Latino Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 286–309 | Cite as

“First Hispanic Pope, First Hispanic Saint”: Whiteness, founding fathers and the canonization of Friar Junípero Serra

  • Baron L. PinedaEmail author
Original Article


In 2015, Roman Catholic Pope Francis canonized eighteenth-century Franciscan Friar Junípero Serra, founder of nine California missions, after a long and controversial process in which the decision was opposed on the grounds that it expressed indifference to the human suffering precipitated by Spanish colonization of California. Contrarily, supporters of the canonization argued that the move represented an important and overdue symbolic endorsement of Latinos and the Hispanic roots of California. This article examines the polemics around the canonization that occurred in the popular media and discusses the implications of this case for an understanding of racial and ethnic dynamics regarding Latinos. Using Whiteness as an interpretive lens, I contend that the Serra controversy put on display a specific moment of the de-racialization of Latinos, in which Latinos are cast as foundational people in the history of the United States in a way that is typically reserved for White Americans.


Race Ethnicity Whiteness Catholic Church Colonialism California Junípero Serra Latinos 



I would like to thank the Eric and Jane Nord Family Fund for its support of my work at Oberlin College.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oberlin CollegeOberlinUSA

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