The power of voice
So the obelisk in our historical Plaza celebrating the 19th-century victories of Union soldiers in the Civil War and in battles fought against “savage Indians” has been roped and brought down like a rodeo steer. Some applaud, some are angry. All of us, even Cowboys for Trump, are forced to confront the issue of who now owns history. Once it was those who brandished swords and guns and firepower. The conquistadors in their blinding armor and the Anglos in their buttoned wool jackets who rode their great horses into this region seized and owned it through violence, enslavement, sexism, racism and propaganda, political and religious. Now it is time to hear the voices of those who met these uninvited foreigners when they arrived. Now it is time to question how history is inherited. Is a reach for equality by the invaded, by minorities, by women, a power grab? Yes it is, a grab for the power of truth, for the power of having a voice. The Santa Fe Plaza will have a new kind of monument in the future tuned to the modern essence of our city and our state. Now is the time to look forward, embrace our differences, examine the evolving nature of art and monuments, and bring a fresh perspective to the great, ongoing story of Santa Fe and New Mexico.
It was offensive
The obelisk on the Plaza equated those who died implementing the U.S. government’s policy of genocide and relocation of Indigenous people with those who died fighting treasonous slaveholders and their army. Anyone not seeing the offensiveness of this is willfully blind to the reality of “honoring” these two groups together. The obelisk was not “part of our shared history.” It was instead an example of the conquerors’ self-serving telling of history. The idea that we must preserve such examples of false, one-sided narratives because they have been allowed to stand for many years is absurd. The obelisk was offensive and its message false. I say to those who are now lamenting the pulling down of this shameful display in the center of Santa Fe and “how it was done”: Blame instead our own complacency in letting it stand for more than 150 years and our elected leaders’ failure to address its presence while they had the chance.
I am quite disturbed by the tearing down of the obelisk on the Plaza. The manner in which it was taken down is just wrong. Who gave a mob the right to do what they did? Yes, we as a society need to recognize oppression and racism. Yes, we all need to work to change the existence of racism in our country. Mob rule is not the answer. All people and cultures need to be respected. I realize change does not come fast enough for some people, but unless we put our energy in communicating and negotiation, we will never truly go forward as a community. We need to recognize all our history, both the good and the bad. How can the positive contribution New Mexican soldiers made in the Civil War not be erased? How can the atrocities committed toward Native people not be erased? I am not sure why a reconciliation commission was not established sooner, but during this time of COVID-19, life is just plain difficult. I also wonder how many of the protesters were from New Mexico. I do hope whoever was involved in this violent act be will held accountable. This is not the way toward harmonious living.
When reading about Mayor Alan Webber’s condemnation of protesters taking down the obelisk on the Santa Fe Plaza, my first reaction is anger. Anger that a white man of privilege in a position of power condemns the actions of a population that has been abused from the beginning of the white man’s arrival to this continent. Come on! Celebrate the courage, determination, strength and accomplishment of those who say, “We are here and we will make you listen.” Mayor Webber, please hear the voices and pay attention. It is beyond past the time to start acknowledging our hugely violent and disrespectful behavior to the first people of this continent.
Kudos to Milan Simonich (“Webber, Santa Fe police unworthy of command after Plaza violence,” Ringside Seat, Oct. 14) for calling out the weak-kneed mayor and namby-pamby Chief Andrew Padilla for failing to maintain law and order, cowed by the mob of vandals who easily got away with willful destruction of public property. Thanks, Mr. Simonich, also for the contrast of your accurate portrayal of this sad event vis a vis the woke New Mexican’s benignly describing the “Indigenous” thugs as “activists.” The woman pictured smearing the obelisk hardly strikes one as “Indigenous.” Is the mayor channeling the likes of the mayor of Portland, Ore., who has for over 100 days and nights been unwilling and/or unable to keep the peace in that beleaguered city? The tourists who are a main source of revenue in Santa Fe likely will take note if unrest threatens in Santa Fe. The fearful mayor and police chief may well be of no assistance. I suggest we defund the mayor and the flabby City Council.
