Two wealthy retirees from Chicago gave a few million dollars to put their names on a Santa Fe museum whose construction will erase an iconic mural created by a Chicano artist.

Around 75 people rallied Saturday in the Railyard to say they’ve heard this story before. They were part of a Gentrification Walking Tour organized by the coalition Keep Santa Fe Multicultural.

“Losing that mural represents a lot of what we’ve been fighting against in Santa Fe for decades now,” said Rick Martinez, a 1973 Santa Fe High graduate who said he first organized against development for the sake of outsiders in 1990 when Ski Santa Fe wanted to build a chairlift from Big Tesuque.

“We had a good group of young and old out here today, which is important because standing up to this sort of thing is going to take all of us,” he said.

Last month, the state began construction on the Vladem Contemporary satellite wing of the New Mexico Museum of Art. In 2018, Bob Vladem, a partner in a number of Pennsylvania car dealerships who started trucking and logistics companies, and his wife, Ellen Vladem, gave a $4 million gift to the museum.

According to a news release from the Department of Cultural Affairs, the mural will be “retired as a part of the renovation, and the museum plans to acknowledge the mural and its history with a display in the interior.”

On Saturday, speakers at the rally drew parallels between the mural — painted by Chicano artist Gilberto Guzman and others — and previous waves of gentrification in the Railyard and other parts of Santa Fe.

The walking tour started near the O’Gah Po’Geh Community Altar, a community art project that bears the Tewa name for the current city of Santa Fe, before progressing to Warehouse 21, a former teen arts center that closed in 2019 and is for sale.

“My first memories of drawing and music were Warehouse 21. It was a beautiful space, a place in downtown Santa Fe where kids from our community could come together. It’s gone now,” Artemisio Romero y Carver, a senior at New Mexico School for the Arts, said outside the vacant building.

“Opulence requires poverty. Through here and the mural and the ways they’ve removed nonwhite expression, images, faces and words from this place, the only way that I can describe that is the cleaning of a murder scene,” he added.

Last month, a report from local housing advocacy nonprofit Chainbreaker Collective found about 5,700 Santa Fe households — at least 31 percent of renters — are at risk of eviction when state and federal moratoriums expire.

The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness estimates the city is short of affordable housing by 5,000 units. Meanwhile, in the final quarter of 2020, 557 homes in Santa Fe County sold for a record median price of $537,764, a 19.5 percent increase from the same period in 2019.

“I am speaking from lived experience. My family is working class. We live in trailer parks. We make up the people who clean homes and build houses for wealthy white people who come from out of state. The one sector that has seen continual growth throughout the pandemic is construction,” Hernan Gomez Chavez, a local welder and sculptor, said in front of the Railyard’s decorative water tower.

“The people who live here, work here and maintain our city are not living sustainably because these wealthy people and our city government are not investing in us,” he added.

The demonstration concluded in front of the mural on Guadalupe Street, with a 120-foot long banner that read, “Gentrification is erasure is gentrification.”

“It’s the reality of what’s happening with the mural. Erasure is imminent,” said Alicia Inez Guzmán, a Chicana writer from Truchas now living in Santa Fe. “Our public space matters, and when it starts to shift toward a romantic projection of what people want Santa Fe to be rather than what it actually is for the people from here, that’s a problem.”

(51) comments

Garrett Shaw

I’m pro development but can we talk about how atrocious the design of this “contemporary” new building is. My take: the current mural was not meant to last forever - it will be sad for the community to see it go but there should be an opportunity to replace it with something new. The architects and developers should have planned for an exterior gallery wall viewable to the public at all times - with local artists commissioned to produce murals (on display for a few months, years, whatever). I’ve worked on many adaptive reuse projects in the northeast, it’s certainly not too late to revisit the design and get a resolution here.

Julee Clear

What about an Equitable Funding tax placed on those $500,00 homes that are sold? Say $5k plus depending on the amount paid? The monies can be placed in a fund or non-profit that then distributes those moneys to our townsfolk who need support? We are all humans, and we all deserve respect, whatever our heritage or income level. This type thing might help level the playing field around housing a tiny bit. Just a thought.

