SANTA BARBARA (AP) — Vandals caused as much as $30,000 in damage to Old Mission Santa Barbara, spraying the stone facade of the centuries-old building with red paint and scrawling “rape” and other words, including a misspelling of genocide, across its walls.
The damage was discovered early Wednesday by a passer-by who called police.
No one has been arrested. Police say they hope surveillance video and other evidence might lead to suspects.
“It’s not the happiest way to start the day,” Monica Orozco, the mission’s executive director, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s disappointing and upsetting.”
The words “never forget the lives + land stolen” were also written in red paint on a side building where as many as 30 Franciscan friars sleep.
“My first thought is always for the friars who live here because it’s their home,” Orozco said. “Imagine having your home vandalized. It’s a real invasion of your life and can make you feel unsafe.”
Authorities told the Times they believe the vandalism may have been a protest of Spanish treatment of Native Americans during the years Spain controlled California.
The mission, founded in 1786, is a popular tourist attraction as well as an active parish serving hundreds of families.
It was the 10th of California’s 21 missions founded by Spanish Franciscan priests and one of the most beautiful with its towering spires, classic Spanish California architecture and lush gardens.
Orozco said mission officials hope to have the damage repaired in time for a wedding scheduled Saturday.
The mission was vandalized last year when someone poured paint on a statue of St. Junipero Serra and cut off its head. Serra founded many of California’s missions.
No one was arrested.