Junípero Serra Statue – Hillsborough, California - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Hillsborough, California

Junípero Serra Statue

This controversial depiction of the "Founder of California" looks as though it was sculpted from mashed potatoes. 

Devotional statues come in all shapes and sizes, but the particular shape of Hillsborough, California’s Junípero Serra seems to be just awkward enough to inspire ridicule from most observers.

Located near a roadside rest stop, the tall statue depicts Franciscan friar Junípero Serra, who is seen as one of the major figures in bringing Catholicism to modern California and is sometimes referred to as the “Founder of California.” Many people see him as an imperialist force, foisting his religion upon the native peoples, while others see him as a bold missionary who spread the good word and helped establish the state of California. In the Hillsborough statue, most people simply see him as a bit lumpy.

The figure was erected in 1976 along a stretch of Interstate 280 (also known as the Junípero Serra Freeway) with the help of the Department of Transportation. It stands on a base that is carved with the names of a number of the missions that Serra helped found. For some reason, the design of the piece turned out to be rather cartoony and the sculpt itself relatively lumpy and ill-defined. He points out toward the Pacific Ocean, although neither the locals or visitors seem to understand why. His stucco finish also gives the figure a rough appearance.

All things considered, the Junípero Serra statue is seen as an embarrassment by most, yet he still stands proud no matter what people say.