The city of Santa Fe’s plan to address controversial monuments and other public art is finally getting off the ground more than a year after Mayor Alan Webber called for the review and nine months after the downtown Plaza’s centerpiece, an obelisk dedicated to Civil War soldiers, was toppled by protesters.

But the process known as CHART is already facing criticism, including over a consultant hired to lead the effort.

City councilors approved a $254,000 contract last week with the Albuquerque-based firm Artful Life to facilitate its Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process, kicking off what is expected to be 10 months of group discussions.

Webber said about 300 people and organizations have signed up to participate, and he has reached out to other community organizations, including the Catholic clergy, the Spanish fraternal organization Caballeros De Vargas and the NAACP.

“There really is an open opportunity for folks to participate,” Webber said. “That is why I have been speaking to a broad cross section of Santa Fe. I have spoken to the leadership of the Caballeros, the leadership of the Fiesta Council. I think there is a lot of individuals and a lot of people in Santa Fe who want to see a unified community.”

Several community members raised concerns about comments made by Artful Life Founding Director Valerie Martinez about her Native American background during a City Council meeting Wednesday. Some of the critics argued Martinez’s characterization of her heritage gave a false impression of Indigenous representation.

Martinez, a Santa Fe native, has said she took a 23andMe DNA test that found she not only has Hispanic heritage but also Indigenous background on her mother’s side. She said she knew of the lineage before she took the test.

“I am mixed blood,” Martinez said. “This is who I am, as most people who are from New Mexico are.”

Martinez clarified during Wednesday’s meeting she has never claimed to be a part of any Indigenous community.

Carrie Wood, a member of the Santa Fe Indigenous Center’s board and the Navajo Nation, said during public comments at the meeting she had reached out to Martinez about the problem of using 23andMe results as a basis for her claim.

Wood said she’s been discussing the issue with her tribal government.

Karen Buller, chairwoman of the Santa Fe Indigenous Center board and a member of the Comanche Nation, said an interview Monday that Native American community members she has spoken with continue to take issue with Martinez’s comments characterizing her heritage.

Buller called the comments “odd,” but said she appreciated Martinez’s willingness to address the issue publicly.

“As far as the community, the Native American community wants our city officials and contractors to make an effort to hear us and understand us, and we don’t want people to insinuate they know what we think and know what we want,” Buller said.

Martinez said that kind of feedback was important to her and Artful Life.

The CHART process, based on a similar framework in Albuquerque, was approved in January to help the city address monuments after a year in which the Soldiers Monument on the Plaza was destroyed during an Indigenous Peoples Day rally, a Don Diego de Vargas statue was removed from Cathedral Park and efforts were made to remove an obelisk dedicated to Kit Carson that stands outside a federal building.

The destruction of the Soldiers Monument, which long had created controversy over an inscription dedicated to soldiers who died in battle with “savage Indians,” has faced legal pushback from Union Protectiva de Santa Fe, which bills itself as one of the oldest Spanish cultural organizations in the city.

The organization is suing the city of Santa Fe and Webber to force the monument’s reparation. In the meantime, the lawsuit calls for an injunction on any art at the Plaza until the lawsuit can be heard.

Union Protectiva de Santa Fe President Virgil Vigil declined to comment due to the lawsuit.

Jenice Gharib, Artful Life’s co-founder, said while the group doesn’t have an answer now, she expects dialogue to lead to some kind of solution for the obelisk.

“We do want the community to come up with ways to move forward,” Gharib said. “I think that is the first part, the truth. … It is dialogue. The second is reconciliation; take action.”

Ron Trujillo, who recently stepped down as president of the fraternal organization Caballeros DeVargas over a decision to send a letter to Webber requesting the return of the de Vargas statue, said he’s concerned about the end result CHART will bring.

“As much as they say they are going to do this or do that, in my opinion this is already a done deal,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo made an erroneous claim that Artful Life was involved in Albuquerque’s reconciliation process, which Martinez denied during Wednesday’s meeting.

Martinez also pushed back against a claim she was involved in the decision to end the Entrada at Fiesta de Santa. Martinez said she became involved in the process long after the decision was made to end the annual tradition, a reenactment of de Vargas’ reconquest of Santa Fe.

Webber said CHART’s outcome will be based on the community discussions.

“We are about to embark on a community dialogue, and its outcomes will be determined by the participation of the people from across our community,” Webber said.

