City Historian Valerie Rangel at the Acequia Madre late last month. Rangel says she’s ready to help unpack some of Santa Fe’s difficult history.

There may never have been a more important time for Santa Fe to appoint a new city historian.

Valerie Rangel steps into the position at a key moment for the city, as it attempts to address public art and cultural woes through its newly minted Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process, commonly known as CHART.

Though city historian is a role that’s been largely honorary and typically under the radar, Rangel, 44, said she sees the position evolving against the backdrop of simmering tensions over race, history and public monuments.

And despite the controversies, she said she’s ready to help unpack some of Santa Fe’s difficult history.

“I really wanted to tell hidden truths and share knowledge that should be known and uplift the voices of those communities,” she said.

Rangel, who came to New Mexico in 1999 and to Santa Fe in 2007, said she didn’t plan to participate as a facilitator in the upcoming conversations under the CHART umbrella but feels she has something to both add and gather from the process’ community engagement efforts.

There’s much to discuss: Emotions spilled over on Indigenous Peoples Day 2020, when a group of protestors pulled the Soldiers’ Monument — which has long drawn the ire of some Native Americans for a plaque that once included the words “savage Indians” — from its pedestal in the middle of the Plaza. That incident was preceded a few months earlier by a controversial decision to remove a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas from Cathedral Park.

The city has gone a little over a year without a historian. Andrew Lovato was last appointed to the position in 2018. Before him, Ana Pacheco held the role until 2017. It’s a two-year commitment, and pays $5,000 a year.

City Arts and Culture Department Director Pauline Kanako Kamiyama said if there had been a city historian around at the time the obelisk fell, his or her expertise would have been put to good use. But she added she didn’t want to put the pressure of addressing such a complex issue on one individual’s shoulders.

Kanako-Kamiyama said Rangel’s proposal to examine Santa Fe with a “bird’s-eye lens,” was “unique” and led to her selection.

With the role goes a personal project. Rangel said she intends to work with ArcGIS, a mapping and data visualization software, that will help create a story map that looks at the different layers of Santa Fe’s history, including its economic, spiritual, architectural and environmental background.

“I think in a visual format sometimes, and I think if I had something to offer, it’s not only in history but being creative as well,” Rangel said. “Providing hidden truths in an accessible manner, that is what I want to bring.”

She said CHART may help inform that project.

“I don’t have any control over the CHART process,” Rangel said. “But I do know what I can bring in my role as city historian, and that is a diversity of perspectives.”

Kanako Kamiyama said she expects Rangel to participate in CHART for the first year and gather information and provide feedback, before moving onto her mapping project, which would seem to tie together the threads of her background.

Rangel earned a university studies degree with a concentration on freshwater studies and cultural anthropology from the University of New Mexico, as well as a master’s degree in natural resources and environmental planning. She also worked as an archivist for the state Records Center and Archives.

Kanako Kamiyama said CHART, which many hope will result in a decision on what will replace the obelisk, is about a more complex set of issues than just monuments and public art — and will require open dialogue to help address a variety of concerns.

“It’s really about the sharing of our stories and how we define ‘our,’ ” Kanako Kamiyama said.

The process is expected to begin later this fall after a group of meeting facilitators are selected and trained. Last Thursday was the final day to submit applications to be a facilitator. The process is expected to last at least a year.

With the help of community participation, CHART is expected to result in a set of recommendations for the City Council on various cultural issues and topics, including monuments.

Rangel said she met with Artful Life Executive Director Valerie Martinez — who heads the group that will guide the CHART process — to discuss the yearlong plan for the effort. She’s offered her help but said she mostly plans to listen and learn.

“Equity can’t happen without justice,” Rangel said, “and in order for us to have a system level change, you really need to have an honest dialogue and that comes from an understanding of our lived experiences.”

(12) comments

Juan Chavez

Our Mayor, Weber, is the one who established CHART; he is the same one who stupidly removed a statue from Cathedral Park without notice, and who's City employees bungled the issues surrounding the obelisk removal from the Plaza. It would seem to many that as the State capital, a central city for the indigenous, and having the longest Hispanic continuous history in the USA - a group of representatives from those cultures could be easily formed. Santa Fe is home to longtime leaders of those cultures as well as White (no Texans, please) and immigrant (Mexico, Central America). Weber is using the typical tactics of the inept: form a committee and/or initiate a "review".

Mike Johnson

The real issue here is whether or not this new city historian can be unbiased, objective, and nonpartisan. Of course I doubt she is any of those things, so no progress will be made.

Richard Reinders

She also needs to remember she serves the people not the Mayor and that goes for everyone elected and appointed.

Mark Blackburn

One of the reasons I sold my home in Santa Fe in March and moved elsewhere is because of the severe left leaning progressive agenda now permeating the culture of Fanta Se.

rodney carswell


Mark Ortiz

I know I don't speak for all Santa Feans but I'm ecstatic we were one of the reasons and I wish you and yours all the happiness Mark.

Barry Rabkin

I thought that Santa Fe was always left-of-center politically. However, it remains a wonderful place to visit and to live.

Mike Johnson

Not always, the original Santa Fe Ring were staunch Republicans.


mercedes Diener

Amen. My family has been here for 12+ generations, and I'm ready to get out myself.

Richard Reinders

Again CHART has everyone but the Pueblo leaders to discuss their feelings about monuments and culture. My guess is the Pueblo has no problem with the culture in Santa Fe and how it has evolved , because they are intertwined in the culture and have settled grievance's as they have evolved. Until I have heard from the Pueblo leadership this is a dead issue for me. IMO Webber is using this as an excuse to push his culture canceling agenda not solve an issue.

Stefanie Beninato

So far, Richard, there have been no discussions. The major facilitators were chosen. I believe they are in the process of choosing facilitators which could include pueblo people and, of course, pueblo people are encouraged to participate in CHART. Please stop spreading false information based on your intense personal dislike of Webber.

Richard Reinders

I am entitled to an opinion in my world, and many have the same opinion.

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