The Don Diego de Vargas statue’s location is a mystery to everyone but city of Santa Fe officials.

Removed last year from its nearly decadelong home at Cathedral Park next to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the bronze statue of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas was supposed to be housed in a safe location, but it was later found in the backyard of the contractor who removed it, with the crane straps still hanging over its base.

The revelation spurred loud requests from the group that donated the statue, Caballeros de Vargas, to have it reinstalled at Cathedral Park or returned to the organization.

The issue has caused a rift among the Caballeros, leading to multiple board resignations, including the group’s former president, previous mayoral candidate and former City Councilor Ron Trujillo.

“There was some members of the Caballeros that are fine with what is happening,” Trujillo said. “They support what the mayor is doing. And there is another group that don’t. I decided I can’t do this anymore. I tried every avenue.”

Trujillo and others had attempted to write a letter to the city requesting the statue’s return in July, but Trujillo said it was nixed after the group shot down the verbiage.

“What the letter was going to say is, ‘Put it back into Cathedral Park; if not, give it back to the Caballeros,’ ” he said.

According to a Facebook post from Trujillo, he and two other board members resigned after what Trujillo said was a threat by the Catholic Church to take La Conquistadora — the statue of the Virgin Mary that de Vargas brought back to Santa Fe during the 1692 reconquest — from the organization for wading into what it believed was city politics in an election season. Gilbert Romero, president of the Caballeros when the statue was installed, was one of the others who resigned.

“If the Caballeros want to go in a different direction, they have to find someone who thinks like they do,” Trujillo said.

Gerald Pacheco, who was named president of the Caballeros de Vargas in September, said in an email that the group has kept an open line of communication with the city regarding the statue’s fate.

Pacheco did not respond to a request for additional comment about the resignations.

Webber on Thursday said language like “return the statue” or “give back the statue” doesn’t accurately depict the situation because the city owns the piece. He also reiterated Pacheco’s stance that both parties have been communicating about the statue.

“The relations with the leadership of the Caballeros and the Fiesta Council is very constructive and has been since last summer,” Webber said.

“What I would like to deconstruct is that there is this deeply adversarial relationships that are entrenched in this city,” he added. “We are all friends; we know each other; we talk to each other; we socialize with each other and have respect for the traditions, the monuments and the practices.”

While the city owns the statue, the group commissioned artist Donna Quasthoff in 2007 to create the piece and later donated it to the city.



The statue returned to the spotlight 13 years later, after Webber issued an emergency proclamation calling for its removal, along with the removal of the Soldiers’ Monument on the Plaza and the Kit Carson obelisk outside the federal courthouse, over fears of vandalism.

On June 18, 2020, the city removed the statue in the early morning. The city, with state assistance, had attempted to remove the Santa Fe Plaza obelisk earlier that morning. On Indigenous Peoples Day last year, the Plaza obelisk was destroyed after activists used a rope and chain to pull it from its base.

The decision to remove the statue was met with praise from some but frustration from others who felt the mayor was attempting to erase their Hispanic heritage.

De Vargas has become an increasingly controversial historical figure. The conquistador led the Spaniards’ reconquest of Santa Fe a dozen years after they were driven out during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680; de Vargas supporters describe the reconquest as peaceful.

The Caballeros met with Webber after the statue was discovered in the contractor’s yard, but that didn’t lead to anything substantive, Trujillo said.

“I had the discussion, we met and again, all he wanted to do was talk about, ‘We are going to go through this process,’ ” Trujillo said.

The process in question likely was the Cultural, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process, which is aimed at engaging residents in cultural and historical discussions. The role of monuments and other public art likely is part of that conversation.

Webber said he was concerned that if the statue were reinstalled, it could be vandalized again, as other landmarks in the city have been in recent years. The statue has been vandalized multiple times since it was installed in 2007.

“We have seen vandals paint things at the Cross of the Martyrs,” Webber said. “These tensions have existed for a long time. But given what is going on in the country and at large, I would prefer to come up with a community agreement about how we can live respectively in a healing way before we create more opportunity for acts that promote or divide.”