Khal Spencer

The problem with that is the median is around $500k, which means everyday folks are struggling to get a mortgage for this market. Sure, the really, really wealthy can pay that. Many are not.

Ernest Green

Most of us understand the classist/cultural argument being made on behalf this magnificent mural and for the preservation of northern New Mexico's rich history. This is a separate argument that is now unjustly pinned to the revival of a decades long empty archives building in the heart of the Guadalupe District (yes, decades). The mural itself has been naturally degrading from the elements for just as long which is the nature of murals and public art. No blame or ill-intent exists here, creative expression is not permanent nor should it be used to crowd out new projects or fresh ideas. There are several large walls in the surrounding area to reinstall the images and elements of this mural and others if the demand is there, as there is a wealth of artists and painters. Create a plan, Denver's public murals are a great model, go make art, stop with the archaic sentiment for what may or may not be allowed on our streetscapes.

Stefanie Beninato

I think the point is that the mural will be recreated somehow but inside the museum--meaning it will no longer be able to be enjoyed by the public unless you can pay the entry fee--it therefore loses its character as a PUBLIC mural.

Ernest Green

Respectfully, this was not the point. Appropriation was not a central issue, the group spoke to and crafted a very well done and delightfully colorful sign highlighting 'erasure'. The planned space is a New Mexico state museum, public by definition. Accessibility is universal, all state museums in Santa Fe hold regular free admittance days and fee-holidays and list them on their websites. Santa Fe can absorb all the imaginative art that can be created and an either-or position can be self-defeating.

Richard Reinders

Earnest ,if they would have stayed within the Historical District guidelines I would not have a problem with the building being used for a gallery as it exist, why do I have to follow guidelines on a project in the historic district and Vladem doesn't.

Stefanie Beninato

Because it is state-owned and not subject to the city's historic district ordinance.

David Cartwright

Get over it. Murals are not meant to last, particularly outdoors ones. They are created in the moment and may last a few decades, but degrade over time. Creating new art space is not a destruction of culture. And the notion that the Vladems are somehow villains. Utterly ridiculous. They are major supporters of culture in this city. And then somehow poverty gets woven into this pitiful story. It's such a mess that I can't even follow it.

Angel Ortiz

It's not a pitiful story Dave. It's our culture and our history. Nothing pitiful about that. “Our public space matters, and when it starts to shift toward a romantic projection of what people want Santa Fe to be rather than what it actually is for the people from here, that’s a problem.”. Pretending to preserve our culture is where this comes from bro

Richard Reinders

Santa Fe is 2nd or 3rd highest in the nation for art sales so we don't lack for exposure to art by any means of the imagination. With the barrage of eliminating the Entrada, removing De Vargas, removal of Onate, destruction of the Obelisk the disregard to the Historical District, talk of a Commission to look at other cultural monuments for their removal I would say there is a justified raw nerve when it comes to cancelling this culture. So when some rich outsiders come into town and flaunt their money with disregard to the Mural and Historic district, it is insensitive. The Mural is one of the few remaining things the poor and working class has to hold onto that shows their culture and their rich past. The rich can buy all the culture they want at any time and any place.

Francisco Carbajal

Mr. David Cartwright, seriously? Their is an old Santa Fe saying (Community Activist Charlie Griego) would say: "Wake up and smell the coffee!" Your cultural insensitivity and lack of culture competency is noted. Your choices for words are shameless and hurtful.

Lee Vigil

Here are some numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2019, pre-pandemic. Median income was just under $58,000 meaning that half of all households earn below that amount, half above. Per capita income is much lower at about $37,000; 13.5% of the population lives in poverty (more than one in eight persons in Santa Fe). Meanwhile, the median price of a home just passed $500,000 for the first time last fall. https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/median-home-price-in-santa-fe-county-tops-500-000-for-first-time/article_bb7f0cca-0970-11eb-bceb-9f1c66c29723.html

Claudia Chavez

This article fails to mention that this group, Multicultural, is part of 3 Sisters Collective. I observed their tour and they stated they want to build a better community and they’re not about division, yet their actions show otherwise. I will stand with Mr. Guzman and Rick Martinez in their efforts, if there is any hope, to preserve the mural. I’ve been fighting for preservation in my family neighborhood for 30+ years. Also, let’s refer to it by it’s correct name - Barrio Guadalupe.