Webber added he expects the conversation to include statues that may not exist yet as well as the ones that do.

“Where are the statues dedicated to farmers or teachers or nurses?” Webber questioned. “The ones dedicated to healers? So many are devoted to generals. People who won battles of some kind get a statue. But Santa Fe, the cultural interplay that is the source of our strength was really based on faith and family and farming and shared values.”

Webber added he hoped CHART would bring in more than just members of the Hispanic and Indigenous communities.

Martinez said Artful Life plans to issue an open call for CHART team members after the city’s agreement with the group is finalized.

She hopes to have the first official CHART event in September, she added.

(32) comments

Ralph Arellanes

Lets be totally honest here. This CHART is being set up by Webber to serve the needs of Webber and his cronies. to the community, CHART stands for Chasing Hispanics Away Remove Them!! Webber cannot be a part of the solution to a problem he led to create.

Joe Brownrigg

No one is chasing anyone away. How about you being a part of the solution?

Alan Courtney

Will the Confederate monument in the VA Cemetery be part of this review?

Vicente Roybal

So Valerie Martinez takes a DNA test and find Indigenous blood...most every Spanish claimed person and Native share the same blood. Natives are fully aware of this as they submit blood test to receive their tribal enrolment card. Local people have been intermarrying for hundreds of years. CHART that.

Barbara Harrelson

My comment is about the New Mexican's decision to use a photo of Mayor Webber for this article. We see a lot of him. Why not Valerie Martinez who is a key person in the story?

KT Rivera

Clarity is needed on how members of the public can sign up to be active participants or facilitators. The only sign up currently is receive 'email updates' on the CHART progress. There appears to be secrecy in how facilitators and members are chosen to participate.

Vince Czarnowski

Webber, you are not fooling anyone with this outrageously expensive charade! Anybody who is a true Santa Fean realizes this man needs to be removed from office ASAP!

Lynn Osborne

My sentiment as well. Webber had made a business deal out of ruining Santa Fe into disrepair of roads and parks, ugly, costly, non-affordable housing projects, inadequate law enforcement , massive misspending on “committees”, and self-glorification. Do not make the mistake of costing this man back into a second term.

Maria Bautista

Well said, he has been a disaster.

Khal Spencer

23 and Me tells someone what their genetic linkage happens to be. Doesn't mean much about whether one is familiar with a culture. Not sure why someone would bring that up. Smacks of the comments of a certain U.S. Senator from Massachusetts that backfired on her.

brett kokinadis

$254,00 for nonsense Mayor Alan Webber? Is Valerie Martinez from Artful Life a friend of yours? CHART is your way to claim not to have made any decisions and to destroy Santa Fe's history, culture, and values. You're fooling no one!

Richard Reinders

I listened to V Martinez at the City Council meeting and know she has already formed an opinion on the Spanish Culture and will lack objectivity or neutrality, Webber has done a good job of stacking the deck to his objective of homogenizing all the cultures of Santa Fe. If there is a discussion it will be for show and show only.

Stefanie Beninato

What exactly did Ms Martinez say that makes you "know" she has alreeady formed an opinion on Spanish culture. What Spanish culture are you referencing--one from Spain or are we talking about the Hispanic culture here today formed over centuries and often in relative isolation to the mother land's culture?

Miguel Gabaldon

Stephanie, if you watch the YouTube video of the council meeting you will hear Ms. Martinez state how she feels about Spanish colonizers’ actions at approximately 6:41:20 of the video. You also can hear Ms. Martinez’s response about how her biases would impact the chart process at approximately 5:47:30 of the video. I guess only time will tell how this will all work out.

Richard Reinders

Thanks Miguel, [thumbup][thumbup]

Miguel Gabaldon

Stephanie, I have always done my best to not sow seeds of divisiveness, and to the contrary, I am only providing information that was spoken by Ms. Martinez herself. The part of the statement that she makes that is of concern to me is the use of the word “abhorred”. Per Merriam-Webster, the definition of abhor is “ to regard with extreme repugnance : to feel hatred or loathing for”. I’m not sure if Ms. Martinez carries guilt, as you say, but instead, as she stated carefully in her own words, she feels hatred or loathing towards her Spanish ancestors for their actions.

Again, I look forward to having this process started, to being able to participate in the process, and to seeing what results come of this process.

