Two public statues of Spanish conqueror Juan de Oñate in New Mexico are drawing renewed attention and criticism as memorials erected in honor of Confederate leaders and other historical figures worldwide become a focus of protests.

A petition drive with more than 1,500 signatures Friday is calling for the removal of an Oñate statue on the outskirts of Española, while activists are calling on Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller to remove another Oñate likeness from a caravan of Spanish colonists set in bronze outside a city museum.

Moises Gonzales, a professor of urban planning at the University of New Mexico, has protested the Albuquerque statue as a glorification of white supremacy since its installation in the late 1990s.

“If NASCAR can do away with Confederate flags at their events, surely our cities can do this,” Gonzales said.

Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he’s also reviled for his brutality.

To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors after his soldiers stormed Acoma Pueblo’s mesa-top “sky city.” That attack was precipitated by the killing of Onate’s nephew.

In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue of Oñate near Española.

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Tributes to the region’s early European colonists appear to be losing favor among the public and state lawmakers, who last year replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Annual costumed tributes to Spanish conquistadors, including Oñate, have been scaled back or canceled in recent years in deference to local indigenous communities and new revelations about the subjugation and enslavement of Native American servants and people of mixed ancestry.

The city of Española cut sponsorship ties two years ago with a summer community carnival that includes a costumed pageant of an armored Oñate on horseback with a coterie of soldiers, royalty, Christian friars and an Indian scout.

A nonprofit group now carries on the tradition.

An online signature petition to remove the stand-alone statue of Oñate north of Española describes the conquistador’s inhumane treatment of indigenous people and invokes solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Critics scheduled public protests at the Oñate statues for Monday.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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(51) comments

Char Wunderlich

Why not take down all the headstones in the cemeteries, since it's just a piece of stone that memorializes people of the past. Come on people , what did any of these historic people do to you personally.. THOUSANDS OF KUDOS TO YOU JOE MARTINEZ. YOU ARE SO RIGHT.

Jim Klukkert

Char Wunderlich- 'what did any of these historic people do to you personally.' Confederates fought to preserve the enslavement of people, as if treason to our Country was not enough.

Put the the statutes of slavers & traitors out for recycling, and rename our military bases NOW!

Craig Meyer

The removal of celebratory statues doesn't change history at all. What a bogus argument. All these statues do is attempt to control who's history is more important. What we should realize, of course, is that All History Matters.

Richard Reinders

Who next the Catholic Church for what they did along side the Spanish and the English for centuries, or, when does the madness stop.

Robert Bartlett

This is a "squirrel!" issue for emotional and mental midgets. New Mexico has a violent, inspirational, and consequential history including pillaging and slavery by many tribes and invaders. The only questions that matter is where we go from here and will we have the freedom to educate our children about that history without fear of leftist intimidation.

Jim Klukkert

Robert Bartlett- How will we know 'where we go from here' unless we can agree where we are now, and where we have been and how then we get here.

The sign on the state archive says those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it.

Of course your statement regarding 'fear of leftist intimidation' is pretty much the answer to your whole post, as you would exclude significant parts of the population from any discussion of where we are, where we have been, and where should we go.

The day you have matured beyond your exclusionary views and insults, you will be ready to join the discussion already in progress.

Robert Bartlett


Jim Klukkert

Robert Bartlett- No proof offered, none granted.


Kathy Fish

I'm not really surprised to see that of all 32 comments posted so far, only two seem to come from women. Of course, I'm judging based on names alone - but nevertheless, it's probably worth noting that this seems to be a really gendered conversation. The impact of colonization was very different for women than for men. That legacy persists here today in households around our state. When a culture is plundered, it's frequently at the expense, first and foremost, of women's bodies. Let's not forget the "other half" here, and the significance (psychologically, physically, and emotionally) of colonialism's impact on the female body specifically. Those clamoring to keep the statue to "preserve history" are preserving a very specific and particular perspective of what happened - one that's male-centric, Anglo-centric, and usually anti-woman and anti-Indigenous. It's the danger of a single story, so to speak. Is history really defined by a piece of sculptured stone? Do we really risk "forgetting" when we tear down a non-living relic of racism, cultural exploitation, and widespread oppression?

Carlos Vasquez

fascinating and like the dark side of the moon.. MAtriarchy is probably our only hope of salvation!