KT Rivera

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Angel Ortiz

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Lee Vigil

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Carolyn DM

YAWN...

Stan Biderman

The nature of life is change. What these comments ignore is perhaps a family that bought the house for $20,000 40 years ago now gets $1,000,000 for the property.. Seems like no one is blaming them for selling.

Angel Ortiz

Selling property is not the issue here. It is the alteration of our community and our culture. What made Santa Fe unique for decades is being erased. Might as well live in Scottsdale. Blah!

Khal Spencer

And the kids of those families are probably still making 35k a year. Get your million dollar mortgage on that income.

Angel Ortiz

I read an article in another newspaper by Alicia Inez Guzman that really hit home for me. I am born and raised here in Santa Fe and have witnessed the change in our community. One piece of Ms. Guzman's article stood out: " Barrios on the historic eastside, once predominantly Hispanic, now make up some of the most expensive real estate in town. Local Hispanos used to call this part of the town the Dogpatch, after the Appalachian hamlet in the comic strip “L’il Abner.” Today, houses there regularly sell for upwards of a million dollars, mostly to white residents. The Hispanos have been pushed out. Some 20% of the homes, according to the county assessor’s office, belong to owners who live in Santa Fe only part time.".

Stefanie Beninato

Many people in the 1960s through the1980s did not want to live in grandma's adobe that they inherited and sold it to someone else so they could live in subdivision south of St Mike's. For years, the county assessor only raised property taxes of newly sold properties--not a 3 percent increase across the board with the exception of low income seniors. Gentrification is not as simple as you may like it to be. Today people seem to be driven by greed. A duplex on Berger is asking nearly $800K. A house on Juanita with virtually no parking is asking close to $500K. Another house in So Capitol that was renovated by not outstanding was asking over $800K and a beautiful cherried out historic home on Don Gaspar is asking $1.7 million. So Capitol used to be working and middle class-now not at all. This was an area where many mayors grew up. It is hard to try to move/downsize when the town is not affordable to even the middle class.

Angel Ortiz

Many others did try to stay Stephanie. My Grandmother's house just off Alto Street was surrounded by people who moved here and built mini manson condos and property values skyrocketed. My brothers and I helped my Grandmother keep her simple and humble home until she passed. Over the years she dealt with complaints from her "new' neighbors about her drying her laundry on a clothes line my Grandfather built for her in the 1960s. I assume that is not allowed in Newport or Scottsdale. Whatever. We still own the property. The neighborhood continues to be bought up and the issues continue.

Stefanie Beninato

I am happy you still own the property. Is one of your family members living there? I hope also you have been able to maintain the home as you helped your grandparents do.

Lee Vigil

Stefanie is on this page to inform you what motivations Hispanics had for selling their homes: 'did not want to live in grandma's adobe'. Please stop speaking as you're an authority on Hispanics motivation or intentions. The issues are complicated, but that statement is simplified and inaccurate.

Angel Ortiz

Stephanie can speak for herself. The issues are complicated and I never portrayed myself as an expert. That is your assumption. It's an open forum. Deal with it.

Lee Vigil

And Stephanie does speak for herself, a lot. In recent posts I've read her comments where she says things like 'Hispanics should've gone to college' in reference to their struggles. Here she claims to know why people lose their family homes with more divisive blather. I find many of her comments toward local Hispanos cruel and hostile.

Stefanie Beninato

Sorry Lee. I have never said Hispanics should have gone to college...I have no idea where you got that from--obviously either a projection/fantasy on your part or perhaps another biased source.

Stefanie Beninato

PS Lee I am multiethnic and multi racial including Hispanic.