For the Caballeros’ part, Pacheco wrote he implored residents to participate in CHART.

Trujillo said he’s not convinced that CHART will be the answer, while Webber said he believes the only way the city can heal is through open dialogue.

“I only get that message from the leadership with the Caballeros and the Fiesta Council and the urban Indigenous community,” Webber said.

But Romero, who said he believed Webber’s victory in the recent mayoral election sealed the statue’s fate, said one solution is clearly the best.

“I think if you really want to make amends with everyone, you would put it back right where it was,” Romero said.

(43) comments

Alisha Catanach

Let us not forget what makes our city unique! I posted this interesting article that from Archeology Southwest Magazine that talks about our history and the people who have continuously inhabited this area. Tourists flock to Santa Fe because of our history and culture, both of which Webber is trying to re-write/destroy to fit his political agenda and narrative. Webber and his followers seem to lack a deep understanding of our history, culture, and traditions and seem to be hispaniphobic/have anti-Mexican sentiment. I wonder what our Governor MLG thinks of Webber. "Every city has history, but in Santa Fe, history surrounds us. It is a record not of 100 years, but of several thousand years."

https://www.archaeologysouthwest.org/product/asw29-2-3/?gclid=CjwKCAiAp8iMBhAqEiwAJb94z2tu9PzY-tDNI8FLwJLj-HPZ6o4jH5qo56Ko3vOVXKXCTkWBjmtpdBoC4qEQAvD_BwE&fbclid=IwAR2M6tFOKuz-lH51kDCD2zRbVcY5I5xQVLyj8BUdIxKXdgmh_6UPcPoxDLY

RONALD TRUJILLO

Everyone who believes that historical monuments or statues have no place in Santa Fe then their is no appeasing you because it's not your culture, Traditions or History that is being targeted by Mayor Webber.

DeVargas played a significant role in Santa Fe good or bad its our history and cannot be changed, but their are those people who want to erase our history because they feel it's not right to have these monuments in Santa Fe.

This is why Santa Fe is alluring to people world wide we are a City proud of our Cultures, Traditions and History. It's those who come to Santa Fe fall in love with our Cultures, Traditions and History but when Santa Fe doesn't conform to how they belive Ssnta Fe should be they decide to change that History so that it will be POLITICALLY ACCEPTABLE and CORRECT to their beliefs.

HISTORY IS NOT FOR YOU TO LIKE OR DISLIKE ITS THERE FOR YOU TO LEARN FROM IT AND IF IT OFFENDS YOU EVEN BETTER BECAUSE THEN YOU ARE LESS LIKELY TO REPEAT IT. IT'S NOT YOUR'S TO ERASE OR DESTROY IT BELONGS TO ALL OF US

Unfortunately their are those here in Santa Fe who feel they know whats best for Santafesinos thus they belive they were sent to Santa Fe to correct our Rich and Proud history so it conforms to their beliefs of what Santa Fe's history should be.

You may not agree with me and that's fine this is my opinion as I may not agree with your opinion of my culture I respect your freedom to express your opinion,

But I will not sit idle as my culture is deemed the culture that Mayor Webber wants to erase and make more Politically Correct and Acceptable.

Santa Fe's history is complex but no one should be able to decide which history stays or go's.

It's History can't be changed.

"A City that Forgets its PAST has no FUTURE"

Joe Ray Anaya

Honest question... does the Caballeros own any land in SF where they could display their statue? This could be a workaround on the whole City land/park issue...

RONALD TRUJILLO

Joe Ray

Mayor Webber is using the DeVargas Statue as his bargaining chip.

He has no intention of returning it to Cathedral Park or anywhere else in Santa Fe.

Webber made a promise to 3 sisters to rid the city of DeVargas the Soldier's Monument and Kit Carson Obelisk

He succeeded in insuring 2 of them got removed and destroyed.