Jake Smith

Moises Gonzales is reacting from a piece of history, without embracing the full context. Was there abuses? Yes, probably. However, there were also great benefits that the Spanish brought. We should be able to appreciate both the Native American history and the Spanish history. If I wanted to bring my children or grandchildren, I want them to see and appreciate both. Is Moises willing to give up his last name? He has a Spanish name.

Comment deleted.
Jim Klukkert

Dan 3- Only someone from the Alt Right would repeatedly refer to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party. Dropping the ‘ic’ is an insult propagated by Rush & the Faux News. Calling out the Alt Right as such is a very responsible way of defending our experiment in Democracy. You folks threw civility overboard, so don’t complain now.

A Straw Man argument is ‘an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.’ A fine example comes from your previous post when you write ‘So let's take these ideas a step further and start by renaming Washington DC…’

Those of us who actually care for a truth in history, have done well in exposing FDR’s racist internment policy, and will continue to do so. Sadly, his list of crimes goes way beyond that, though certainly Internment was most cruel, comparable only to refusing Jewish refugees from Hitler’s impending Holocaust.

I am glad that you raised Woodrow Wilson’s horrific racism. I trust you will support my modest proposal that we replace statues of our 28th president with statues of African-American Postal Workers who lost their jobs due to WW’s segregationist polices. This destruction of African-American economic achievement was continued with the terrorist campaign of lynching and the massacres and leveling of the Black Wall Street neighborhood of Tulsa and of Rosewood, Florida.

As for outright fabrications, please properly discuss your allegation of the racist influence that Senator Byrd had upon Sen. Hillary Clinton. Byrd famously called his involvement with the KKK “an extraordinarily foolish mistake” Upon Byrd’s death, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, hardly a friend of the Klan, wrote “Senator Byrd reflects the transformative power of this nation… [going] from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights.”

That of course is not the vile historical distortion that Trump tweeted out. It does seem your position flows from such opportune fistic and racist Alt Right distortions, and so fully deserves my rebuke and more!

joe martinez

chuckle chuckle....I had noticed that there were no Ortiz's, Vigils, Garcia's etc commenting, but I see Mr Lucero has come on. He's right on. The issue here gives opportunity for sanctimony though, especially for the free-Tibet crowd. Mr Lucero traces his ancestry quite a way back. Mestas, name then, returned with the re-conquest around 1700 after the Indians had eliminated hundreds of immigrants and many priests during the pueblo revolt. Onate? Not even a blip in my life.

Prince Michael Jauregui

As I've taught for years: Truth, most-often is quite disturbing. First, I'll establish Truth - and work from there. I am a mixed Basque - Latino (Read: Hispano). As a young-boy, I grew-up among Mescalero Apache children. Later, while living in New Mexico, I interacted with our Dine (Navajo) and Jicarilla Apache sisters and brothers. On several occasions, I've hiked -and hitch-hiked- through the Navajo nation in -both- N.M. and

Arizona. I've lived briefly among the Sioux. In my vast experiences, I've learned two important and immutable Truths. One, I've never met a Native American who took issue with the Spanish History in America, rather, a subtle bond for our combined and grossly marginalized place in American History. Secondly, neither the misnomered "Civil Rights Movement" of the 1960's, nor Dr. Martin Luther King and the current ethnocentric, special-agenda serving #BLM "movement" have addressed, much less advanced the respective causes of Native and Latino Americans - in no way, shape, form, nor context. Yet, the radical "movement" is now trying to import (Read: Exploit)

Red and Brown Peoples for their own leverage and gain. All the while, -again- attempting to marginalize the contributions, issues and challenges of our respective cultures for their own selfish gain. So, to the #BLM organization, on behalf of all my long forgotten sisters and brothers in the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains, I deliver this message: !Viva Native Americans! !Viva Los Hispanos! - and Vaya con queso!

Jim Klukkert

Prince Michael Jauregui- ¡Go with Cheese! is the only truth in this post.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Jim Klukket - "I just turned 70, call me Mother Klukkert.." Clearly, what a drag it is getting old. Ah, dementia.

Jim Klukkert

PMJ- Respect for your elders not being a part of your culture, but I am so down with ¡Go with Cheese!

Carlos Vasquez

awesome! We (browns and reds) can surely create our own momentum (perhaps in concert w blm) to intensify the movement and resolve these issues...