Support for the mayor
I would like to support Alan Webber, our mayor, in his present efforts to bring the various parties to a a discussion about what has happened on our Plaza. It is premature to ask for a recall, although I do understand that Hispanic people are angry. This is a real feeling, but it is not the fault of the mayor that he is not born Hispanic or Native. But he has and is trying to bring the various sides to the table for a discussion toward a resolution of this dispute. He is not insensitive or incompetent, because he doesn’t do what you wish.
The definition of “plaza” is an open space. From now on, let’s just leave Santa Fe’s Plaza as an “open space.”
‘Together in amity’
Your editorial (“Out of the rubble, Santa Fe must create something beautiful,” Our View, Oct. 14) was very well-said. The forward to the book New Mexico’s Troubled Years (Calvin Horn, 1963), concerning the early Territorial governors of New Mexico, was written by President John F. Kennedy. His words are an eloquent tribute to our state and are noteworthy in light of today’s troubles: “The History of New Mexico is a distillation of the American spirit. … For New Mexico offers a compact illustration of the way a diversity of races and cultures pooled their traditions and skills to build an American state — and, in so doing, displayed impressive qualities of courage and resourcefulness. ... Today New Mexico stands as an example of the ability of people of diverse backgrounds to live and work together in amity.” Hopefully, out of the rubble, JFK’s words will inspire us to carry on and to create something beautiful.
The failure of Santa Fe’s mayor and chief of police to protect Santa Fe property and to allow the destruction of our 152-year-old historic monument is both shocking and appalling. The equipment used to pull down Soldiers Monument and the cutting off of the park’s surveillance speak to the fact of purposeful and organized destruction. If these events are allowed to go unpunished, the City Different will become a “City the Same,” ruled by lawlessness and ongoing damage to property, both civic and private. The demands made by these destructive forces are insatiable and unending. It is the job of the mayor and police chief to protect the citizenry and the city’s property. Without such pursuits, criminality will be further perpetuated, and more violence and more criminality will be forth coming in our “City the Same.”
Heal the wounds
There are two sides to the removal of the obelisk, two opinions that make this story hard to choose just one side. The Native Americans removed the obelisk during a protest. They are seen by some as the bad ones in this story, although as history proves, the press can be one-sided. You have to consider what the Native Americans were feeling and thinking. History shows that Spanish conquistadors came in and conquered their land. But for the Hispanos, the obelisk meant something good for them; it was a part of who they are and were. I personally cannot take a side. Both sides could be wrong or they could be right, but I do know what has been done shouldn’t be undone. I hope this event can bring the people of New Mexico together to heal old wounds.
Offended by removal
As a U.S. Navy veteran, I am deeply offended, as should every veteran be, by the toppling of the obelisk. For those ignorant of history, it commemorated those who fought and died to preserve the Union and eliminate slavery during the Civil War. As for the placard on the north side, it should have been taken off. History tells us that both sides committed “savage” acts during the Indian Wars, and both sides had “heroes.” But neither side should be honored over the other.
Kudos to Mayor Alan Webber and Police Chief Andrew Padilla for declaring open season on public monuments in Santa Fe. No permit required. Also, for clarity of message to any citizenry and businesses in the vicinity of unfolding criminal destruction: You are on your own.
Broken treaties were on my mind as I walked to the Plaza on Monday, and I was there through the whole event.
Broken treaties. Broken promises.
Inevitable. Sad. Not the end of Santa Fe. Hopefully, a new beginning.
When my wife and I moved here 30 years ago, I found that memorial offensive. More so because the word cut out became stronger with the telling. And why in a Spanish town a big memorial to mostly Anglo soldiers from a battle at Glorieta? Of course there are laws and good ones, too, protecting property, but we are better off with the memorial gone, and we can start anew and see if our state capital can somehow collect leaders from the Native Americans, the Spanish and the Anglos and unite us, appreciating our differences.
