A cloud of uncertainty hung over Santa Fe on Thursday afternoon as the city awaited the start of a downtown demonstration over the hot-button issue of monuments to controversial figures in history.


Hope Alvarado, 24, of the Navajo Nation stands in front of a sea of people and a controversial obelisk at the Santa Fe Plaza to protest the monument on Thursday, June 18. Olivia Harlow/The New Mexican

Indigenous activists had planned to stage a peaceful protest calling for removal of a war monument on the Santa Fe Plaza just days after a shooting marred a similar event in Albuquerque. There were some concerns tensions could escalate here.

But after Mayor Alan Webber announced Wednesday he planned to call for the removal of the obelisk, as well as two other monuments considered by many as symbols that glorify conquest and violence, event organizers announced they would instead hold a celebration.


Krystle McCabe addresses the crowd and tells the story of her dad, Micheal McCabe, who she said chiseled out the word 'savage' from the base of the obelisk on the Plaza.

In a lot of ways, that’s just what they got.

Several hundred people — a diverse crowd of Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans and Anglos of all ages, most wearing face masks as protection from the novel coronavirus — gathered on the Plaza for two hours of talks that focused on social justice and reconciliation.


Nathan Rubinfeld, 29, of Santa Fe, holds a sign that says "This isstolen land" during a protest to remove controversial monuments across Santa Fe on Thursday evening. Olivia Harlow/The New Mexican

Jade Begay of NDN Collective, an indigenous-led activist group that had helped organize the celebration, along with the Three Sisters Collective and The Red Nation, cited a new era for civil rights.

“I want to acknowledge we are here because of the movement for black lives. They have created this momentum, and we are all a part of it right now,” Begay said, referring to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the nation, including in Santa Fe, amid outrage over the death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

Activists from a coalition of organizations lead a gathering on the Santa Fe Plaza celebrating the removal of some monuments around Santa Fe and rally support. Recorded live.

Previous protests in Santa Fe and Albuquerque in the wake of George Floyd’s death have drawn armed men who said they were part of a civilian militia. But such groups did not attend Thursday’s event.

Santa Fe police monitored the rally from around the perimeter of the Plaza, and Chief Andrew Padilla watched it unfold from under the portal at the Palace of the Governors.

Members of the Three Sisters Collective credited volunteer peacekeepers with helping to maintain a calm atmosphere as an alternative to a heavy police presence. The volunteers, wearing neon vests, stood at each entrance to the Plaza. There also were volunteer medics on hand.

While the Plaza rally was free of conflict, two men climbed the obelisk and marked it with red paint and handprints.


Ramon Barela of Cochiti plays a Native drum on the Santa Fe Plaza during a demonstration Thursday.

Some 15 hours earlier, the more than 150-year-old Soldiers Monument — dedicated to Union troops and soldiers who had fought in conflicts against Native Americans — had been damaged by a state-contracted crew in a failed attempt to remove it overnight.

A city crew later hauled away a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas from nearby Cathedral Park. Webber said a third monument, an obelisk dedicated to Christopher “Kit” Carson, who led military campaigns against Native people, also will be removed.

Webber was asked to speak at Thursday evening’s event following his announcement a day earlier that he would honor the groups’ requests to remove the monuments from city property.

“Freedom is not a noun. Freedom is a verb,” the mayor told the crowd. “Freedom is not something we have. It’s something we do. It’s something we practice or we risk losing it.”

He asked the crowd to “think about the long march to freedom that we’ve all been on; the people who have been lost over centuries to violence, bigotry, hatred across all parts of Northern New Mexico and the country; the recent deaths that we mourn, the people we have lost to hatred.”

In a statement issued ahead of the rally, Webber said, “The Mayor continues to call on all members of the community in Santa Fe to maintain the peace in our city; to reject expressions of anger that involve violence or hatred.

“The Mayor is asking our community to use this moment to engage in respectful dialog about our city’s past and prayerful reflection on our city’s future; and to embrace peace and reconciliation as a true fulfillment of the shared values of the people of Santa Fe,” the statement continued.

Webber also signed a “proclamation of emergency — civil unrest from institutional racism,” directing the city government to immediately remove the statute of de Vargas, which the city did at daybreak.