Andrew Lucero

Well, like pretty much every other founding family, I have both Spanish and Native American blood… My great, great, great, great, great grandfather road with Onate and probably cut off the foot of my great, great, great, great, great grandfather on my mother’s side. And despite what all these unsufferable activist say, we are pretty much over it. We take the good with the bad and accept it as part of our shared history. Leave the statue. Removing it doesn’t change what happened. But seeing it, reminds us of what happened and just how far we’ve come.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Brother, you speak TRUTH - much respect.

Kathy Krickhahn

Bravo, Andrew.

Khal Spencer

Hear, hear.

Carlos Vasquez


Comment deleted.
Jim Klukkert

Dan 3- Heavily Partisan Rants from the Alt Right. That's a great way to start the discussion, with Insults, Invective and Exaggerated Straw Man Devices.

That's a great way, as you remind all of us who is at the core of this cultural groupthink, the ghost of the Lost Cause, where people of color are deferential, and women stay in the kitchen.

I just hit 70, call me Mother Klukkert, and I have been part of tearing down these monstrosities for over five decades. Melt down Onate's statute, except for his foot. We can use that for a door stop at the Roundhouse.

joe martinez

Hard to believe a college prof would involve himself in this phony morality, take up his lance and go tilting at a statue of Onate. Liberal arts profs do live in highly imaginary and theoretical world so I suppose it adds up.

Khal Spencer

Back when I was on the graduate faculty of the U of Hawaii (geosciences), one had to at least offer a pretext of separating activism from scholarship. Well, unless you were in some of the social sciences, esp.Hawaiian Studies. Nowadays, if one is not at the ramparts as a Social Justice Warrior, one cannot even get hired in the fuzzy studies or increasingly, in STEM. Check out the current procedures for applying for a faculty job at the U of CA.

Orwell would be amused to have predicted this so well.

Jim Klukkert

joe martinez- Did you hear about this 'phony morality' at Acoma?

Probably not, but for your ignorance and insensitivity, you get the Right Foot Award in case you ever need a spare.[cool]

joe martinez

Klukkert-did you ever hear about the 400 colonists and 21 fryers killed by the pueblo Indians in 1680? If not, likely ignorance and phony morality

Jim Klukkert

Joe Martinez- Not only heard of the Pueblo Revolt, but studied that history and more to prepare for teaching a complete retelling to grade school children in Sfe public elementary school.

Used as one of many texts one written by Colorado school children, 'Kids Explore America's Hispanic Heritage,' published by John Muir Press here in Santa Fe. One very important part of the book begins on page 2, The Meeting of Different Cultures. Part of the meeting is the question, Are the Spanish Explorers or Invaders?

Being able to keep both, or more likely, all sides of the story is key to an honest and just approach that might get close to that ever elusive goal of objectivity. As we have seen in recent decades, we also have to listen to the voices of those that have previously been silence, such as women, LGBTQ and others.

So as much as I am just a fallible two legged white male, I have strived to move from ignorance towards knowledge, and my morality is hardly phony.

And this question of Monuments to our Glorious/Inglorious Past is all about the re-telling of one perspective of history, while 'forgetting' or even repressing other perspectives. Most infamously, the Daughters of the Confederacy put up many monuments commemorating the heroes of the 'Lost Cause,' even as the propertied white class sought hegemony over all others in the South and elsewhere. Was the history of the enslaved commemorated? Not so much.

So this is not a phony issue about phony morality. Rather it is an honest accounting about our history, and an acknowledge of the history of the distribution of power and wealth amongst the various interests, groups and classes that comprise our population.

Out of many, One. Maybe at some point, but not yet.

Jim Klukkert

Joe Marrtinez- My middle name from my mother's father's lineage translates to Lance Bearer. so tilting at Oñate comes easy.

You might find interesting a viewing of "Surviving Columbus," a 1992 Peabody award winning PBS film directed by Diane Reyna of Taos Pueblo, and narrated by TV journalist Conroy Chino, Acoma native. I believe it is available for download on the Net, or as a DVD from the library or Amazon.

One of my most important lessons from viewing that film is that Native history is often passed down to the next generation through oral tradition as practiced by the elders. So a recounting of the Acoma history might be heard as "Your great grand uncle Alfonso had his right foot cut off his leg by the Spanish soldiers after our surrender."

This sort of recounting of history perhaps has a visceral impact. Perhaps the only way to ease the impact of that personal telling, would be an apology, which might include some token of reparation. No doubt a full reconciliation would require all sides to take responsibility for any roles they played.

