Reckoning of My Mission Bell
“Missions were sites of conflict, conquest, and forced labor.”
California History Social Science Framework, 2016.
How much I adored her
cast iron campana, erect in morning light,
astride a rural bridge, entrance to our home,
13 plus feet tall, shepherd’s crook holding
a California El Camino Real bell,
its green patina wizened to dark brown.
I imagined it to say, This hacienda welcomes you!
I’m not sure we can keep her. My husband
winces, flashes his Are You Kidding Me look.
Annoyed, he listens.
40 years ago I taught 4th graders
state history, indigenous peoples’ cultures…
No model missions in my unit
rather, Spanish settlement & land use.
a mention of manifest destiny
(Somehow I failed to teach how landscape
holds history, genocide of California’s Natives.)
El Camino Real Bell, my husband gifted me
celebrating our dream-home, terra-cotta
saltillo tiles & bells grace our property.
We even replaced it after theft.
… A journey of new learning shatters
my understanding. My bell, a symbol
of cultural erasure, brutal truths. Crap!
Friday night ladies, chardonnays in hand, talk politics:
Liberals removing historical statues!
They just want to erase history!
How my conscience writhes, my beloved bell
weighs like lead in my gut. I learn
some people have taken down their
El Camino Real bells. Does removal shape change?
I dream of people journeying to foothill baths
through lands our orchards now occupy. I feel
their spirits, hear their weeping.
Time to create a new symbol, new narrative
my own space to acknowledge violence,
California’s colonialism in this shepherd’s crook,
a curve of dominance, not protection.
I place a fountain encircled with bougainvillea
below, honoring Yokut peoples here before me
whose teardrops fall beneath my mission bell.
June 26, 2021