The Chapel of the Holy Cross Church remained closed Sunday morning while church officials begin to pick up the pieces of a priceless statue destroyed.The first mission in Santa Cruz was built in 1791. Two years later, indigenous people from the Ano Nuevo area burned it down, presumably motivated by the kidnappings and forced relocations. Resistance to colonialism in Santa Cruz goes back to the very beginning.
"It's a priceless piece of artwork that came to us from the mission that was destroyed in the 1857 earthquake," said Betty Pedrazzi, Curator of the Mission Gift Shop and Museum. "So it's part of our collection that we can't replace."
The Statue of Saint Joseph is now in several pieces on the chapel floor. It was made around 1791 and normally sits in an archway, several feet off the ground. Santa Cruz Police said Lee Wilson, 54, climbed on top of the altar, knocked it down and stole a piece of it. He was later caught by police near Pacific Avenue and Cooper Street.
"I think it's like a stab in the heart because it's a holy object," said Pedrazzi. "People really have a lot of reverence and respect for it."
So much, in fact, people travel from around the world to see it. The Colbert family drove all the way from San Diego to visit the mission. "Tragic for that to happen to a place of worship," said Amy Colbert. "Any kind of worship. Terrible. It's really sad."
Parishioners told Central Coast News they're stunned Saint Joseph was vandalized but said they're not angry with Lee Wilson, instead, they're praying for him.
"I don't think it was a hostile thing to the church or to the community," said Francis Krebs, Parishioner. "It was an issue of his mental illness and I don't think he was probably very well in control of what he was doing."
Santa Cruz Police said Wilson admitted to trying to steal the statue. He's been charged with felony vandalism, grand theft and a probation violation and remains in the Santa Cruz County Jail.
Church officials said they're trying to fix the statue and expect it to cost thousands of dollars. They said beefing up security at the chapel is under consideration. They expect to re-open the chapel soon.
19 years later, in 1812, Father Andrés Quintana was beaten to death and his body disfigured by natives angry over his use of a metal-tipped whip in the punishment of mission laborers. The book A Gathering of Voices contains the purported dialogue between Quintana and his assassins.
The padres were also concerned about the continuing catastrophic decline in the number of babies born to their neophyte charges. Often, the Ohlone (and other subjugated peoples) would refuse to procreate, knowing that their children would be born into near-slavery. When a padre at Mission Santa Cruz named Ramon Olbés came to the conclusion that one particular married couple was behaving with excessive sexual inhibition, thereby depriving him of another child to enslave and another soul to offer up to Christ:
These anecdotes of genocide, torture, and resistance are only broad strokes on a large canvas. Santa Cruz is a town established by way of genocide and the mission is a living testament to that. The Catholic church has offered nothing in the way of apologies for this (which makes sense, they didn't forgive Galileo until 2008). Even if they did, our hearts would still be with the vandal. As has been said: “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”At this point the woman resisted the padre's attempted forced inspection; for that impertinence she received fifty lashes, was "shackled, and locked in the nunnery." He then gave her a wooden doll and ordered her to carry it with her, "like a recently born child," wherever she went.