I think those of us who have lived long enough here in New Mexico, such as myself and presumably you, know that those whose ethnic group has suffered at the hands of another ethnic group, often silently carry that grief and anger.

A great healing is needed, not further celebrations of historical suffering.


joe martinez

From my perspective, Acoma does not compare with what the pueblo Indians did in 1680. They murdered 400 colonists, including women and children, and 21 fryers. Victimhood is debilitating. Get over any pain you have over something you have no control over

Jim Klukkert

Joe martinez- The point of my comment was to see events from all perspectives. If as you write 'From my perspective, Acoma does not compare with what the pueblo Indians did in 1680,' then perhaps it is you who might choose to 'Get over any pain you have over something you have no control over.'

For the sake of historical completeness, historians put the death toll of the Battle for Acoma at 800 natives, twice the death toll of 421 Colonists you cite. That was before the taking of feet.

DeeDee Downs

It's definitely time to stop honoring sadists and racists. Put the offensive statue in a museum where it can be presented in an historical context with respect for those who were murdered and abused, while acknowledging the good cultural contributions by the Spanish. There is a way to see ourselves with courageous honesty. Let's do that, instead of erecting "heroic" size monuments to cruelty and genocide. The conversation has begun.

Khal Spencer

The one N. of Espanola is pretty far back from the road. Plant a few trees in front of it so if you don't want to see it, you don't have to. If that is the center run by Rio Arriba County, I guess if push comes to shove, a private consortium could buy it from the county.

Comment deleted.
Ramon David

It is not closed, but perhaps not focusing solely on Onate:

joe martinez

My DNA says I'm 33% Indian and 46% Iberian. I have nothing but contempt for these activists always in search of wholesomeness. I'm American and very happy about it. I'm glad Chris came over in 1492. Glad the Brits came over whenever. Glad the North won the civil war and have no bad feelings about the South. Glad the US took over the NM land I live in. I love the USA.

Khal Spencer

I suspect a lot of us are in your boat, Joe. Rather than asking us which part of ourselves we have to hate, maybe we need to realize we are all here now and have to live with each other in peace. The question is, how best to do that. I have a certain amount of loathing for the social justice warrior and virtue signaling, but sometimes even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. This ought to be a discussion, not a demand.

Carlos Vasquez


Dr. Michael Johnson

Well said, and Que Viva La Entrada!

Richard Reinders

In Germany the Germans kept Dachau open as a museum to remind us how bad it got during the war for the Jewish people of Europe, that is history. History is both good and bad it should remind us what not to do as much as what to do. The Germans owned up to the atrocities, we should be able to do the same.

Khal Spencer

The purpose of the Dachau and Auchwitz memorial centers are to remember the Holocaust, not to celebrate it. One has to ask why the Onate Center exists.

I'm neither Hispanic nor Native American, at least that I know of, so its not directly my fight. That said, I would not wear a t-shirt saying "Hi, I'm Whitey, and we slaughtered your people, took your land, and killed all your bison" and wear it around the Great Plains. Not unless I wanted to wake up from being decked and find it stuffed up my...

Richard Reinders

Khal, Onate Center exist because it was history and important to someone at the time it was created. We use to not be afraid of our history and I am not saying celebrate I am saying lets not forget, here is a quote

"A nation that forgets its past has no future"

Khal Spencer

Agree. I'm not a fan of having the SJW army going around erasing or revising history every time we get a new movement, bowel or otherwise.

But is the monument a testimony to conquest and subjugation, or of the history of the region? As I said, I really don't have a lot invested in this discussion except to say I think its useful discussion as long as it has resolution rather than ending up with another round of winners and losers.

Speaking of monuments vs. the evolution of what they mean, consider the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews in Prague, aka the Pink Tank. Rather than elaborate, here is the link. Anyone for adding the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate to Juan de Onate?

Michael Grimler

Exactly correct.

History erasure is the stuff of dictatorships.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Indeed, Orwell said it best....“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

Khal Spencer

Funny thing is, Michael, I was just re-reading 1984 the other day, since it seems to be living itself out on the front pages of the newspapers. The NY Times being the latest sorry example of cowardice in the face of WokeGen.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Good observation Khal, I have had the same thoughts watching and reading the news the last few weeks. And with what is going on in Seattle, you are reminded of what Frederick Engels once foretold as the goal: “The state is not 'abolished', it withers away.”

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