Cinco de Mayo Event for Inner City Children Celebrates Francis of Assisi’s New World Legacy On May 5th—”Cinco de Mayo” in Spanish—nearly 1,000 children from Bay Area inner-city neighborhoods were treated to a day unlike any they had experienced before. They were bussed to St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco where they were treated to an original musical drama about Junípero Serra, the 18th century Franciscan who founded many early California missions. The play, Always Forward, featured costumed actors, live choruses, and dancers. The children were surprised and excited to see eight-foot puppets representing Spanish soldiers enter down the aisles. A LESSON ON SERRA AND NATIVE PEOPLES Research into Serra’s personal writings shows that he loved the native peoples. He wrote, “They have stolen my heart away. They are like members of my family.” BAR BARA COHEN When Serra became aware of the abusive way the Spanish soldiers treated the natives, he grew increasingly dismayed. The play dramatized how, in 1773, at the age of 60, Serra set out from Carmel for Mexico City—a journey of 2,000 miles—to protest this treatment. Once there, he presented demands to the Spanish viceroy on the natives’ behalf. The viceroy agreed to almost all of Serra’s proposals, thus creating the first significant body of laws governing early California. It has been referred to as Serra’s “bill of rights” for native Americans. It came 15 years before the Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution. After the play, the children were given a bountiful “fiesta” featuring lunch, serenades by troubadours, dancing, crafts, games, talks with the play’s characters, face painting, and fresh flowers to arrange and take home.
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