Q&A with the candidates for mayor

Ron Trujillo

The president and one of the board members of the Caballeros deVargas have resigned amid infighting within the fraternal organization and an alleged threat by the rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

At issue is whether the religious and cultural group should send a letter to Mayor Alan Webber and city councilors asking for the return of a controversial statue of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas to Cathedral Park or to the organization, which commissioned the artwork.

Webber’s unilateral decision last year to remove the statue from the downtown park for “safekeeping” ahead of planned protests has been a sore point for members of the Caballeros, some of whom consider the removal an attack on Spanish culture.

But how the organization should respond has sparked discord among its members.

“It has become blatantly apparent that I am not the person to lead this organization’s goals and priorities,” Ron Trujillo, a former city councilor and now former president of the Caballeros, wrote Wednesday in his letter of resignation. “One week there is agreement, the next week complete dissension depending on who is in attendance.”

The friction came to a head Tuesday during the group’s general membership meeting during discussion of the proposed letter to Webber and the City Council, Trujillo wrote.

“From the start, there was opposition to the letter as members began asking for points of order as to what can be voted on and so on,” Trujillo wrote, adding he wanted everyone to have the opportunity to be heard. “Unfortunately, the meeting got out of hand and bickering went back and forth between those [who supported] sending the letter to the mayor and those opposed.”

Trujillo, who became president of the organization in October, did not return a message seeking comment. But he wrote in the letter that the Rev. Timothy A. Martinez, the cathedral rector, jumped into the fray during the meeting. Martinez “made it very clear” that if the Caballeros sent the letter “during an election year,” the Catholic Church “would not tolerate this and ramification might result,” Trujillo wrote.

“The ramification the Church was threatening was our beloved La Conquistadora would be taken away from the Caballeros,” he wrote, referring to a Marian statue brought to Santa Fe from Spain in the 1620s that was later part of de Vargas’ expedition to resettle the city after the bloody Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

De Vargas believed the Spanish Madonna had answered his prayers to retake the city without bloodshed, giving birth to the Fiesta de Santa Fe to give thanks for her role in the reconquest. The Caballeros, who are dedicated to the memory of de Vargas, protect and care for the Marian statue, also known as Our Lady of Peace, which is kept in the cathedral.

“I will not go down in history as the president who lost La Conquistadora as that is the direction that the church will take if the Caballeros send the letter,” Trujillo wrote, adding he believes the letter should be sent.

Martinez was unavailable for comment Thursday, said Carlos Martinez, the cathedral’s pastoral associate of administration.

In addition to Trujillo, board member Gilbert Romero also resigned.

A 19-year member of the organization and a past president, Romero wrote in his resignation that the last three years have been a “horrible” loss for the Caballeros. He cited the removal of the de Vargas statue — “taken out like it was trash” — as well as the end of the Entrada, a decades-old pageant on the Santa Fe Plaza that some considered offensive and revisionist history.

“Members that support Webber … are [traitors] to the Caballeros,” Romero wrote.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(37) comments

Ramon David

This is how you take down statues and monuments: Follow the legal process.

It is much less divisive:


Steve Martinez

The Caballeros deVargas are the guardians of La Conquistadora, the patron of the Church in Santa Fe. If they want to remain the guardians, they must adhere to the wishes of the Rector. Father Tim knows that the Church is not to influence your vote, they can only encourage that you vote.

P.J. Catanach

I am a born and raised Santa Fean. I am amazed at the divisiveness of the last year. I understand that the Pandemic has placed a great deal of strain on all of us. Many of our heartfelt traditions have been cast aside. The Processions in June, Fiestas last year, and as far as I can tell, we will not have a Fiesta this year. We are shaken to the core by losing so much so quickly. Then, to top off everything, our Plaza, the Center of the Santa Fe Universe is assaulted by some folks who don't even know what it stood for. All this infighting is only giving credence to those who seek to divide. We need to stop, take a breath, and try and figure out how to come together. I come from a family that has members of the Caballeros, and the Fiesta Court. I also know that it is a minority who are trying to rabble rouse the majority. It is sickening.

Kiki Martinez

It makes me very sad to hear of these resignations in the Caballeros DeVargas group. It was plain wrong for Webber to sneakily remove the DeVargas statue and then hide it in someone's back yard. Webber has created a huge divide in Santa Fe and has shown ultimate disrespect to the local Hispanic community and I find it appalling and very offensive that Pastor Tim Martinez is bowing down to the

Webber swamp and going as far as threatening the Hispanic community! Pastor Tim Martinez should not be involving himself in any type of political fight, but should be concentrating on making himself more available to the people and living up to his oath of being a priest. Webber needs to go - until that happens the divide will continue to grow.

Richard Reinders

Webber is counting on the fact that Hispanics don’t show up for Mayor elections, they vote for Gov and President but not Mayors, I heard this from Jeff Apodaca on the radio today. Please prove him wrong in this case.

