“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

"El Camino Real"

Mission Bell Removed

"El Camino Real" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joseph Alvarado, July 29, 2022
1. "El Camino Real" Marker
Inscription.  At this location, an “El Camino Real” mission bell marker previously stood. Its removal was requested by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, descendants of the indigenous peoples taken to the Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista missions.

In November of 2020, the Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously to remove all mission bell markers from public property, with widespread community support. However, earlier in 2020 while the city was considering the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s request for the removal of the bell markers, this particular bell on Mission Street was torn down during a march inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

At that time, many statues of Confederate generals and early colonizers such as California Mission founder Junípero Serra were being toppled in a similar unsanctioned manner by large crowds. After a process of discussion and receiving community input, the city chose not to replace the mission bell marker, but to instead work with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to create an alternative marker or plaque.

These bell markers were erected in Santa Cruz starting in 1910 when the first one was placed
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on Soquel Avenue by the Saturday Afternoon Club. The newly manufactured bells were intended to promote automobile tourism and visitation of the missions, and to glorify and celebrate the legacy of the mission system in California.

The true history of the California mission system has long been obscured by this glorification of a mythical romantic Spanish past. In reality, the California missions were places of devastating loss, mortality, abuse and suffering for the Indigenous people who were forced to remain at them and to labor without pay.

The clanging of the mission bells regimented day to day life, ringing when work was to begin. Indigenous people were subject to cruel and severe punishments for disobedience. Sexual abuse of women and children by priests and soldiers was widespread. Native peoples in the missions were forced to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions and diseases would spread quickly. 75% of the children born at Mission Santa Cruz did not survive to age five.

Many tribes in California, including the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, are today confronting the false, white-washed history symbolized by the El Camino Real bell markers. These tribes are demanding that the true histories of their communities and the attempted genocide suffered by their ancestors during the Spanish, Mexican and American periods be openly and truthfully told.

"El Camino Real" Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joseph Alvarado, July 30, 2022
2. "El Camino Real" Marker
destructive impacts of colonization continue to be felt by California’s Indigenous communities today in the form of intergenerational trauma, dispossession from ancestral lands and widespread poverty. As the true history of California is brought forward, so are important conversations about what it can look like to move towards repair and healing in the 21st century.

This is a temporary sign. A permanent plaque to honor the Awaswas-speaking Uypi people on whose ancestral lands the City of Santa Cruz is built is currently being designed in collaboration with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.

To learn more and join the conversation, see the CA State Parks virtual exhibit that discusses the history and removal of the El Camino Real bells.

Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Churches & ReligionNative Americans. In addition, it is included in the El Camino Real, “The King's Highway” (California), and the Historic Bells series lists.
Location. 36° 58.649′ N, 122° 1.806′ W. Marker is in Santa Cruz, California, in Santa Cruz County. Marker is at the intersection of Mission Street and Sylvar Street, on the right when traveling west on Mission Street. The marker is mounted to a broken metal pole on the
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sidewalk at Mission Plaza. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Santa Cruz CA 95060, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Willey House (within shouting distance of this marker); Francisco Alzina House (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of Santa Cruz Mission (within shouting distance of this marker); Davis House (within shouting distance of this marker); The First Methodist (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Mission Santa Cruz (about 400 feet away); Louden Nelson (about 400 feet away); Site of the Original Native American Cemetery Wall (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Santa Cruz.
Also see . . .
1. El Camino Real-Misionero. "On April 27, 1996 the Department of Parks and Recreation of the State of California signed an "Agreement to Collaborate" with the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) of the government of the United States of Mexico to establish a binational Heritage Corridor called El Camino Real-Misionero."
"What are the benefits
We believe that a project of this nature underlines the urgent need of preserving the outstanding patrimony of our region. Because of this we emphasize the following concrete benefits:
1. To preserve the cultural patrimony of the corridor.
2. To encourage the study of the mission period, as well as to document its effect on the natural resources and culture of the era, and to promote the preservation of the natural and historical resources that survive.
3.To seek a better comprehension on the aboriginal societies that inhabited the Californias, that suffered the changes from euromexican culture, as well as the surviving communities, seeking also to stimulate the work and the welfare of the present indigenous societies in the Californias of the present time.
4. To promote the economic growth at the local level, as well as to stimulate the community development, and at the same time to promote national and international cultural tourism that is sensitive to conservation.
5. To initiate an investment program in the historic corridor.
6. To encourage and to strengthen the formal ties with California concerning the preservation of cultural resources and the natural setting."
(Submitted on August 7, 2022, by Joseph Alvarado of Livermore, California.) 

2. Virtual Bell Exhibit.
Welcome to For Whom the Bell Tolls: Changing Symbolism of California Mission Bells, 1769 to today. Through this virtual exhibit, visitors have the opportunity to:

• Investigate the history of the bells in the California Missions, and the bell markers along the El Camino Real.

• Hear from a variety of perspectives throughout time from the 18th century to the present.

• Think about the bells as symbols holding different meanings for different communities over time.
(Submitted on August 7, 2022, by Joseph Alvarado of Livermore, California.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 10, 2022. It was originally submitted on August 4, 2022, by Joseph Alvarado of Livermore, California. This page has been viewed 123 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 7, 2022, by Joseph Alvarado of Livermore, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 18, 2024