The resolution directs the city attorney and city manager to work with city staff “to begin the legal processes for removal” of the obelisk in the middle of the Plaza.


Pelican Lee of Santa Fe said she hasn’t been out of her home much because of the coronavirus pandemic but felt strongly about showing her support at Thursday’s protest against the obelisk on the Plaza.

The decision to remove the monuments has angered some local Hispanics.

A young Latino man who identified himself only as Diego G. offered a different perspective: “We’re resisting America’s long-standing tradition of white supremacy here,” he said. “I think it’s about what side of history we want to be on. It’s so important to show up and keep showing up. ...

“I don’t think of this as an attack on my history,” he added. “It’s a correcting of history that is inaccurate or not whole. I stand here with the victims of genocide, not the victors. And I would encourage my fellow Latinos to examine why we identify more with the colonizers than the colonized.”

“The monuments are not really what’s important,” Webber told the crowd. “What’s important is the space that’s created by removing the monuments so we can have the conversation we need to have.”

He added: “More important than any monument is our reconciliation as a people.”

He said the city will launch a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “It will be charged with exploring our painful past and our joyful future as we make peace among ourselves for a better future for our children and our grandchildren based on our shared values.”


A counterprotester holds a sign Thursday at the demonstration on the Plaza.

Nick Estes, a Red Nation co-founder, agreed the movement is about more than monuments.

That’s because, he said, “the systems of colonialism and colonization are still in place. You can’t just change the face of these systems and expect change.”

The Soldiers Monument, with an inscription saying it was dedicated in part to the “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians,” has long drawn controversy.

In the 1970s, an unidentified man wearing overalls climbed into the obelisk and chiseled the word “savage” away.

“He just did not like the word ‘savages’ of course,” the man’s daughter told the crowd.

“He’s a tall Native man. [He] gathered some friends, decided to put on construction worker clothes, a blond wig. And keep in mind he was 6-foot-5 and he basically said he went out there in broad daylight with his fiends, put some traffic cones, some tape and chipped it out. No one stopped him. They thought he was an official Santa Fe employee.”

“He passed away last year in February,” she added, “and he would be astounded that the obelisk is going down.”

Scott Wyland and Hannah Laga Abram of The New Mexican contributed to this report.

(38) comments

Vicente Roybal

Thank you Stefanie Beninato, Gracias hermano Orlando Baca

Orlando Baca

This is an excellent observation:

I am a descendant of individuals

who found a way to co-exist.

A Time for Reflection

by José Antonio Esquibel

June 2020

When works of art become a source of controversy, it is an opportunity for reflection and

education. This is the case with the call for the removal of a statute depicting don Juan de

Oñate in Alcalde and the La Jornada sculpture at the Museum of Albuquerque.

The narrative associated with this demand is one that views the Pueblo Indian people of

the past as victims and the arriving Europeans as victimizers. A closer look at New Mexico

history offers another narrative.

Many individuals with Hispano deep roots stretching back many centuries, like myself,

are descendants of people with roots in Europe and of any combination of indigenous

people of New Mexico’s past, including Pueblo Indians (Tewa, Tiwa, Tano, Towa, Keres,

Piro, Tompiro, Zuñi), Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Kiowa, Ute, and Comanche.

New Mexico 400-plus years of recorded history clearly documents many examples of

extended periods of cooperation and collaboration between Pueblo Indians and the small

number of Spanish settlers rather than instances of prolonged conflict.

Although around 200 soldiers arrived in New Mexico in 1598 in the company of Oñate,

many left and only about 50 soldiers, some with families, and about eight Franciscan

friars remained in 1609. These individuals were surrounded by thousands of Pueblos

Indians, as well as by nomadic bands of Apache and Navajo that preyed upon the Pueblo


New Mexico’s Spanish population consisted of 200 to 300 individuals throughout the first

half of the 1600s, growing to about 1,400 individuals by 1680.

How was it that such a small number of representatives of the Spanish government were

able to establish roots in New Mexico? At any time after the arrival of the Europeans, the

large Pueblo Indian population could have overcome and eliminated the settlers, or

forced them to leave the region.

The only way settlers were able to remain was that their presence was either accepted or

at least tolerated by a majority of Pueblo Indian leaders who saw some possible benefits

for their people.

