The leaders of a 105-year-old fraternal organization took out a half-page ad in The New Mexican on Sunday, calling for the return of the Don Diego de Vargas statue to Cathedral Park and obelisks at both the Plaza and the U.S. District Courthouse to remain in their current locations.

Union Protectiva de Santa Fe, which bills itself as the city’s oldest Spanish cultural organization, joined with leaders of a pair of veterans groups in calling for people to contact Mayor Alan Webber and six of eight city councilors to let their feelings be known.

Virgil J. Vigil, the president of Union Protectiva, acknowledged he didn’t expect Webber or councilors Renee Villareal, Signe Lindell, Carol Romero-Wirth, Chris Rivera, Roman Abeyta and Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez to get an overwhelming reaction in response to the ad. But he said the monuments controversy would have political consequences.

“We’re pretty passive, pretty low-key. I don’t expect too many to call councilors,” Vigil said. “But when these guys go up for election, these people aren’t going to forget. They’ll speak up at the election box.”

An employee in Webber’s office said the mayor had received one phone call and one email as of midafternoon Monday.

Monuments to controversial historical figures and monuments in New Mexico history again flashed into public consciousness in June, when the statue of de Vargas was removed from Cathedral Park and Webber called to have the 153-year-old obelisk — considered offensive by many Indigenous people — removed from the Plaza.

Webber also has announced he will form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will evaluate every statue and monument in the city.

Union Protectiva, Vigil said, has about 400 members. Three of its officers — Vigil, Vice President Richard Barela and Secretary Patrick Varela — placed their names in the ad, along with Gilbert Romero, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2951, and Harold Durr, Commander of American Legion Post 1.

In its ad, Union Protectiva said if the de Vargas statue could not be returned to Cathedral Park, it should go to a “well-known visible space.”

It also singled out Councilors JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Michael Garcia as standing up for preservation of Hispanic culture and the “history of Santa Fe.”

Calling the move an “anti Hispanic cultural attack,” the advertisement criticizes Webber’s “very secretive action” and claims he did not seek input from the city’s Hispanic organizations or the community at large.

“We have a long-term investment in this community. We have a long-term investment. And we believe that our culture needs to be protected and not put away somewhere, and say, ‘Oh, well, let’s just file it away in some drawer and everybody will forget about it,’ ” Barela said.

Webber has defended the move as a way to prevent potential violence at a Plaza rally that took place a few days after a shooting marred a protest in Albuquerque. He also said the changes would give the city a chance to create a more inclusive dialogue about history.

The Mayor’s Office declined to comment.

The obelisk, which was damaged when a crew tried to remove its top in June and later was vandalized, now is surrounded by an 8-foot plywood structure. It now is the backdrop for a community art project.

According to Union Protectiva’s website, the organization was set up in 1915 to help preserve the language and culture of Santa Fe “for future generations and descendants of Spanish colonists.” One of its important functions helps families pay for funeral and burial costs, a tradition that continues to this day, Vigil said.

Vigil said the frustration over the monuments is part of larger concern about Hispanic culture in the community.

“If we don’t protect history and its traditions, it’s going to disappear,” he said.

(20) comments

Ezekiel America

Bravo Virgil Vigil.

Jeff Varela

Truth and Reconciliation Committee? Truth is...Webber is a phony and uses the BLM movement and public discourse for his crusade here in our City of Holy Faith. I say impeach this dude!

Peter Romero

Que Viva !!

Janet Eduardo

Would like to thank them for the ad. I used the email addresses supplied to send emails thanking the Mayor and Councillors for what they did and continued to do. Territorialism has no place in today's world. Recent rhetoric against those not considered "real" residents of Santa Fe has been disturbing at the very least. I doubt these folks asked the indigenous people if it was OK to appropriate their lands.

Patricia Ortiz

Back in the 16th century no one asked anyone if their lands could be appropriated, including your ancestors whoever or wherever they existed. There were no laws in America. Tribes fought for territories and survival. Humans settled wherever, not victims but survivors. America is was over 10,000 miles, most lands were not inhabited or claimed. What there was plenty were were wars, conquests, slavery. Imagine today, living life as your ancestors… Count yourself fortunate you are a product of the 21st century and did not endure the atrocities of an ancient world.

