It started with some typical Santa Fe “feel good” activities — a walk through a labyrinth and a water blessing, simple actions accompanied by a soothing symphony of drums.

But the planned friendly meet-and-greet of members of the new Cultural, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth Process — known as CHART — soon segued into a contentious dialogue about the direction the CHART team plans to take to help the community heal and go forward after the destruction of the Soldiers’ Monument on Indigenous Peoples Day last year.

It was an event that proved community activism is alive and well in Santa Fe.

The questions came fast, and sometimes furiously, during the Sunday afternoon event at Frenchy’s Field.

It drew nearly 100 people, including city council members, CHART team members, CHART supporters and CHART critics — who asked plenty of questions.

Among those queries: Are the recommendations the CHART team plans to give the city next summer already determined? Why is the process costing $254,000? What are team members’ qualifications for their roles?

And, many opponents asked, how can they trust the CHART process when city leaders still won’t say where the Don Diego de Vargas statue is or whether it will be returned to its longtime home at Cathedral Park?

“Where’s our statue?” one woman in the crowd asked, suggesting the ghost of that structure might haunt the CHART process for some time.

The Don Diego de Vargas statue’s location remains a mystery to everyone but city officials. Removed last year from Cathedral Park next to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the bronze statue of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas was supposed to be placed in a safe location, but it was later found in the backyard of the contractor who removed it.

That news prompted the group that donated the statue, Caballeros deVargas, to ask the city to reinstall the statute in Cathedral Park or give it back to the organization.

CHART President Valerie Martinez maintained a sense of calm, allowing those with critical questions to ask them while doing her best to make it clear her group hasn’t even started its work.

“We’re here to listen,” she said. “We are not here to represent one or another’s view.”

Even as she patiently allowed those with concerns to raise questions, some in the assembly voiced a worry that no matter how well-meaning and qualified the CHART committee is, the jig is fixed.

“We feel left out,” one woman in the crowd said.

The atmosphere remained mostly cordial, with some activists telling Martinez that they don’t trust her or the CHART process.

“Some of us have a lot of pain because of things that have happened,” said Maria Bautista, a retired educator and critic of Mayor Alan Webber. “Some of us have nowhere to go to talk about it.”

She said it is vital for the CHART team to understand the anger in the community. She then urged critics to stay involved throughout the process.

“You don’t want them to run with the ball, then get involved and run with it,” she said.

Following the group discourse, Martinez and other CHART members met with small groups of both critics and champions to say the group plans a number of public meetings and focus groups, some targeted at specific audiences, such as seniors and teens, over the next several months to collect input.

They did not shy away from those who were outspoken about the process, listening to concerns and doing their best to address them.

CHART member Trace Rabern kept asking Elmer Maestas, a retired U.S. Navy veteran and historian, what message he wanted to convey to the CHART group as it plans those meetings.

He said she should be aware, “This is a cover-up for the mayor for all the problems he caused.”

Rabern said the CHART committee has to find a way to hear voices that are not “the loudest and most frequent.”

As the crowd began to disperse following the two-hour event, Martinez said the CHART team has to accept that “what happened today is OK with us.” She said the group has to learn how to “listen to the hard stuff.”

“People have to give us time,” she said.

The members, who are getting paid as contractors to move the CHART process forward, are expected to deliver a report by July, Martinez told the assembly.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(27) comments

David Fernandez

Culturally and historically, multitudes of Northern New Mexicans who 'technically' do not live within Santa Fe city limits are affected by and are interested in this process that is being undertaken. Other North NM counties and wider regions share this ongoing living history and story. Perhaps CHART might also consult with other regional organizations that possess pertinent knowledge, experience, and expertise and who do not have any particular axe to grind, for example the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area.

Mike Johnson

I would agree with you IF this were a serious, sincere, and objective process and group to actually do something significant. But this whole thing is a debacle and a pre-determined outcome political charade. It and these people running it cannot be taken seriously.

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Mike Johnson

Well, at least the obelisk commemorated one group you liked being subdued, would you like for at least that part to be put back?

John Gomez

Who even cares? All we do is argue about 1805 cause that is when we peaked. All we do is fight over the past and have nothing for anyone under 50. Forger De Verges forger Kit Carson just find away to bring under 50s here.

Lupe Molina

Comment of the day! While people here complain about CHART and monuments, all young people are moving away to cities that actually develop public infrastructure for young families. Keep squabbling over symbols, folks. Might keep you occupied until the bottom falls out from this city financially.

KT Rivera

What the Santa Fe New Mexican reporter left out was the fact that the CHART team initially refused to take questions publicly, telling attendees to talk to them individually in private. It was an odd approach for a community gathering they scheduled, not one that demonstrated full transparency, and set the stage for mistrust from the start. It was the attendees that forced the CHART team to answer questions and explain themselves. Attendees also called on City Councilors present to clear up misconceptions. By the attendees turned this event into a dialog it indicated that they wanted more and were better prepared than CHART who did not even have a microphone at their scheduled event.

William Mee

This is amazing from a first hand account.

Lupe Molina

Amazing? Your standards are pretty low William.

KT Rivera


Maria Bautista

Ms Rivera gracias por su atencion. Llamame, o mande un mensaje.

Lupe Molina

Probably left it out because it's not newsworthy.

Patrick Brockwell

They need to establish a mission statement first. Does anyone even know what they are trying to accomplish with this "process"? I'm not surprised, Webber is usually long on process and short on outcomes.

Maria Bautista

They said they were only listeners, would compile and give report to city hall. They will not address what happened.

Richard Reinders

Why don’t the committee report to the public through the paper, or Is it up to Webber to interpret the finds? Scary.

John Cook

By saying they won't address what happened, of course you mean they may not do exactly what you want.

Maria Bautista

It is part of their training. What I want doesn't matter, there were a hundred people there. The New Mexican printed City Council concerns with the scope and focus, because Valerie's report did not mention the Obelisk, DeVargas or Kit Carson. I should have been more specific.

LeRoy Sanchez


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Lupe Molina

You would have ranted if he did show up too. Find a hobby.

Richard Reinders

IMO With Webber not showing up the committee should understand they just got played.

Maria Bautista

They sure did....

John Cook

Let me get this right, Richard: you object that the Mayor is letting the committee do its work without him telling them what to do? Sheeesh.

Richard Reinders

That’s not what I said at all, Webber initiated the process but wasn’t around to justify it in a public setting and let the committee take the heat. Don’t put word in my mouth.

Lupe Molina

The entire council was involved in the process and Villarreal has more been the point person than the mayor. We all know you hate him because he's not from here or whatever but you seem kind of obsessed, man.

Maria Bautista

John, Webber defines the language to be used.

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