Monsignor Jerome Martinez y Alire and several Protestant ministers got together at Christmas time to celebrate their unity in the love of God, the ministry of Jesus, leaving aside the parochial arguments. Violence comes from people who feel nobody will listen to them. Every side wants to be heard. So let’s cool off, limit the sentencing of the lawbreakers and all of us, please, come together.
Stop the hatred
It is sad to see that people have so much hatred as to devolve into wanton destruction. You can destroy symbols of history, but you gain nothing. You do not get rid of the history, only the symbol; history never goes away. You stoke the ire of the masses, not sympathy. Why not take this energy and build a statue to stand beside or close to the hated monument? That would show the good in your hearts for your cause and people. It also would demonstrate that you are better than what the statue or monument stands for and the people who put it there.
Let’s show the world we have evolved and love what we are. Not devolved, willing to destroy at all costs what we don’t like. Stop the hatred and start the loving. Everyone will be a lot happier.
Mayor Alan Webber has monumental issues.
The monumental debacle he initiated is coming home to roost. It is beyond belief that his initial monument pronouncements have led us to the dismantling of a historic monument on the Plaza.
Shame on him.
The police presence in this town has deteriorated dramatically over his tenure. Safety and security is the first responsibility of government.
Shame on him.
Our streets, parks and medians are in terrible disrepair. What happened to the infrastructure plan?
Shame on him.
For my part, I am hopeful a better candidate than you emerges in the next election cycle.
The monument on the Plaza was destroyed.
When I came to Santa Fe, I saw there were three dominant cultures here: Anglo, Hispanic and Native American. This reproduced what I was familiar with on Maui, where there were also three cultures: Anglo, “local” and Native Hawaiian.
The mayor has spoken about “reconciliation” but has not done enough to make it happen. I was encouraged about progress when the Entrada celebration for Fiesta de Santa Fe was revised by negotiations between the different groups. South Africa needed reconciliation following the end of the horror of apartheid. Maybe Santa Fe could look at how Nelson Mandela pushed reconciliation and establish similar principles.
Being a newcomer, I had no emotional investment in the monument on the Plaza. I thought that obelisks were a sign of their times, like the Washington Monument. Perhaps it could be repurposed for a more fitting dedication. “Heroes” who killed the “savage Indians” should not be honored today.
Let’s move ahead with reconciliation among the different cultures, and less destruction.
Did the obelisk have to be torn down without community involvement? Maybe there was no other way? Maybe it’s a fitting end based on past injustices or some of what it symbolized? I don’t know.
Or was this an opportunity lost for Santa Fe to send a gentler message of unity to the nation and our pandemic-stricken community by removing it peacefully without adding further division? Together.
Isn’t it worth asking these questions to ourselves on how we accomplish things and build our community together in the future?
I think it was time for the obelisk to come down, but not in this manner. This is the result of the mayor’s earlier unilateral action under cover of darkness and demonstrates the importance of community involvement and discussion. It also shows that during these difficult times, being gentle with one another is more important than at any other time. I look forward to a beautiful, community-unifying replacement. I’d personally like to see and hear a fountain on the Plaza. A gathering place for all cultures for generations.
Perpetuating our propensity
now displaced anger vented,
all hope for truth now dashed
upon the altar of destruction, complete,
a goal achieved
as in eons past
when vanquishing another
took precedence over peaceful
goals, and harmonious outcomes
had no place in human discourse.
Such practice of ours led not
to peace and harmony,
rather to the satisfaction of
defeat, and the humiliation
Edward M. Jones
Portland, Ore., to come
In regards to the obelisk on the Plaza being torn down: Where is Ali MacGraw when you really need her? Better do something soon. Broken windows, looting and arson are soon to follow. We’ll be just like Portland, Ore.
To the historical revisionists and politically correct criminals who took down the obelisk: Your actions just deprived the rest of us of our votes on whether to keep, alter or remove it. So how are you any different from President Donald Trump’s minions?
There once was a time in Santa Fe where the town idiot and the mayor were two different people, where the police were allowed to do their jobs and arrest the law breakers. The mayor is an embarrassment to our culture and the citizens of Santa Fe. The door is open, Mayor Alan Webber. You need to leave.
