the message “Serra St. of Genocide,” according to KRON 4 News.
The statue involved in the most recent incident is reportedly located at the place where Gaspar de Portola and Junipero Serra first came together to found Monterey.
Several weeks ago, students at Stanford University, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, began a crusade of their own in an attempt to scrub names and symbols that honor people who are historically connected to slavery and colonialism from the college campus. The move echoes a series of colleges across the nation whose students have attempted to do the same.
The latest target in this battle is again St. Junipero Serra, whose name appears on two dorms, an academic building, a street, and the mall that is the school’s official address.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.