The Pueblo Indian people as a whole were not helpless victims of oppression since there

simply were not enough Spanish soldiers to militarily subdue the entire population. In

fact, during the seventeenth century, the various Pueblo Indians nations when banded

together were the dominant military force. The Spanish soldiers may have had advance

weapons, but they never had overwhelming numbers.

Repeatedly and for many decades, after bands of Apache and Navajo raided Pueblo

communities, retaliation campaigns were organized consisting to 30 to 50 Spanish

soldiers and 300 to 600 Pueblo Indian warriors. Working in cooperation, these groups

would pursue the raiders in order to reclaim livestock and grain and to rescue captives.

These numerous campaigns are significant examples of the longstanding cooperative

relationship that was fostered between people of different cultural backgrounds.

Apache and Navajo raiders inflicted continually acts of violence against Pueblo Indians

and Spanish citizens throughout the 1600s to be joined by Comanche and Kiowa raiders

in the 1700s. Many lives were lost and numerous Pueblo Indian woman and children were

taken captive, most never returning to their own people.

Because of the political alliance with Pueblo Indian leaders, over the course of the 1600s

there developed a segment of the population of Spanish citizens with relatives among the

Pueblo Indians. For instance, Juana Domínguez was part Tiwa and part Spanish and

raised her children at Taos Pueblo and in the Villa de Santa Fe. Juana’s husband,

Domingo Luján, had a Keres Indian brother named ‘El Ollito.’ Thus, the children of Juana

and Domingo had relatives among the Keres and northern Tiwa people.

Ventura, a Zuñi Indian war captain, was the brother of Josefa de Hinojos, the wife of

Diego de Montoya and a common ancestor of the Montoya clan. Alonso Catiti, a Keres

Indian leader, was the brother of Captain Pedro Márquez.

The wife of Luis Tupatú of San Juan Pueblo was the niece of Captain Miguel Luján.

Tupatú was a leader of the 1680 Pueblo Indian uprising who later in 1692 negotiated

reconciliation with Governor don Diego de Vargas, allowing the restoration of Spanish

governance in New Mexico.

Are we descendants of “victims” and “victimizers” or are we descendants of individuals

who found a way to co-exist, even through some very challenging times?

Rather than pursuing a narrative of “us versus them,” what about acknowledging that

there were individuals of New Mexico’s past who contributed to the bridging of European

and indigenous cultures in New Mexico and relied on the better nature of their


In addition to Luis Tupatú, I can offer a short list of such individuals:

 Letoc, a leader at the pueblo of Teypana (Socorro), who provided Oñate and his

Spanish soldiers with an ample supply of maize in June 1598, which prompted the

Spaniards to designate the area as Socorro, relief.

 Captain Hernán Martín Serrano, the younger, whose mother was Doña Ines, a

Tano Indian woman who was taken from New Mexico in 1591 and returned in the

company of Oñate in 1598. The son of a Spanish soldier, Hernán was among the

earliest individuals of Spanish and Pueblo Indian ancestry, who operated a textile

shop in Santa Fe.

 Bartolomé de Ojeda, war captain of Keres Pueblo of Zia, who spoke Spanish and

believed that the best way to serve his people was as an ally of the Spaniards.

 Juan de Ye, Governor of Pecos, who had warned Francisco Gómez Robledo twenty

days in advance of the August 1680 Pueblo Indian uprising and in 1692 was

instrumental in negotiating peace with Governor Vargas and securing Pueblo

Indian allies.

 Captain Francisco Lucero de Godoy, an influential interpreter of the Tano

language, his “mother’s tongue.” His wife, Josefa López de Grijalva, saved the

statue of Santa Maria that today is in the Basilica of St. Francis is Santa Fe

 The wife of Luis Tupatú, whose desire to be reunited with her sister was an

apparent influence on her husband. Her sister left New Mexico in 1680 with the

fleeing Spanish citizens in the wake of the Pueblo Indian uprising to live at El Paso.

I invite others to identify more names of individuals of New Mexico’s past who strove

to bridge cultural differences.