Have a good day Stephanie.

Lupe Molina

Whats wrong with forming an opinion if it's an informed one.

Stefanie Beninato

You know, Miguel, for someone who proclaims we should get along, you sow seeds of divisiveness. Ms Martinez in a very slick way had a presentation that explained her claims to indigenous roots and to Hispanic roots. Her personal feeling is that she carries guilt for the actions of her Hispanic ancestors against indigenous groups. How does this shape the process? IMHO--probably not much. The facilitators will shape the process by determining the process--here they say art will help people open up and discuss the events/hurt feelings. I would be more worried that the team of facilitators who have yet to be picked lack the skills to keep the discussion/process moving forward in a positive collaborative way then that the leads are going to diss Hispanic culture. IMHO there was nothing in Ms Martinez's presentation that indicated that--but you see what you want to see.

Lupe Molina

Do you even live here?

Maria Bautista

Valerie Martinez is cocked and ready to go? NOT. She doesn't even have a team together?

mark Coble

A twenty foot tall statue of George Floyd. If you disagree...yep, you are racist! Can be no discussion or you are...yep, racist. We need to honor this great American!

Jeff Varela

"City councilors approved a $254,000 contract last week with the Albuquerque-based firm Artful Life to facilitate its Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process, kicking off what is expected to be 10 months of group discussions." More than a quarter million $ to address an issue that Webber perpetrated, that could've been addressed by local citizens from all heritages. This "Mayor" is a complete disaster!

David Romero

The only conversation that needs to happen is to return the obelisk to its rightful place.

Joseph Tafoya


Stefanie Beninato

It seems that those who want to continue the divisiveness are sure that the outcome is a done deal. I think the facilitators were clear that it is not they who will determine the outcome but the participants of the process---so please stop whining and participate--let's at least give the process a chance....And no, I was not happy with the RFP. It was extensive (65 pages) and made it sound like you had to have the full team in place when in fact it was only the main team members that were needed--maybe that is why the city only got two applications....

Joe Brownrigg

Stefanie, in the middle of this muddle, I agree with you.

The primary shortcoming of Mayor Webber in all this has been his tardiness.

The CHART process has begun. Let's get behind it and stop whining...whining will only create the outcomes you don't want. The word is Forward.

Barry Rabkin

No, the primary shortcoming of Mayor Webber is puling the Santa Fe police away from the criminal thugs who took down the obelisk.

Joe Brownrigg

If he had acted, instead of wasting time, the monument would not have been attacked and, therefore the police would not have been there, and, finally, they would not have been pulled back (which was a tactical choice, backed with reasons, not a policy decision/non-decision). So the PRIMARY shortcoming was his tardiness in acting. (Even he has admitted this!)

Comment deleted.
Joe Brownrigg

You have just explained why you no longer hold public office. It's your way or the highway.

There are four major cultures here in Santa Fe...and several smaller ones. NO ONE is out to destroy your culture. That is political posturing. Please allow a diversity of cultures.

Comment deleted.
Don Ric

A truly exemplary "Hold My Beer" post by Mr. Trujillo, who already receives an inexplicable amount of ink from the New Mexican.

Paragraph One: Start with sophomoric ad hominem insult.

Paragraph Two: Insult mayor (who you still can't accept roundly kicked your butt three years ago) and dredge up the tired 400 year trope.

Paragraph Three: Blame the mayor again for whatever and repeat that oh so clever play on the name thing that he and his wife seem to have suddenly become so fond of.

Paragraph Four: Epic run on sentence with BIG CAPITALIZED WORDS BECAUSE victimization or something.

Paragraph Five: Terminology gatekeeping because he is clearly on a roll at this point and will not be denied.

I'd like to suggest that until he actually accomplishes something for the city- and remember, he couldn't think of one thing when asked by the SF Reporter during the last mayoral campaign - he maybe take a little time off from all his public whining and inaccurate, frequently bigoted accusations. Not only is he not helping, it's not clear that he actually wants to help. For the sake of the Santa Fe he professes to care about, he should consider just hushing up and going away for a while.

Then again, maybe it's just a fake account created solely to paint him in an unfavorable light. Who's to say?

Richard Reinders

[thumbdown] so two wrongs make a right?

Stefanie Beninato

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Thanks. Ron Trujillo does not add anything positive to any discussion/debate he enters IMHO.

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