As for land as long as Webber and his Disciples are in charge of Santa Fe the Rich Proud Hispanic Culture, History and Traditions will be scrutinized in order to insure those in charge want a Politically Correct and Acceptable Santa Fe this our History will be in jeopardy due to those who feel they know whats best for Santafesinos

Joe Brownrigg

Mr. Trujillo,

it amazes me that you can attack, attack, attack...never answering a sincere and simple question. I have nothing against Hispanic or Mexican heritages, but you are a case, sir! Please try to make one posting, without attacking. It is rather unproductive and boring.

RONALD TRUJILLO

Mr. Brownrigg I've answered this question hundreds of times people know my stance and my pride to be born and raised in Santa Fe.

You have nothing against st Hispanic or Mexican heritage. When did I ever say you did or is Brownrigg your alias as you are really Alan Webber. I'm stating fact. What gives 1 person the right to start a process where the determination of which cultures history stays or goes.

I was recently in Portugal a country with loads of history and monuments to thst history good and bad. I spoke with locals in Lisbon and they told me why would we tear down monuments that are hundreds of years old this is our history which good or bad we are proud of.

I feel the same way proud of who I am and where I come from.

So Mr. Brownrigg aka Alan Webber You may not like what I post. But I don't lie. I tell the truth and if you can't handle the truth I'm sorry that you can't see what is happening here in Santa Fe in my 52 years of life living here I have never seen such division.

It's people like you who do not know the history of Santa Fe but jump on any cause even if it means your for riding the city of a Culture you do not like, know, respect or know nothing about, but as long as your able to jump on that bandwagon your gonna feel good about yourself and your cause while hurting those who want to preserve their Culture, Traditions and History

Richard Reinders

You mean like your attack on Mr. Trujillo. It’s his culture that is under constant attack by this administration not yours.

Emily Hartigan

I'm still listening, learning --- and I'm hoping for something that honors the ancestors of all, because no one is bereft of honorable foreparents, antepasados. Not even we Anglo newbies. Perhaps memorials to the ORDINARY grunts who had to follow the leadings of their fallible leaders? And the Ones who were here first? The ones who risked their poor lives? On all sides.

Not one of the "heroes" is pristine, but the remembrance of those who sought to do right from their best lights, seems worth memorializing. That will take multiple statues and complex narratives to accompany them.

Joe Brownrigg

Emily, I agree with you, 100%!!!

Angel Ortiz

I would really be curious about Ron Trujillo's perspective on the history of Don Diego and his impact on the Native Americans. Granted Don Diego is a part of our history but as Latinos perhaps we need to reconsider who and how we memorialize the past.

Joe Brownrigg

Waiting!

Mike Johnson

As a key part of our history, it should be returned to public display immediately, period.

nik cecere

De Vargas could be re-installed on Church Property with several Pueblo men surrounding him, writhing on the ground, with their feet cut off, since that is also a "key part of our history."

There, see: Fair and Balanced.

Mike Johnson

I think you are confusing De Vargas with Oñate. I guess they all look the same?

Jeff clark

Ok, we could have a gallows set up next to De Vargas with some executed indians instead

Richard Reinders

[thumbup][thumbup]

nik cecere

Yes, sorry for putting all the nuts in the same bag. Given the treatment of Indigenous Peoples, the difference is in degree rather than appearances.

Carlos Vasquez

they are quite analogous; in the cloud of religious fervor, greed and racism, what's he difference?

Joe Brownrigg

[thumbup]

Richard Reinders

The De Vargas statue was just like a engagement ring, a conditional gift, the Caballeros gave the gift to be install at Cathedral park, if the gift isn't to be used for its intention should be returned just like a engagement ring if you don't get married you give it back. The Caballeros that think this is a dead deal and want to move on need to understand that you give an inch they take a mile and may they take something like your pride in your culture away next. It isn't about a statue it is about cancelling a people and their way of life. It is out of the woke playbook to dive and remove. Enough is enough.

Stefanie Beninato

Oh, please, Richard... Anything in the donation that says it will be returned. And Trujillo has not tried everything--he has yet to give the CHART process a chance--yes, there may be problems with the process--for example, the mission to designate monuments and statutes seems to have fallen out of place.