José Antonio Esquibel is a New Mexico historian and genealogical researcher. He is co-author of

Juan Domínguez de Mendoza: Soldier and Frontiersman of the Spanish Southwest, 1627-1693 with

France V. Schols, Eleanor B. Adams, and Marc Simmons (UNM Press, 2012), a book that provides

an in-depth account the history of 17th

-century New Mexico. He is also author of the article,

“Coyota: Juana Domínguez, Woman between Two Cultures,” in El Palacio (Magazine of the

Museum of New Mexico), Fall 2018.

Jeff Varela

When are you people going to learn...Webber is a phony and opportunist. He has taken a crusader approach to righting the wrongs of the past. Get rid of this dud!

Jeff Varela

Webber looked like a lost lamb amongst the sheep. He has no freakin clue!



Who I/We are now

Is neither what I/We are bound to,

nor who I/We are destined to Be....

Scott Hauenstein

The offending monuments should be saved and preserved and their stories corrected. Just having a plaque which describes how they represented an aged belief system from another time is once again a blatant denial of facts. On Peralta's plaque it reads: "Instructions were that en-route Indians were not to be harmed and just prices were to be paid for all sustenance and help" I suppose that was true depending on which side of the sword you're on. The time for talking, debating and hand-wringing is over. Take em down, preserve them and tell the truth!

Jeff Varela

….and a partridge in a pear tree!

Leo Catelli

It's funny many of the white people interviewed or shown in photos are the cliche, washed-out hippie stereotypes of Santa Fe. I'd suggest the reporter interview some more middle-of-the-road and sensible types, but I guess it's possible they weren't there.

Mike Johnson

I am still in wonderment, after watching and listening to the anarchists at the Plaza, and all that has gone on the last few days, as to what exactly the ones declaring victory over the oppressors are gaining here in their lives. Will they be wealthier? Will they be happier? How exactly will life change for them when some old monuments and statues are removed? I don't get it, they need to look at all the place and street names in Santa Fe, all honor our past history, will they change all of that too? Zozobra, Kearny, Carson, DeVargas, Onate, Ft. Marcy, etc., etc., you have lots of work to do anarchists.....😂

Bonnie Cox

I am concerned since I live on Don Diego!

HRH Prince Michael Jauregui

Dr. Johnson, lest they forget the Smokey The Bear monument in beautiful Capitan.

After all, he was Brown, powerful and a native New Mexican.

kyle renfro

i am sure they will get to it and fabricate a story for its demise

kyle renfro

all destroyed by an old gringo, carpet bagger from back east

John McAndrew

Wonderful celebration last evening. Thanks and congratulations to the Pueblo women, Mayor Webber, and all the others who participated and led the event to begin the long conversation toward truth and reconciliation. Santa Fe has a lot of difficult, painful chapter in our long history, and not all of the conversations will be easy or comfortable. The trail was blazed by the hard work of forging a new cooperation by those who revised Fiesta a couple of years back. The status quo doesn't provide the good soil from which we hope to grow a better future for everyone; we have to do some weeding. Removing these monuments, declaring a truth and reconciliation commission, and declaring a state of emergency around white supremacy and other forms of systemic racial injustice are a great start. I look forward to seeing where the good faith discussions of strong-hearted people take us. I don't know of any city in America that has made a better start.

Jeff Varela

Oh yes...let's remove monuments and tell the truth. Learn the history first!

Nicoletta Munroe

I read that the obelisk in the Santa Fe Plaza is a Civil War era, 1868, monument to battle and was dedicated possibly to Kit Carson, an anti Native person. I read that in the year 1974, the City Council tried to remove the obelisk from the Plaza yet could not because of the designation of the Plaza as a National Historic Place. I read that obelisks are first found in Egypt and may symbolize the sun god Ra. Obelisks were designed to study the sun and constellations. I look forward to a discussion of post-colonialism in college when the College of Santa Fe campus re-opens with a department of Critical Theory. The mayor is correct, in my opinion, to start the discussion of the removal of statuary and forms that represent colonialism, however, the legal process is a discussion that requires transparency and accountability. The students need to learn the legal process not just the merit of voice, signage, and protest.

David Cartwright

"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." --George Orwell in "1984" aka 2020

Robert Bartlett

The end of Spanish and Indian Markets now seems inevitable. The lack of struggle, tension and historical perspective will render the art indistinguishable. Santa Fe will be the city same.

