A statue of Diego de Vargas has been removed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, following decades of complaints about his role in the colonization of Native peoples. Photo: Deb Nystrom

Native Sun News Today: New Mexico declares state of emergency

Effort to remove statues of Spanish conquistadors is priority

SANTA FE, New Mexico – Alan Webber, the mayor of Santa Fe, has declared a state of emergency in the city to allow him to remove a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego De Vargas and begin the legal process to remove two other monuments.

De Vargas is revered by some as a leader among the Spanish settlers in New Mexico but reviled by Native Americans who accuse him of brutal treatment after he led a re-conquest of Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

The emergency proclamation, which Mayor Webber signed on June 18, allows him to legally prohibit or require certain actions “to protect life and property and preserve public peace and safety” according to the document.

Recently, a demonstration in Albuquerque at the site of a statue of conquistador Juan de Onate ended in the shooting of a protestor and the removal of the statue ordered to a safe location by the mayor of Albuquerque.

Today was healing, today was medicine, today was herstory, we just getting started ✊🏽❤️ edit: reminder that the obelisk...

Posted by Three Sisters Collective on Thursday, June 18, 2020

“Recent events in Albuquerque and in other cities around the country have demonstrated how protests aimed at statues, monuments and other historical figures can escalate into violence and cause serious harm to people and property,” Webber says in the declaration of emergency. The declaration was signed as demonstrations were planned at the statue and monuments around Santa Fe.

“There is currently civil unrest across the country and in the City of Santa Fe due to historic trauma and institutional racism,” the mayor continues in the declaration. “Santa Fe has a long and complex history that includes trauma, tragedy and sorrow” which was recognized by the City, and organizations including the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Certain monuments displayed in Santa Fe “depict historic figures and events that involve or depict events causing historic trauma and have led to present day civil unrest,” he says.

These include the statue of De Vargas in Cathedral Park in the center of Santa Fe, an obelisk dedicated to Kit Carson in front of the US Courthouse and the Soldiers Monument obelisk in the Santa Fe Plaza.

The Soldiers Monument obelisk also called the American Indian War Memorial has been vandalized in the past and was vandalized again recently. Photos show the words “racist” and “Tewa Land” spray painted on the obelisk and there is a hole hammered into the base. The obelisk is said to be dedicated “to Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War Battles in New Mexico.” On one side was originally inscribed “to the heroes who have fallen in various battles with savage Indians in the Territory of New Mexico.”

The word savage was chiseled off in 1974.

Mayor Webber orders the statue of de Vargas removed and placed in a safe location and he asks the city manager and city attorney to begin the legal process to remove the two obelisks.

Posted by Mayor Alan Webber on Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Mayor Alan Webber: June 17,2020

The mayor also calls for the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission made up of community members from Santa Fe and northern New Mexico to make recommendations to the city regarding the future of the city’s historic statues and monuments. He asks for nominations of community members for the commission.

Finally, he calls on members of the community in Santa Fe “to maintain peace in our city, reject expressions of anger that involve violence or hatred and use this moment to engage in respectful dialog about our past and prayerful reflection on our city’s future.”


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Contact Kate Saltzstein can be reached at salty223@aol.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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