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Statue of Father Junipero Serra at the Mission Santa Ines.

A petition calling for the removal of Solvang's Friar Junipero Serra statue located at the entrance of Mission Santa Inés is gaining traction in the community. As of Monday evening, 480 signatures had been gathered.

The circulating petition launched by Maurissa Vigil, 26, of Lompoc via Change.org five days ago joins both a regional and global trend to dismantle statues and monuments that have long honored historically racist figures. 

Mission Santa Inés represents one of nine Spanish missions in California founded by Junipero Serra, there are 21 total, to serve as religious and military outposts to Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1823. 

Vigil, who says she was initially contacted by a Santa Barbara County resident about the Solvang-based statue, found in her historical research a story of a man who spent the majority of his life kidnapping, enslaving and stripping away the culture of indigenous people. 

"Many are not aware of the realities of Mission life for natives," Vigil said of the decades-old statue. "Many native peoples were killed at missions and others were forced into hard labor or raped under Serra's guidance. Depictions of him as a saint confuses the actual history, and removal of it would mean showing solidarity with indigenous and Latinx people, especially those in our community."

Once the initial goal of 500 signatures is reached, Vigil said the petition will likely be submitted to Solvang's mayor for a response.

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local for Santa Ynez Valley News.