Jeff Varela

End all cultural celebrations. Including the International Folk Art celebration.

Comment deleted.
HRH Prince Michael Jauregui

"...and where The Spirit of The Lord is, there is Liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Let not your heart be troubled, Dr. Johnson: D-grade Anarchists, de facto Communists and all political purveyors of Deception shall not prevail in God's Country.

Lupe Molina

To the handful of curmudgeons in the comments, where were you last night? Your brave keyboard crusaders but you are outnumbered by people actually willing to show up last night. That's why the statues were removed. There are more of us. And we're actually willing to show up.

Mike Johnson

We who object to anarchists will not become ones ourselves, we will vote and remove them and those who support them.

Orlando Baca

We shall see. We have been patient to your insults and outrages. That is coming to a fast end.

Dan Three

"The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth." Orwell

Lupe Molina

You know about books and the internet, right?

Mike Johnson

Books have been burned before if the mob wants that, and the internet is easily erased by the mobs.

Stefanie Beninato

I do not support systemic racism and have worked toward equality my whole life but the removal of the statute and two obelisks is whitewashing (no pun intended) history. How can we talk about reconciliation when we have no visuals to show what we are reconciling to? And Webber wants to make national news like Tim Keller did in ABQ. There is absolutely no reason to trust Webber. And now we find out that the rush to judgement resulted in damage to a national and state historic monument. Great!!! That and the lack of accurate responses to Public Records requests will keep us all in the dark about the machinations of Webber's machine.

BTW if you listened to the Planning Commissions discussion of short term rentals you will see the city adding to the confusion (are individuals limited to 1 short term rental--does it have to be in a natural person's name; how does the ADU requirements play in) and still not enforcing despite having two computer programs--one telling them who is registered and one telling them about unpermitted STRs. If as "Director" Issacson says the city has had these programs operational for 18 months, why no enforcement? Look good above all else is the message we got from Webber this week but do NOTHING to help the welfare and health of the city's residents--like actually enforce the mask ordinance and social distancing at outdoor restaurants or fill in some potholes or open the rec centers....

HRH Prince Michael Jauregui

Ms. Beninato, Today you made a great point.

Richard Reinders

I agree with your first part, but Webber has something up his sleeve , this whole process doesn't make sense, he is going to give a lot of "Who Shot John" excuses like he was worried someone would damage them , well he should place a cop on them so don't listen to excuses and he will have to look nationally for a job he will never work in NM again

Andrew Lucero

Reconciliation? Is that some kind of sick joke? All I saw was the sowing of seeds of hate and division.

KT Rivera

I agree with Andrew Lucero. The mayor and the three sisters collective brought hate back to the City of Santa Fe yesterday.

Richard Reinders

All that was accomplished was Webber drove a wedge between brother and sister , two cultures that existed here long before his liberal progressive kind came here. All I can say is shame on him and the city council for not stopping this madness.

Alan Courtney

So you support systemic racism? Maybe it is time to reevaluate your belief structure.

Leo Catelli

Someone having a different perspective that is critical or just skeptical of the approach to all of this doesn't automatically make them a supporter of systemic racism.

We aren't living in a truly democratic nation if people on either side are unable to hear out or accept that not everyone subscribes to their specific beliefs. I used to assume far right people were the only one's guilty of this close mindedness, but Santa Fe is an excellent example of how people on the far left have the exact type of "my way or the highway" type thinking. Anybody who disagrees is wrong and supporting racism. That is incredibly lazy and "black and white" thinking.

Richard Reinders

I am European and married to both Spanish and Native American blood, so call me what you want, it is how he did it without showing respect to the Spanish and Native Americans by not inviting them to the table. Pueblo Governor Lavato expressed he did not want this to happen to Onate because it was his history , he probably felt the same about De Vargas. When you expose who you are instead of hiding behind a fake persona then your comment may mean something to somebody.

Jeff Varela

Systemic racism....that's a new one. Reevaluate your truth of being.

HRH Prince Michael Jauregui

Again, a most excellent -and Truthful- observation, sir.

Jeff Varela

Good observation and comment Mr. Reinders.

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