Mike Johnson

Well said Ms. Ortiz. The people the Spanish encountered had taken the land from the inhabitants before them, and them before them, they did not own anything. It was only with the Europeans that this land was civilized and organized, and prospered as the greatest nation in the world. Without all of our brave ancestors before us, who sacrificed so much, this land would be a lawless and uncivilized place, as it was before they arrived. No one in their right mind would want to return to that kind of existence.

Patricia Ortiz

Yes, that's right -- let us keep in mind that the Spanish were legally minded. Just after Spaniard Governor Don Diego DeVargas reconquest of New Mexico in 1694, Spain issued considerably generous land grants to each Pueblo and appointed an advocate of the law to protect the rights of the Indian. Remarkably, the Pueblos were allowed tribal self-governance, along with their indigenous religion and language. The DeVargas statue should not have been removed, it is significant to our history --Spanish colonization in northern/central New Mexico and Spanish American influence in the U.S.

Orlando Baca

Since its their land, I'll assume you're packing to leave

Mike Johnson

Excellent and I applaud these brave patriots for standing up for their culture and traditions. "If we don't protect history and its traditions, it's going to disappear", truer words were never spoken and he understands the political agenda here very well. I would call on the Knights of Columbus to be brave and speak up as well, and SPMDTU, I know many of their leaders feel the same as this group. Speak up people, the totalitarian dictators will win unless you do.

Kathy Fish

Proofreading alert! "But he said the monuments controversy would have political consequences." Apostrophes much? Might be a good time to hire a lit-savvy student stuck at home.

Harvey Wright

"the monuments controversy" = a controversy involving multiple monuments

MC Gurule

I thought City Councilors represented their districts in which they were elected. I don't recall Councilors Roman Abeyta or Chris Rivera asking their constituents in District 3 how they felt about this prior to any vote. After all, this area houses the majority of the Hispanic population and many of the local citizens who were born and raised here in Santa Fe. All cultures are unique in their own way and I don't see how a select group of protesters can dictate who gets to keep their statutes, monuments and who doesn't. I don't understand how the City Council could have voted on this without collaborating with ALL parties involved prior to removing historical landmarks. It won't matter what gets removed, what gets put up, there will always be someone or some group that will be offended. Thank you Concilors Garcia and Vigil-Coppler for voting against the removal of our history.

Jeff Varela

Might be because Abeyta and Rivera are part of the secrecy of removing statues. We know which Councilors are puppets of the regime. Webber is a phony acting as Mayor!

Barry Rabkin

I'm a recent transplant and not of Spanish heritage. However, I do believe that the cities and States in the US are governed by a representative democracy ... never by mob rule. If there are existing rules or laws in place in Santa Fe that gives the Mayor the authority to remove statues or other monuments, then Mayor Webber can do what he did. Otherwise, if there are not existing rules or laws in place in Santa Fe that provides the Mayor that authority, he should have grown a back-bone and sent in whatever police that were required to protect every statue and monument. The philosophy that no human life should be harmed or lost to protect the statues is myopic. The overwhelming philosophy should be to never give in to mob rule.

Richard Reinders

I support Union Protectiva and say that Webber was way out of line and his right to go after Hispanics and there culture. The Council that has quietly sold out the locals for political alliances should be ashamed that they didn't stick up for their heritage and constituents. The excuse we removed it because it was in harms way is just a lame excuse , post a cop and arrest anyone that vandalizes city property. This wokeness of remove statues , and defund cops, is in the minority not the majority and in my America majority rules. I think we need to investigate the legal and proper way for removing a Mayor this would be a good start to right these wrongs.

David Brown


Lola Thompson

Que tristesa...anyone that doesn’t understand our culture and traditions should educate himself before trying to manage our city and tell us what we can and can’t believe. It’s history! You can’t change it and you can’t change our traditions.

Stefanie Beninato

If you are really serious about removing Webber, read the charter. It won't take too much time. What will take time is getting signatures. How willing are you to put your money where your mouth is?

Jeff Varela

I'm willing...

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