Glad it’s gone
Good riddance. A shameful reminder of conquest and colonizing — and even of the hanging of Indigenous people on the Plaza.
It is true that the obelisk originally honored New Mexico’s Union soldiers who fought against the Confederacy, but by adding the reference to “savages,” it came to represent the subjugation and suppression of Native people here, especially unacceptable in this time of reckoning for systemic racism. This is no different than removing Confederate monuments glorifying injustice and insult to African Americans.
The mayor brought this on. His inaction showed he sided with those who don’t care to pay attention to redressing ongoing grievances by Pueblo people. He and other Anglos who move to Santa Fe for the “weather and art” should know more of the true history of injustices committed to the original inhabitants of this Pueblo land — injustices that continue and that should include the removal of painful reminders such as the obelisk and also conquistador statues like that of Don Diego de Vargas.
Get reeducated. I suggest enrolling in Indigenous studies classes as a non-Native student, as I did, at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Attend Native events to inform and learn about Pueblo, Navajo and Apache history, culture and concerns. Visit their cultural centers and feast days, where you are welcomed with friendliness and equal respect. And let’s see works that honor Native, Hispanic, other people of color and Anglo people who have made positive contributions to Santa Fe, and no more to the dark past of conquest and slaughter.
Green light for mobs?
What the Santa Fe Police Department is now saying to mobs: “Go ahead — you can burn down the City Hall — we won’t interfere because we don’t want to cause a scene.” Huh?
Anne O. Shannon
The obelisk in its original form was offensive. I would have voted to remove its hurtful language. However, I am dismayed that this was neither brought to a vote nor reviewed by a court of law. By unilaterally deciding to remove the obelisk, and then by refusing to protect it against a mob, our city leaders have trampled on the First Amendment rights of obelisk supporters — who also have rights. Since when do we only protect the free-speech rights of those with whom we agree? If I am allowed to destroy any object that offends me, where does it end? Museums are no longer safe. How long until books are burned? Respect for both sides means respect for everybody. Justice does not ask us to destroy a table that was not big enough for all. Justice demands we build a bigger table where everyone has a seat.
Do the job
I am writing to express my outrage at the gutless and irresponsible failure by the Santa Fe Police Department to stop the so-called demonstrators who vandalized and then tore down the historical monument at the center of our Plaza. This should never have been allowed. Those vandalizing and then destroying this monument should have been arrested. “We made the decision to stand down” is the only response from police Chief Andrew Padilla, who seems unaware of his responsibility to uphold the laws of our city. Worse, Mayor Alan Webber has praised the department’s “handling” of the demonstration. Both Padilla and Webber should be ashamed of their roles in allowing this vandalism to go unchecked. Their failure to act will most certainly encourage these criminals and lead to more shameful destruction of Santa Fe’s history. Mayor Webber and Chief Padilla, do your job, or resign and let someone else do it.
I think if I were Mayor Alan Webber or Chief Andrew Padilla, I would be planning a night exit from Santa Fe.
Not a surprise
The editors of The New Mexican have warned of this pending breakdown within the Santa Fe culture if the city did not take immediate action to address in a creative and healing way the issue of the Plaza monument. With the recent attack on the obelisk, we are now at a new level of challenge with a violent reaction to inaction.
On June 29, after the defacing of the Plaza obelisk and the Kit Carson monument by the federal courthouse, the paper published a letter I wrote offering what could provide a uniting vision. I have provided it again (and it can be read complete online). The Arts Council could be the entity to promote such a project with the support of the mayor and the City Council. This is a priority, and time is of the essence before more divisiveness and perhaps violence escalates. If such a visionary project was recognized as an essential community process, a master plan for involving as many parts of our unique culture, fundraising and media support would be necessary.
“The massive changes of both the universal effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the profound new awareness to mend racial bias is a new opportunity to find an artistic expression that honors and respects the values of inclusion and sacredness. I have waited many years for the moment when Santa Fe might aspire to see a monument in the Plaza that reflects what we love about the region in which we have chosen to live.