Angel Ortiz

Thank you Stephanie. Yes. We still own the property. Family still occupies. Nonetheless, the only reason I mentioned it was to highlight the change in our community. This story is really more about the existence of our culture. I see it slipping away and some of the participants in this forum have changed the message to property values and profit margins. Very sad

Khal Spencer

Anyone who thought Santa Fe was the City Different needs to read more articles like this one. Like any other city, its all for sale. If folks want to push back, its a matter of electing people who will appoint bureaucrats who will not sell out to big money interests. If not, well, keep tearing stuff down. Pretty soon we might see the Amazon Plaza, the Microsoft Museums, the Sam Walton City Hall, etc. Well, at least no one is building a stadium whose name will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Yet.

I concur with Chainbreaker. Wow, we moved down here from BombTown a few years ago as my wife wanted to live in a city with more art and culture and I agreed as there is still plenty of open space. Bought a little house in Casa Solana. In the last couple years, I've seen people gobble up these properties, "gentrify" them into mini McMansions, and flip them for twice what they were going for just six years ago. A tiny Stamm home becomes a $600-$700k showpiece sold to the upper couple percent! Why, we should be shocked, shocked, to find out locals can't afford to live here.

Paul Davis

Sure, but Khai, the people selling (and buying and reselling) those properties are not elected officials, surely? How do you stop this process without stopping or at least interfering with some fundamentally American notions about markets, freedom, pricing and so forth?

Khal Spencer

Its obviously a huge question but I'd start with income inequality that is out of control. Then, mortgage loan systems that reward the gobbling up of property: no Federally insured mortgages on second homes. I'm not a fan of buying up "investment property" that drives up property values so someone else can't afford their own piece of the pie.

The city cannot by itself control housing prices in places like Casa Solana. What it can do is open up infill areas such as Midtown Campus and zone it to encourage affordable housing through density. And, not let the developer off the hook.

But the bottom line? I think that is a case of "how do you eat an elephant?"

Paul Davis

1) I don't know we (or anyone) could identify investment property. Not providing federally insured mortgages on a second home seems reasonable to me, but I honestly don't know and could not determine via google what the fraction of second home purchases are that get these mortgages. My gut says "not many", but I don't know.

2) What's the difference between a second home and an investment property?

3) Can Santa Fe, and the American Southwest in general, actually support more population given the immediate and near-term water situation?

Here's what I predict will happen. Development of new housing will continue, albeit at a slower rate than is needed by the lower economic demographics. Escalating property prices will continue for properties of the type seen as desirable and good value by people from elsewhere. I would guess that there's room for at least a doubling of current prices, maybe more. People working in service industries of many kinds will be even less likely to be able to live in Santa Fe (probably not even the county). At some point, actual water supply issues will become well known, triggered either by a near-term drought or the mid-term supply issues caused by a combination of the periodic shift away from the last 10k years of "wet" and climate change more broadly. The water issues will slow development even more, resulting in a final topping out of property prices. Things will remain in this sort of "balance", with most of the working population of Santa Fe having moved down to Bernalillo county, and the city primarily populated by those wealthy enough to afford housing. Eventually, a total water catastrophe (I'd expect probably within 100 years) will cause a collapse in property values, huge numbers of people will exit out of the southwest, and Santa Fe will return to something roughly like it was during the middle of the 20th century.

Khal Spencer

I don't think you can or should keep people out. No city or area can live in a glass bubble. What Santa Fe becomes in the long run kinda depends on who lives here. Perhaps if some cultural locations are irreplaceable or must be preserved, these should be owned in common, i.e. by city or regional government rather than being privatized or compromised to get donations from the rich.

I think you have a good handle on evolution in terms of water and prices. As long as this is a more desirable place than somewhere else, folks will move here. But we have seen gentrification in other places and it always leads to some bitterness among those who get the financial boot ride. So to make sure that government policy is not encouraging such a shift, how would we do that?

Frankly, I don't really know. Its not my area but it does worry me. Without a return to a society where we are not so stratified by economic issues, I don't see a way to put the bad genie back in the bottle, Paul.