MP Paul

I’m deeply saddened by the continued division Mayor Webber’s actions have caused in our community. Not only has Webber displayed deeply flawed decision making with the obelisk and Vargas statue, but it turns out that he’s a failure at managing our community’s services too.

It’s apparent that our community needs to come together, vote, and find city leadership that is capable of greater wisdom in representing Santa Fe’s diverse and rich cultural heritage AND is competent at running our community’s services. Webber has failed and our community can’t withstand another term of his calamitous and bumbling leadership.

Andrew Lucero

Just another sideshows in the ongoing obelisk saga… Personally, I think it’s foolish for the church to walk into this political minefield. They should not interfere with the Caballeros deVargas asking for their statue back. I agree with Richard, it doesn’t matter if it’s an election year or not, it’s their statue and if they want it back, it should be returned to them. (Where they choose to put it in the future, is a conversation of another day). I also find it strange that it took this long for the Caballeros to even consider asking for it back. They should have demanded its immediate return the same day Webber illegally removed it. Or at the very least, the same day they found it in someone’s backyard. God knows, they had plenty of time to recover it.

What this ugly cultural skirmish shows us, is that the wound is still very fresh and the divide is very wide. As much as Stephanie likes to tout that the CHART process is the answer. It isn’t. Anything with Webber’s finger prints on it is not trusted nor will ever be accepted by a very large percentage of Hispanics. For most local Hispanics, there will be no healing or reconciliation until Webber is gone

Richard Reinders

It won’t be accepted by a lot of non Hispanics as well, I agree CHART is not what it is made to be seen. IMO It is a formal way for Webber to finish what he started and spread the blame to the participants while removing all things Hispanic especially the culture. If you want to be on the most hated list join this culture cancel org.

Stefanie Beninato

Well, Andrew, then what is the point of the restorative justice that the DA is using for those who brought the obelisk down? Are those with your view re needing Webber gone before healing can begin going to be some of the eight in the restorative justice process? That sounds like a losing situation....maybe Webber needs to be at the restorative justice process to hear directly about the community upset. As a historian, I would have liked to express my feelings of loss over the obelisk too to these vandals.

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

Actually Andrew, the request to have the statue back was immediate. The Mayor told Ron the day after it was taken that he removed it so it wouldn’t be damaged. When it was found in the contractors front yard (not back, I was there) Councilor Rivera was called and started looking at what could be done to have the statue returned to its spot or given back to the Caballeros that gifted it to the City. This process like everything at the City under this administration has been slow moving. That is why after months of discussion the letter Father Tim halted with his threat occurred. Election year or not, we must hold our leaders accountable and that includes our religious leaders as well.

Tammy Tapia

I agree totally!! We need to come together and heal. I remember Father George saying that the Church should not tell the people how to vote or even get into a conversation about politics. This is so sad!! But we can still have the Indian Market right? Will they let the Spanish Market be held this year? Just a thought.

Rob Morlino

Humans are the practitioners of culture, not statues. While they may be important symbols, they have recently served mostly to distract us from real issues of cultural preservation. While we argue over statues, young people leave this city everyday -- many of them the latest descendants of Spanish settlers -- because they cannot find reasonable housing, education, or employment opportunities. If we want to preserve any sort of culture, we have to incentivize the inheritors of that culture to value it. The longer this argument continues, the quicker these objects become archeology.

Samuel Herrera

This is the same church that wants to refuse communion to Biden?

Alexandra Lynch

"Martinez “made it very clear” that if the Caballeros sent the letter “during an election year,” the Catholic Church “would not tolerate this and ramification might result,” Rev. Martinez needs education on the separation of church and state.

John Cook

I'm sorry to be blunt but you have separation of church and state exactly backward. And the Rev. Martinez understands it.

Steve Martinez

I bet that Padre is educated enough to know that the word separation isn't in the Constitution.

Tammy Tapia


Stefanie Beninato

It seems that these Hispanic based organizations just want to keep the focus on the obelisk and this statute. Don't they engage in philanthropic activities--aren't they getting ready to engage in the CHART process? My understanding, for example, is that the Union Protectiva is supposed to help with burials--its webpage lists that as its biggest duty--I know that Rosario Cemetery could use a ton of help with overgrown graves and damaged and removed gravemarkers. And I have to LOL if Ron Trujillo--consummate politician---cannot gain majority support in his own organization. It seems typical of politicians--blame someone else--the Church in this instance. Then on the other hand, the Church does not want to be politicized except when it comes to having the US bishops voting not to allow Biden to receive communion because he is upholding his oath of office to enforce ALL the laws of the US including the women's right to choose

Ernest Green

Mr Romero quite honestly is a man of substance and stature. It captures my attention that he was conflicted to the point of stepping away from the Caballeros. There is a way through this period, to affect change but also retain the soul and culture of this community. Difficult work is being done by many, stay the course and persevere.