The Native cultures through their ancient ceremonies have held, practice, and taught this wisdom and help maintain its sacredness for all of us. Our relationship with the Earth and sky is part of the story. The Spanish instantly recognized this land as a haven for nurturing their future. Anglos, and others, coming here sensing something deep, indescribable, and yet recognizable for which we all long. This is what a sculpture can express and thereby transcend the endless tribal issue of determining just which history or heritage to portray.
(The City could sponsor a contest for regional sculptors to respond to this theme. Perhaps a public vote could take place to choose the winner. Then, set in motion a plan for executing all the necessary elements fulfill the creation and installation of the work.)
This is a powerful opportunity for Santa Fe to set a new vision through art of how to take this extraordinary moment in this time of transformation to rise above polarized, political rhetoric that can only prolong a sense of racial division. It’s time for a dimensional shift.”
Jean MacFarland Altshuler
Unity, peace, diversity
I have been saddened by the obelisk being torn down in a violent way. I know its message on one side needed to be changed for many years. My hope was the city would remove the offending plaque and in its place have something installed that called for unity, peace and diversity for all cultures. The other sides were dedicated to our soldiers who fought in the Civil War. It is sad that these sides of this monument were ignored by those who tore it down. The city dragged in its feet for far too long and now it is gone. I believe the removal of the statue in Cathedral Park of Don Diego de Vargas probably was intended for safe-keeping from vandalism but many see it as trying to erase history. We don’t know what would have happened if it remained; maybe the same fate as the obelisk. Removing any statues or monuments will not change the history, only the reminder. I am sure that some do not want to be reminded of a piece of history that is very difficult. Yet in our darkest days of our past has there been a time of finding the light in moving forward? Yes, the monuments/statues needed a new location that is more appropriate for such history. Let us never forget where we came from.
Now that the obelisk has been destroyed, in the short term, I believe it should remain as rubble as a reminder of the change that is needed. It is a message of what our world has become of late. Change is needed to a new direction for our city and country — less hate, violence and bigotry. There are many artists in Santa Fe, me included, with many different talents who can come together to create something beautiful to replace this monument. It should carry that message I first mentioned, of unity, peace and diversity for all cultures. The structure could be a simplistic symbol as to not create a public safety hazard. A fountain, although a nice idea, is not practicable due to maintenance and safety issues. Our lovely Santa Fe Plaza should be a peace park where no one feels resentment of symbols of our past being on display. We are all one people. Let’s make it happen, and we can once again be a city we are proud to show off.
Let it stay open
Leave the open space for dancing, performances, wandering. No need to replace anything. No need for controversy. No need for competitiveness. Enjoy the fresh air, the beauty of the plantings, the benches for relaxation. Peace, quietude and warm sunshine feel good.
Enter at your own risk
Now that the city has demonstrated a policy of deference to rioters, it should erect signs around the Plaza warning visitors they are entering a lawless zone at their own risk.
Turning back invasion
In the East and the South, people tear down monuments to the Confederacy. Here in the City Different, a mob of activists tore down a monument to the defeat of the Confederacy.
The obelisk has four sides. One side reads: “To The Heroes Of The Federal Army Who Fell At The Battle Of Valverde Fought With The Rebels February 21, 1862.” A second reads: “To The Heroes Of The Federal Army Who Fell At The Battles Of Canon Del Apache And Pigeons Rancho (La Glorieta) Fought With The Rebels March 28, 1862 And To Those Who Fell At The Battle Fought With The Rebels At Perilta April 15, 1862.” A third reads: “Erected By The People Of New Mexico Through Their Legislatures Of 1866-7-8. MAY THE UNION BE PERPETUAL.” The fourth side, the back side facing away from the Palace of the Governors, reads: “To The Heroes Who Have Fallen In Various Battles With Savage Indians In The Territory Of New Mexico. “Savage” was later chiseled out.