Angel Ortiz

Forget profit and real estate. What about out culture?

Khal Spencer

You saw my first paragraph? Its all interrelated. We can, I suppose, go back to the Middle Ages where someone like Lord Bezos worked for the King and everyone lived as a serf on his manor. That Monty Python skit comes to mind.

https://youtu.be/YAA-G947ofg

Khal Spencer

Friend of mine who used to live in these parts offered this:

"That’s why I decided to settle near Española when I got the gig at The New Mexican back in the Eighties. I got a spastic tic in one eyelid like Chief Inspector Dreyfus from giving mal de ojo to all the gabachos strutting around the Plaza, decked out in Western casual and a few zillion quatloos of silver and turquoise, their Land Rovers parked in the bike lane. "

Paul Davis

I'm sympathetic. But what are you suggesting would stop the changes here that you are see as culturally destructive? I don't think you could pass a law that would stop "not from here" people buying property here. I don't think you could pass a law that would limit what someone could sell their home for.

How are you going to protect culture in an economic and political system in which the concept of owning property and the freedom to do (more or less) whatever you want with it are absolutely central?

Put bluntly, you cannot protect culture by exclusion. You will not protect Santa Fe (or New Mexico) by complaining about those who arrive here. There may be some concrete things that could be done. But I have not seen anyone identify any of them, anywhere.

Cheryl Odom

I have been an ally of this movement for years. The cultures that make this City vibrant should not be destroyed. Gentrification has been a problem for years, and the division between the Eastside and the Southside has never been greater. I attended the gathering last year, and hope this movement continues to grow. I am "not from here" which has been used as a slur against me by people who are. It's hurtful, because some of us are totally in support of stopping this power grab by the (mostly wealthy) recent arrivals. If it doesn't stop now, the Disneyfication of our town will be complete, and there will nothing left but the few blocks of Downtown for the tourists to enjoy. I remember when I moved here in 1980, the gatherings of the elder locals on the Plaza, the hometown stores that have been replaced by galleries and upscale boutiques. It breaks my heart.

Leo Catelli

Unfortunately, if you're not from here or you're a non-Hispanic "Anglo" (a lazily used term, since many white people have zero Anglo-Saxon heritage), it's hard to break out of the "outsider" group from locals.

I can't blame locals for being frustrated by all the super wealthy transplants, many of them white, for coming here and gentrifying the town and not contributing to the existing culture and peoples. It's unfortunate that middle class/working class white people here are outnumbered by the super wealthy coastal elites.

Santa Fe is one of the most divided (economically and racially) places I've lived. Even ABQ by comparison is way more diverse in both realms, and the people there don't seem so divided.

People here are prone to virtue signaling, obsessing over identity, etc. This is more divisive than uniting. We're all human and we all need to be held accountable. That being said, the locals have every right to be up at arms about what's going on. Both parties need to pop the bubbles around them and try and work together.

I do hope the locals realize not all white people are as the cliche is painted. Most working class white people just don't move here, they're pretty much everywhere in ABQ and south of it. I know there are local white Santa Feans, but if you poke a bit you realize most of them are children of California transplants in the 70s-90s.

Red Eagle

The history and culture of the region is precious and unique, we must hold on to it. Removing the mural serves no positive purpose. People live in and visit Santa Fe because of the beautiful land and cultural imprint, let’s keep it that way.

Angel Ortiz

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Lee Vigil

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Richard Reinders

Slowly and steadily the culture gets removed, we lived in Pojoaque and use to have road side vendors of folk art, Chili, fruit and vegetables, then the state said no more vending which all but wiped out a living for hundreds of folk artist and farmers, now getting waivers in Historic Districts and tearing down historical monuments and murals. A once large , proud and open culture is being driven under ground and one of the lynch pins in this movement IMO is Allan Webber , Webber must not be reelected. He is the "Grinch that stole a culture"

Maryann Palker

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Andrew Lucero

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Catherine Murry

Poco a poco erase the Hispano culture. It’s a cultural war against us.

Yazmin Lara

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Lee Vigil

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