When I was in fourth grade, I was so proud of the Mission I had constructed with popsicle sticks and glue! Now, however, many years later, I’ve been made aware of how the missions in California were used to exploit and subjugate indigenous peoples.
Roadside “El Camino Real” bell markers were invented in the early 1900s as a nostalgic symbol to boost automobile tourism and visitation of the missions and to celebrate a white-washed, romanticized and distorted history that has long been promoted in the state. The ringing of the bell regimented every aspect of daily life within the missions. Across the state, indigenous people and others have been speaking out about the harmful impacts of these mission bell markers, and have been working for years to bring about their removal.
UC Santa Cruz removed its El Camino Real bell marker in 2019 and in 2020, the City of Santa Cruz Arts Commission and City Council unanimously voted to remove all of the bell markers on city property.
The issue of the recent Gilroy time capsule art is an example of how we all need to be made more aware of the complete history of our city, honoring all those who lived on this land before us. We all need to move forward into the 21st century as we become aware of painful symbols of our past.
I ask the Gilroy City Council to revisit the issue of installing a new El Camino Real bell on city property!