The obelisk on three sides is a Civil War monument commemorating the victory of the Union and the defeat of the Confederacy. In the East, the Confederacy fought a defensive war. But in the West, with the bulk of the U.S. Army withdrawn to the battlefields in the East, the Confederacy saw an opportunity: a quick invasion out of Texas to conquer New Mexico and Arizona and transform them into Confederate slave states. But the 1862 Confederate invasion was turned back in a series of battles in New Mexico by the few U.S. Army regulars left in the Southwest reinforced by hastily raised Union volunteers from New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.
No doubt neo-Confederates quietly salute the activists of Santa Fe for destroying a monument to the Confederacy’s defeat and thank Mayor Alan Webber for walling from view the inscriptions commemorating those Union soldiers and New Mexican volunteers who died defeating the Confederate invasion.
John E. Haynes
Let there be peace
The city should create a totally new obelisk, officially name it the “Peace Obelisk” and install it in the center of the Plaza to replace the old, retired obelisk.
Uphold law and order
The riots on the Plaza and the tearing down of the obelisk should be a call to all Santa Feans to respond to this anarchy and hold our leaders to their responsibility to uphold law and order.
Our leaders, the mayor and the police chief, have been shown to be spineless not to respond with enforcement of peace and order. It is unbelievable, unconscionable and irresponsible that our police force would vacate the Plaza to the rioters, when in reality, more police should have been brought in with the aid of state police, if necessary, to quell this destruction.
I call on all our citizens to call, write or march to show our city leaders that we will support the measures necessary to prevent anything like this from happening again. We need many patrolmen on foot monitoring the Plaza — 24/7 if need be. There is a different brand of people out there now, and more, not less, police presence is necessary. That kind of presence would have prevented the graffiti that began the whole scenario. This is a tourist destination, and we must make our city beautiful and safe, especially around the Plaza.
It’s gone, so let’s move on. Regarding the space at the center of the Santa Fe Plaza, another thought might be this: In New York’s Central Park is the beautiful “Imagine” mosaic, paying tribute to John Lennon. This is one of the most moving memorials I’ve ever seen (and I saw it daily for years) — and it doesn’t force itself into a person’s field of vision. Something like this might be ideal for the Plaza, either marking the end of the Santa Fe Trail, or maybe something loftier, like the word “Peace” or “Diversity.” Santa Fe and New York are two of the most agreeably diverse cities in the U.S.
Mark Bradley Bealmear
Regarding the obelisk, I can think of better actions — effacing the fourth side that celebrated people as “heroes” who battled “savage Indians,” or leaving it as is but affixing a metal plaque disowning that scurrilous side. But I’m not a Native American who has been forced to wait centuries for non-Native Americans to do the right thing. In June, the mayor promised that the obelisk would be removed and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be formed: Neither happened. Instead, on Indigenous Peoples Day, the city chose to construct a barrier around an imperfect monument known not for the Civil War inscriptions but for the “savage Indians” inscription.
I’m glad the police withdrew so no one was hurt. A memorial is not worth a life. As a community, we should let it be the first reconciliation and put something better up, something that will reflect the history we now know and how we have evolved.
Vandals, not activists
In various articles in this paper, your reporters have referred to the people who destroyed the obelisk as “activists.” I’ve worked with many activists who have sat on boards and commissions, on the governing boards of nonprofits, or who have put their backs to the work in food pantries, building homes for the needy or planting flowers in medians. They are activists.
By contrast, the people who pulled down the obelisk are not activists. They are vandals. They know neither how to grow our city nor nurture its needs. They only know how to destroy. They deserve our contempt and to be forgotten.
While I in no way condone the recent manner of destruction of the obelisk in our Plaza, I strongly feel the hands-off approach of the police was the correct approach, under the circumstances. I have no doubt there would have been far more injuries had the police taken an aggressive approach in defending the obelisk. I believe Mayor Alan Webber deserves blame for allowing the issue to fester for far too long — the original commemoration of the genocide of Native Americans (“savages”) has not been forgotten.
I’m a lifelong resident of Santa Fe. One of my most special places in this free country of ours is the Santa Fe Plaza. It downright hurt to see all these so-called Americans destroy a big part of my Hispanic and Native history. As per Ancestry.com, I am 31 percent Native American and the rest, since 1622, of Spanish heritage. I am a proud veteran of Santa Fe.
