​​California's Saint, and a Church's Sin

By Lawrence Downes

New York Times,  Aug. 18, 2015

In that spirit, it is helpful to read a book like “A Cross of Thorns,” by Elias Castillo, a California journalist who does not hide his disdain for the little priest from Mallorca. His prosecution brief includes testimony taken in 1797 by a Spaniard, Lt. José Argüello, from Indians who had fled the missions and were recaptured.

The Emerging Truth about Junipero Serra and the California Missions

By Rev. Dr. Mattew Fox,

Tikkun Daily, July 2015

In this book Father Junipero Sera, called by some the “Father of California,” is tarred and feathered for all eternity as the father of a system, the mission system, that systematically destroyed the culture of the indigenous peoples of California that had lived at peace with the earth and more or less at peace with themselves over millennia until the Spanish arrived.  

"All we have done to the Indians is consecrate them, baptize them, and bury them"

Father Mariano Payeras, the last Spanish Padre Presidente of the missions, 

in an 1820 letter to his superior, expressing concern that outsiders 

eventually would ask where all the California coastal Indians had gone.

 Debate Swirls About

Sainthood for Junipero Serra

What commentators are saying​

Listen to What
Elias Castillo is Saying

Some recent audio and video links

Elias Castillo

Deport Millions of Mexicans?:

Done That

Under a policy begun by President Herbert Hoover in 1928, two million Mexican residents of the U.S. - more than half of them either U.S. citizens or in the country legally - were "repatriated" to Mexico to allow their jobs to be filled by "real Americans." Read Castillo's essay in the San Jose Mercury News. 

California's Indians Want More Than an Apology

California's missions were death camps for the thousands of native peoples who faced slavery and genocide within their walls. Today Castillo joins descendants of those Indians fighting for recognition of this terrible history and the price it exacts even today.  

Listen to a discussion including Castillo and Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band held Oct. 5, 2016 in San Francisco

The Book and its Author

Spark Discussions in The Media

Busting the Myths of California's Missions Mission Local, San Francisco, Oct. 7, 2016 

Who was Junipero Serra and why is Pope Francis Canonizing Him in Washington DC?  From The Guardian UK, Sept. 22, 2015

The Pope Should Not Grant Sainthood To a Brutal Missionary by Rose Aguilar, The Guardian, Sept. 22, 2015

How Tarnished is Serra's Halo?​ by Vinnie Rotondaro, National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 15, 2015

AUDIO Your Call: The Dark History of California's Missions Public Radio Station KALW San Francisco

The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Sanish Missions  By Edd Doerr, Americans for Religious Liberty Journal, Sept. 7, 2015

Is America's New Saint More of a Sinner? Monica Campbell, PRI's The World, Sept. 8, 2015

AUDIO Resultados de la Busqueda: Serra: un Santo? in Spanish onRadio Bilingue, Sept. 2, 2015 

California's Saint, and a Church's Sins By Lawrence Downes, New York Times, Aug. 18, 2015

AUDIO KPFA broadcast, Visionary Activist Show July 23, 2014  

The Emerging Truth about Junipero Serra and the California Missions By Rev. Dr. Mattew Fox, Tikkun Daily, July 2015

"Cross of Thorns" details brutality of California's missions San Francisco Examiner, May 18, 2015

The Vatican’s Rhetorical Strategy: Serra Was a Man of His Time Indian Country Today, April 28, 2015

Elias Castillo's "Cross of Thorns" presents a bleak picture of California history Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 16, 2015

Is going gangsta on natives any way to make a saint? If Pope Francis has his way, maybe. MetroAction, San Jose, CA., Feb. 11, 2015

Amah Mutsun Letter to Pope Francis Regarding the Canonization of Junipero Serra  

Letter from Tribal Chairman Valentine Lopez opposing canonization of Serra, sent February, 2015 to the Vatican. 

Sainthood for California Missionary Angers Native Americans,London Daily Mail, Feb. 19, 2015  (Agence France Presse story)

A New Book, A Cross of Thorns, Says Junipero Serra was No Saint  MetroActive, San Jose, CA., Feb. 11, 2015

Elias Castillo: ​Junipero Serra Sainthood Belies Cruel History San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 23, 2015

Serra Was No Saint Linking and Thinking on Education by Joanne Jacobs, Jan. 17, 2015

Pope Francis announces sainthood for California Mission founder  San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 16, 2015

Junipero Serra: Debunking the Mission Myth  Washington Square, Alumni Magazine of San Jose State University, December, 2014

Misery at the Missions  by Barney Brantingham Santa Barbara Independent, Nov. 27, 2014  

Chicano Journalist’s new book will shatter California’s missions image​   LaPrensa, SanDiego, CA., Oct. 10, 2014

New book attacks historical image of California's missions,San Jose Mercury News/Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 12, 2014

History Lesson Not Very Accurate,The Acorn, Jan. 30, 2014

Congressional Record, November, 2004 

 The Dark, Terrible Secret of California's Missions, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 8, 2004



Speaking Events


  • March 7/ 2017 Speak at Oklahoma State
  • Feb. 23, 2017 Speak at San Jose State University
  • Feb. 21, 2017  speak at UC Berkeley to class taught by Prof. Kent Lightfoot 
  • Oct. 5. 2016  19th Century California Indian Slavery and Genocide (at FoundSF.org) 
  • Jan 28, 2016, Green Arcade Books, San Francisco
  • Sept. 28, 2015 Sonoma State University (view on YouTube) 
  • Sept. 22, 2015  Revolution Books, Berkeley  (view on YouTube) 
  • Sept. 16 Sierra College
  • Sept. 14, 2015  KALW Radio  (Listen to Audio) 
  • Sept. 2, 2015 Radio Bilingue, 
  • July 23, 2015  KPFA Radio, Visionary Activist Program (Listen to Audio) 
  • July 13, 2015 Mountain View, CA., library
  • July 11, 2015  San Juan Bautista Indian conference
  • June 7, 2015  Berkeley Book Fair
  • May 30, 2015  Santa Barbara, Ca., California Indian Conference  (view on YouTube) 
  • March 19, 2015 Revolution Books, Berkeley
  • March 12, 2015 Saratoga (Ca) Historical Foundation
  • Feb. 28, 2015 Book launch,  California Indian Museum, Sacramento
  • Feb.  9, 2015  San Francisco Commonwealth Club  (Listen to Audio)  
  • Oct. 2, 2014 - Evergreen Valley Commuinity College
  • Oct. 4, 2014 - California State Museum of Indian History, Part of a program "Rethinking California Missions: A Native Perspective"  
  • Oct 30, 2014 - Chabot College

News Releases

“California’s Spanish missions were death camps for Indians,” charges author scheduled to speak at California State Indian Museum in Sacramento Oct. 4

Bureau of Indian Affairs Censors Author at Federal Meeting: California Indians Decry Bureau. "They Need to Know the Truth."

Testimony before a session of the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, July 22, 2014

​Journalist and Author Elias Castillo to Speak May 10, 2014 at UC Santa Cruz