Charlotte Rowe

It belongs in a museum where the full history can be explained, where it is not implying universal public glorification of genocide. Moving it to a more appropriate place won't erase history or destroy anyone's self-assigned legacy. But we are supposed to be improving, not regressing, and that implies changes. Moving a hunk of metal doesn't hurt anyone or change their history, although it appears to bring up things some prefer not to acknowledge. Replace it with something uniquely New Mexican that ALL citizens find enjoyable and inspiring (or at least not offensive or oppressive). A horse. A Flamenco dancer. A Kachina. A sopapilla. A kachina dancing Flamenco on a horse while eating a sopapilla. Maybe a beautiful rendition of a Jemez or Santa Clara pot (I LOVE the ones at the entrance of the ABQ airport). The statue will be a great addition to a history museum, and its replacement would be a great opportunity to support some of the very talented local artists/sculptors that Santa Fe is proud to call its own.

Janet Lucks

So agree Charlotte apologizes in advance if I offend some....but of all the beautiful public art, statues in Santa Fe that obelisk looked sorely out of place and the conflict surrounding it only made less attractive...in my opinion.

Lee Vigil

There needs to be reconciliation, but there also needs to be truth. The history of this place is much more complicated than what a lot of folks here acknowledge. There has been historical loss, victimhood, reemergence, and cooperation among all parties to this issue. I hope that as a result of this truth-seeking that folks find something that at least resembles something like the truth. However, when I read the comments in this paper, I don't read much evidence of truth-seeking. What I do read are a lot of historical simplifications and intellectually lazy arguments. There are a lot of books out there that cover DeVargas and 1692. I suggest that folks out there demanding reconciliation and truth read some, but judging by the comments (genocide, really? DeVargas's legacy is far from genocide.) I read by seemingly well-meaning folks, it's clear that they haven't done the work, the research, to understand or appreciate the history of this place.

I also increasingly doubt that the CHART process, like alternative sentencing or restorative justice, will be a constructive process. But I do agree with the person who said that peace will return when Webber is out of office. Why should anybody trust this guy? He lies constantly and he can't provide basic government services, either on time or at all.

Lupe Molina

Lee, I've done the work. And if you can't accept that what the Crown (and plenty of other groups) did to indigenous people was genocide, then we never will get reconciliation. It's amazing to me the denial we face of that historic fact.

Lee Vigil

Check this paper out on DeVargas's 1692 'reconquest': http://www1.udel.edu/LAS/Vol15-1Petrakos.html. It's a long read, but worth the investment. The history's complicated. Native American alliances that were unanimous in their goal to expel the Spanish in 1680 had fallen apart by 1692. Fighting and raiding among the various tribes in the intervening years had prompted the fallouts. By 1692, various tribes had allied with the Spanish and supported their return. DeVargas was able to retake Santa Fe with a regiment of only 50 Spanish and 100 Indian allies, mostly by negotiation as far as I can tell. Lots of details here ... but hardly genocidal.

DeeDee Downs

Excellent. Thank you for some common sense and calling for a true celebration of diversity.

Kim Griego-Kiel

It would not be difficult to put this statue in the museum of history with a description of both sides of the historical content. This is the reconciliation needed.

John Cook


Earl James

Excellent resolution! Perhaps initially make it a temporary exhibit- 6 months or so - than perhaps the caballeros and others will see that it is getting More attention than being in the park.

Richard Reinders

What does it being an election year have to do with wanting to retrieve the de Vargas statue from Webber? Why is Rev. Timothy A. Martinez flexing the churches muscles in defense of Webbers illegal removal of the Statue without the City Council approval. Why would the Church think sitting in someone's back yard or who knows where is a better place for the statue? This article leaves you with more questions than answers.

John Cook

The Church is not going to interfere with the civil authorities in an election year. The Church has learned and improved from 500 years ago. Bravo!

Vince Czarnowski

Hopefully, Richard, those unanswered questions will be answered through more investigation. You are correct. The church shouldn't be involved in any of this. Sounds like Webber is behind that in some way.

Stefanie Beninato

Yeah, Vince, Webber who is Jewish would have a lot of influence over the Catholic Church---any thing that you can hang on him, you will. Any facts to back this "opinion"?

Earl James

What I said above.

Diane Gonzales

I found it startling that the rector would threaten so brazenly. Not only is the Church getting into the election but seems to be assisting in the division that plagues us.

Samuel Herrera

Yes, the church is voting for Weber.

John Cook

First, this is exactly what the Church is not doing. It insisted on not involving itself in a civil election. Which is smart. However, if you were right instead of wrong it would mean the Catholic Church is supporting our Jewish mayor. I would be glad to see the Church take such an ecumenical view but it isn't and you are still wrong.

Mike Johnson

True Mr. Herrera. The church and Webber are allies in most all ways, and operate the same, they are political in all things, hypocritical, incompetent, divisive, and polarizing forces destroying the society and community of this area.

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