The obelisk in the plaza is now gone. Whether you valued it as a part of Santa Fe’s history and consider its destruction a tragedy, or whether you viewed it as an affront and consider its demise good riddance, it is now a thing of the past.
The task before our community now is to replace it in a way that respects and honors the peoples who have inhabited this land, including indigenous populations who have been here for many thousands of years, Spanish colonists who first came over 400 years ago, and Anglo arrivals who came over the Santa Fe Trail or who settled in our city more recently. These cultures have intermingled to create the wonderful diversity of our beloved community.
The most fitting replacement for Santa Fe is not another Egyptian obelisk, but one or more significant works of art that represent the values of our city. A sculpture by Santa Fe artist Allan Houser, Offering of the Sacred Pipe, stands in the U.S. Mission at the United Nations to inspire our nation’s diplomacy. When I served as U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly, I often communed with this powerful piece.
A similar sculpture, Let There be Peace, features an indigenous man holding up a peace pipe. At 12 feet tall, it would be a fitting monument for the Plaza. Other Houser sculptures that could be considered include an abstract bronze with three figures, When Friends Meet, which could represent the coming together of Native, Spanish and Anglo cultures; another abstract sculpture, Water Carrier, would recognize the importance of water to all in our community; or a large bronze of two women, Meeting on the Trail, would be fitting for the Plaza at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.
It is also fitting that a work of Allan Houser be featured. He was the first child born in the Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache tribe after tribal members were released from captivity by the U.S. government. As a boy, he attended the Santa Fe Indian School and later taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts where he mentored many students. He spent most of his career living and working in Santa Fe, where he created all of the sculptures reference above.
Houser’s wife, the late Anna Marie Chavez y Gallegos de Houser was of the Spanish Chavez family on her mother’s side. The first of this Chavez family in Nuevo México arrived in the 1600s with Don Diego De Vargas, and he settled in Northern New Mexico. Anna’s great-grandfather Jose Maria Chavez fought for Mexico in the battle for independence from Spain, and later became a Mexican general and also was named alcalde and probate judge by the Mexican government for the northern territory of Nuevo Mexico.
When Mexico lost Nuevo México to the United States, Chavez became an American citizen and fought for the U.S. in the Civil War. Although he fought in Indian wars as a young man, some of his family members married Natives, including his granddaughter Maria Chavez, Anna Houser’s mother, who married Anna’s Navajo father. So, Houser’s own family reflects the coming together and intermarriage in Native and Spanish cultures, which is reflective of so many families in our community.