Hate crimes in the heart of downtown Santa Fe are a painful reminder of the racial unrest across the country.
In New Mexico, we have come to acknowledge our tricultural myth — Native, Hispano, Anglo living in harmony — is just that, a myth. Yet we still keep the faith that we can all get along.
We have believed that, despite the pain of the past and the uneasiness in the present, our ability to coexist with respect and understanding is a model for the country and the world.
The experiences of the past few days demonstrate we must work harder.
On the heels of a victory by Indigenous activists — finally, monuments to colonialism and war would be coming down in Santa Fe — there was a backlash by many local Hispanos who believe their history is being erased, not to mention the fury of others who wanted a wider conversation before any statues or monuments were moved. Indigenous groups, including the Three Sisters Collective and Red Nation, wanted commitments for change now.
Targeted were the Plaza obelisk, with its now-scratched-out mention of “savage” Indians, the Kit Carson obelisk by the federal courthouse and the statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas. Mayor Alan Webber agreed these vestiges of a more divided past should come down.
The obelisk proved too heavy, and the ownership of the Kit Carson monument is being sorted out.
That left the Don Diego statue, which was removed and is in storage for safekeeping. The broader aims of the mayor — to bring the entire community in to decide a better way to remember our shared past — are far from being realized. It’s too early, for one thing. And we still are in the midst of a pandemic, hardly the moment for a large town hall discussion.
Two acts of violence overnight Sunday or early Monday have added to the tension.
The obelisk was tagged, the inscription about the Indian wars torn into. On Thursday, when activists celebrated the decision to remove the monuments, red handprints had been splatted on the obelisk; that, while vandalism, was more of a political statement. The actions overnight Sunday were of an uglier type — designed to destroy, not make a point.
As painful as the damaged obelisk is for many, it is the vandalism at the India Palace restaurant downtown that has the town in an uproar.
Unknown people broke into the restaurant, destroying the kitchen and scrawling racial epithets on the walls. Hate was on display for all to see.
While Santa Fe has a definite history of racial and ethnic conflict, white supremacy destruction evidenced at the restaurant is a new level of ugliness in our modern world. It is not who we are in Santa Fe. It is not who we want to be.
The community is unanimous in its support for the Singh family, owners of the restaurant — a number of GoFundMe accounts have been opened, with sponsors now talking to family members before raising any more money. Money will come in handy considering that damage to the kitchen is estimated at $100,000. And if the kitchen isn’t operable, the family can’t make a living.
Another casualty of this destruction is the loss of the meals the family makes for people who lack homes. Feeding the hungry is just one of the ways the Singhs have helped their community.
We won’t speculate about the motives of those behind these hate crimes. Is it one group or two? Why go after an obelisk already slated for removal, whether the entire structure or the offensive panel? Why was India Palace targeted? There is obvious racial motivation, but why this restaurant?
We don’t have any answers. But we do know these vandals are cowards who operate in darkness. Toward them, we will shine light, answering with love and determination to stop racism in its tracks.
Santa Fe will not tolerate this hate in our city.