Honor the Tewa
Now is a good time for the city to start a fund open to donations for a new centerpiece for the Plaza. This would be a good time to recognize the original inhabitants of Santa Fe, the Tewa people who lived here for centuries (millennia?) prior to European arrivals. Many plazas have a fountain as centerpiece. A monument commemorating the three cultures could be created. A tree could be planted as a symbol of new life. Change is hard to accept, but racist monuments are coming down all over the country.
Many Santa Feans would contribute to a new beginning for the Plaza as a place where all can be recognized. I hope the cleanup can begin soon so that by Thanksgiving (another racially complex issue), we could come together around a neutral center, clean, and look forward to a Plaza all can enjoy.
Open the space
What will replace the Plaza monument? Here’s a thought: Remove the remaining pieces; level the ground; and fill to match the area in front of the bandstand. This allows more area for more residents and visitors alike to appreciate all the events on the Plaza. More room to dance on summer evenings, eat pancakes on July 4, shop for arts and crafts, enjoy Fiesta events, watch Christmas lighting of trees, celebrate New Year’s Eve and so much more, new and old. Let’s make the Plaza a place for the animated, wonderful souls who fill this town rather than the inanimate and soulless.
Gilbert Romero said it best when he said he was “disgusted” that our elected city leaders let people with agendas destroy our once proud city of Santa Fe. The obelisk was not just a piece of inscribed concrete. It was a symbol of our world-famous Plaza. We are not Portland, Ore., or Seattle or San Francisco. So why do our city leaders treat our city as such? Telling the police to stand down. You’ve got to be kidding me. Evil persists when good citizens do nothing. It’s time to stand up, Santa Fe. Is the hatred from the “activists” greater than the good in your heart? Time to do some soul-searching, Santa Fe. It should start at the top with our elected leaders.
Failure of leadership
I blame the mayor for the damage to the Santa Fe obelisk. He said he was going to create a commission to deal with the commemorative statues. That only is happening now. The obelisk could have been moved or renamed. Its text could have been altered. Now the police are going after the kids who perpetrated the destruction. Without strong leadership, their delinquent actions are not surprising. This is a local, state and national problem that needs to be addressed in a proactive way.
Under a photo of the toppled obelisk, the newspaper quotes Gene Maestas of Albuquerque: “I don’t appreciate the fact that outside people are claiming this as their home.” Maestas continues that the Spanish are never given credit for the good things they’ve done, just criticized “about genocide” (Yes, it’s only genocide.)
Criminal destruction of property is wrong. Period. But in this case understandable, the result of pent-up rage. The city should have taken action sooner.
By “outside people,” does Maestas refer to the Native Americans from whom the entire continent was stolen; the people who were slaughtered (uh … genocide)? Centuries of maltreatment have a cumulative effect. On Native Americans, on Blacks, on anyone and everyone subjected to it.
Colonialism and brutality have always been devastating. Whether the French in North Africa, the Dutch in South Africa, the Portugese, Chinese, Japanese, Canadians, the British just about everywhere and, of course, the Americans. Yes, the Americans. African slaves, Chinese railroad workers, Japanese interment camps, migrant farm workers. The list is long.
Some would argue the benefits brought by the occupiers should be appreciated. The “natives” should be grateful. How would the occupiers feel about being subjugated? How would Mr. Maestas feel if his Spanish ancestors were still under the yoke of the Moors? They brought gorgeous artwork and architecture to Spain, didn’t they? Muslim Moors occupied Spain for about 800 years. What if they still controlled Spain? Muslim Spain. C’mon, Just get over it.
I am not “responsible” for what my ancestors did but I am responsible for acknowledging it. I am responsible for admitting the horror accepting that descendants of the abused are justified in seeking public acknowledgment and removal of offensive, revisionist symbols and rhetoric. How about a simple apology?
No culture is perfect. But if we hope to make this a peaceful, cooperative society, it is imperative we listen to all concerned and act to remedy grievances where appropriate.