RONALD TRUJILLO

Amazes me how Stefany Benaknowitall claims to knowm me better than I know myself

Ms. Benaknowitall I met various times with Mayor Webber to come to a reasonable resolution to the DeVargas statue,but you already knew that as you claim I have not tried everything.

Mayor Webber is using the DeVargas statue as his bargaining chip otherwise the statue would have been returned to Cathedral Park or back to the Caballeros

I know your a huge supporter of Webber and believe in everything he does and support his every move.

I on the other hand will not allow someone to dictate which Culture stays and which Cultute go's as this is Mayor Webbers Agenda to rid the city of anything Hispanic.

HISTORY IS NOT FOR YOU TO LIKE OR DISLIKE ITS THERE FOR YOU TO LEARN FROM AND IF IT OFFENDS YOU EVEN BETTER BECAUSE THEN YOU ARE LESS LIKELY TO REPEAT IT

A CITY THAT FORGETS ITS PAST HAS NO FUTURE

Waiting for one of your obnoxious replies and put downs again me or my wife

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]Exactly Richard.

Carlos Vasquez

Two big ots high 5 ing?

Eagle Madrid

“ …it is about cancelling a people and their way of life.” - Vargas, 1692, of his attitude toward Pueblo people. Vargas’ strategy to “dive” and remove was “woke” before woke was cool.

Richard Reinders

Eagle I normally agree with you, but once Webber eliminates the Hispanics who by the way are also partially Indigenous they will come after the Indigenous. The agenda is to Homogenize the community kind of like there original movement of no winners no losers everyone gets a trophy concept, they can’t stand anyone that identifies as different. We all have tragedies in our history, but now it is about who we are now and who we are going to be to each other, I would rather celebrate what makes us different rather than impose what makes us the same. And by the way this conversation is between Eagle and I.

Eagle Madrid

“if the gift isn't to be used for its intention should be returned just like a engagement ring if you don't get married you give it back.” What an absurd analogy. Santa Fe should take that metaphorical engagement ring and pawn it, or toss it in a large body of water like many do with rings representative of a failed engagement

Carlos Vasquez

[thumbup]

Mark Stahl

You bring up the idea of canceling a people and their culture. Are you aware of the old government policy that forcefully removed indigenous children from their homes, sent them to faraway schools to be assimilated, taught that their traditional ways, languages and religious beliefs were wrong and beaten into submission when refusing to submit?

Joe Brownrigg

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Jeff clark

The original true cancel culture. Not to be confused with the so called cancel culture of today that is anything but cancelling but is acknowledging some of our more sordid past

Carlos Vasquez

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Carlos Vasquez

[thumbup]

Joe Brownrigg

[thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown]

Richard Reinders

Webber said it belong to the city, the people are the city it should be returned to the people.

Carlos Vasquez

nappy time yet?

Karla Moya-Crites

👍

Carlos Vasquez

What about the Native blood that also courses within our Spanish selves? Imagine celebrating Chaco culture, which was a great source of power and knowledge throughout the continent. Religious, dark-aged, imperialism is exhausting...

Lynn k Allen

Don Diego de Vargas was not a person who we would call a hero or role model.

There are much better people and things to recognize and remember. I'm thinking of things like the dedicated men who built small places to worship and gather to give help and aid to the community members in need. Look carefully in rural places and you see a small building standing alone but used by a few good men acting in brotherhood spreading the true spirit of catholic religion. They aren't officially canonized or part of the church, just good men gathering to worship and help their community. This us what I would hope the Cabelleros would want to memorialize rather than a man who had no compassion and committed vicious acts & was recalled for them.

There are a lot of better good things to memorialize.

Joe Brownrigg

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Lynn Hansz

This statue and others got us all to talking about it and to delve into DeVargas history. Isn't that a part of what the statues help do? Regardless, once a statue or any other object is removed...so does the conversation and understanding. Do we remove everything installed in the NM History Museum?

Mike Johnson

Good point, and today it seems anything that offends anyone is subject to removal by the woke left wing politicians, don't give them any ideas.

Richard Reinders

[thumbup]

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