Vandal Tags Statue with Cultural Message


Two employees from the group San Francisco Art Conservation attempt to lift graffiti off the statue of Juan Bautista de Anza near Lake Merced, April 9. Photo by Alec Fernandes

On this clear Thursday morning, joggers and cyclists trekking along the shore of Lake Merced encountered a glaring message scrawled in red paint: “UR ON STOLEN LANDD.”

The vandal’s canvas was the base of a prominent statue of Juan Bautista de Anza, a European explorer whose 18th-century expedition to the Bay Area strengthened Spain’s hold on the region. Mexico gave the 11-foot-tall bronze statue to San Francisco in 1967 as a symbol of goodwill, yet the graffiti implies that some view the sculpture as representing the dark side of imperial conquest.

Photo by Alec Fernandes

The sanguine script was accompanied by images of red hands flashing the peace sign on the north and east sides of the statue. The organization San Francisco Art Conservation sent two employees to remove the graffiti around 11 a.m.

Applying careful strokes of paint thinner to the base’s bronze plaque and concrete, the workers said they did not know who reported the crime and knew even less about who committed it.

This is not the first local act of culturally fueled vandalism to occur in recent history. In 2007, the plaque at the base of the Mount Davidson Cross was stolen. An Armenian-American group had purchased the cross in the late 90’s and dedicated it to the victims of the Armenian genocide. The crime’s occurrence on Armenian Independence Day suggested that it was racially motivated.

Two other incidences occurred in August of last year when trees within the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park were repeatedly hacked and marred. It is unclear, however, whether these acts were purposefully directed at any specific group of individuals.

Photo by Alec Fernandes