A hole remains
I agree with John Pen La Farge that we have lost an important landmark, an emblem of Santa Fe. The actions of vandalism have left an irreplaceable hole in our city’s history.
History surrounds us
As a 26-year resident of our beautiful city, I would like to comment on the local reactionary phrase I have heard and read surrounding the obelisk controversy: “Take away the statue(s) and you are wiping out our history” or, “It will be a missed opportunity to educate my family when I am downtown — or for the tourists strolling through the Plaza.”
Well, look around the Plaza, and you will find not one or two institutions, but six wonderful places filled with art and artifacts that tell our New Mexico history, all with excellent educational outreach programs — the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico History Museum, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art and even the historic La Fonda Hotel. All are steps from the Plaza and all help to tell the stories of the people and cultures of New Mexico and its complex multicultural history. How many cities of our size have six venerable institutions that “tell our history” through art and architecture, 25 steps from the center of the city?
If that’s not enough, you can drive or take an M bus up to Museum Hill and pick from four more — the Spanish Colonial Arts Museum; the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture; the International Folk Art Museum; and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. We are lucky to live in such a richly historic and uniquely multicultured environment here — it is what makes Santa Fe and New Mexico so special. So let’s come together and move forward — who knows how the revisioning of a monument and the renovation of an outdoor Plaza space might add even more to our unique American city?
Shame, shame, shame
Shame, on the mob who toppled the obelisk in the Plaza and for your newspaper making it a front-page headline story with huge photo. Likewise, shame on our mayor and governor for allowing this to happen. You might as well make the Plaza into a parking lot.
Fears for the future
A historic monument that stands for over 150 years erected to celebrate the U.S. Army’s defeat of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War in New Mexico is somehow only a symbol of racism, colonialism? I don’t get it. Why officials pandered to young, mostly white agitators who have little knowledge of history to the extent of allowing destruction of public property is far beyond me. The National Guard should have been called in, and this historic monument, which mainly celebrated the perpetuation of the Union and the defeat of a nation intent on extending slavery, should still be standing. History is obviously not being taught in schools. I fear for the future of this city, this state and this country when we allow lawlessness and destruction to occur when the powers that be decide it is politically expedient to allow it to happen.
Video of the toppling of the Plaza obelisk aroused mixed feelings for this 20-year Santa Fe resident now transplanted to Iowa. Even though it celebrated the Union victory over the Confederacy, its anti-Native racism makes me glad, on balance, to see it down. It’s unfortunate, though, that it was removed in a peremptory manner. The City Different and Diverse did a good job of finally coming to agreement on Fiesta de Santa Fe and the Entrada, which gave reason to hope the same might happen around the obelisk. Seems like a missed opportunity for more consensus and community building, even if it was a frustratingly slow process.
There are many ways to reach a good conclusion. Sometimes the means chosen to do so becomes more crucial in the long run than the end that is sought and accomplished. Martin Luther King wrote Why We Can’t Wait, arguing that enduring injustice tries the patience of even the most long-suffering. Here’s to long-term harmonious diversity.
Consider having the central portion of the Plaza be an open dance area. This could be used by Native Americans during Indian Market or for other ceremonial events and as a space for everyone to dance during Plaza concerts. There could be benches ringing the area so people could sit and enjoy watching the dancers.
Target: Santa Fe
The appalling collapse of leadership by both Mayor Alan Webber and police Chief Andrew Padilla has left our community marked as an easy target for subsequent mob violence. Their lame “life over property” excuse for inaction rings distinctly hollow, as no one advocated shooting the unarmed vandals in the first place. We Santa Fe residents invest a special trust in our police force to use the laws and means legally within their power to stop such thuggery. And of all things, they ran away when Santa Fe most needed them.
If people ever wonder why cities such as Portland, Ore., Seattle and Minneapolis keep getting hit over and over again by mob violence, one answer is the rioters realize they will face no meaningful accountability from shamefully weak police chiefs and mayors in their targeted cities. Santa Fe just put itself on their list.