SANTA FE – Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, after recent local controversies over race and deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia, says he has a “plan to address Santa Fe’s own complicated history with race and memory head-on” – including with an inventory and review of historic monuments and markers.
Gonzales issued a long statement late Thursday that touches on continuing opposition by some Native Americans to an annual public re-enactment of the Spanish reoccupation of Santa Fe in 1692, 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt forced the Europeans out of northern New Mexico.
“I don’t think any government can lead or solve this alone,” said Gonzales, who himself once portrayed Spanish leader and territorial governor Don Diego de Vargas in the Entrada re-enactment as part of Fiestas de Santa Fe.
“These conversations are difficult and require all of us to participate,” he said. “In doing so … we can heal and grow stronger.”
Indian protesters and others contend the Entrada ritual – scheduled this year for Sept. 8 on the Plaza – whitewashes and celebrates conquest by violence and the threat of it. The event’s supporters say that in an era of warfare, there was a peaceful moment when de Vargas re-entered Santa Fe and that the Entrada script has been changed to reflect Indian concerns.
Gonzales wants a review of all city support for “events or organizations that celebrate or recognize historic events or people,” including funding and logistical help.
Gonzales, amid movement to take down Confederate monuments around the country, also said he has asked the city manager to report on all city property “that holds memorials, monuments, or markers of historic events or people,” to be followed by a public comment process.
Santa Fe’s monuments include a statue of de Vargas in Cathedral Park. There is also an equestrian statue of early Spanish colonial governor Don Pedro de Peralta downtown.
But Gonzales, in previous interviews, has singled out two obelisks for concern – one that serves as a war memorial at the center of the city’s historic Plaza. The other is outside the federal courthouse, apparently on federal property, that honors Kit Carson, the frontiersman, scout and Indian fighter who led a deadly forced march of Navajo people from their homeland to the Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico.
Most inscriptions on the 1868 Plaza obelisk honor Union soldiers who fought in area Civil War battles. But on one side of its base, the inscription originally read: “To the heroes who have fallen in various battles with savage Indians in the Territory of New Mexico.” The word “savage” was chiseled out years ago, and authorities never moved to repair it.
Gonzales said he’s not asking for any city monuments to be removed or local events to be canceled.
“What we are asking for is an inventory of monuments, an inventory of events that are city supported, and allow for a community conversation to do a check-in,” he said in an interview, “to (ask) are there monuments that we need to acknowledge or (that) symbolize a time of oppression that could be harmful and hurtful?”
“Words matter, monuments matter, and events matter. … We’re a community that is strong enough to address them (with) honor,” said Gonzales, who hasn’t announced whether he will run for a second mayoral term next year.
City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who is running for mayor in 2018, said he’s concerned that any discussion of the Entrada should have been started earlier and not less than three weeks before Fiestas.
He referred to a resolution presented to the City Council about three years ago regarding the event that was never followed up on.
Gonzales acknowledged that completing an inventory and discovering a “pathway” forward for the Entrada will not happen before this year’s event. In the meantime he wants to have space for non-violent protest. The Red Nation group has already posted online notices calling for protests again at this year’s Entrada.
Trujillo – who also has portrayed de Vargas at Fiesta – said he supports open dialogue as long as it includes people from all sides, mentioning both Native American and Hispanic groups.
“Each statue represents history in this great community, but each monument could be offensive to some group or organization,” he said. “If that dialogue is going to take place, it has to be with everyone.”
Gonzales spoke at a rally against racism Monday night that filled the Plaza with about 1,500 people. Several people chanted “Abolish the Entrada” at the end of the rally.
Elena Ortiz, from Ohkay Owingeh, has been part of the Entrada protests in the past. She said Friday that she is skeptical about much resulting from the mayor’s effort and that Gonzales has never been willing to take a side on the Entrada controversy. “He would have to admit that he participated in something that’s inherently racist,” she said.
Ortiz also said it would take “jumping through a lot of hoops” for monuments to come down. “If it happens, I would be super-supportive, and I would be willing to get out there with sledgehammer and help,” she said. … I’m just skeptical that anything is going to come of it. I would be really happy to be wrong.”
There are no Confederate monuments in Santa Fe. The nearest is a small marker honoring Texas Confederate volunteers at Pecos National Historical Park, which includes a Civil War battlefield, about 30 miles to the east. A marker honoring Union volunteers from Colorado stands next to the Confederate slab. Another for New Mexico Union volunteers is planned.
Here is Mayor Gonzales’ statement:
“Throughout Santa Fe’s history of cultural conflict, we’ve seen a lot of pain to go along with the beautiful diversity we have today. We’ve seen Native people being oppressed and violently conquered. We’ve seen Hispanic people marginalized and oppressed by a new Anglo-centric government. And we still to this day see inequality and poverty in those communities as a result of that historic oppression.
“As we put it in our Council-adopted cultural roadmap, Culture Connects Santa Fe, ‘Santa Feans live in a place where joy and pain co-exist, and yet, here beauty and creativity hold transformative power for the entire community.’
“In a few short weeks much of our community will gather for the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe, an event that reflects that sentiment well. It also reminds us that we have the responsibility to learn about – and learn from – the complex histories in our community, including that of the Fiestas and the Entrada itself. In doing so we can still show pride in our respective cultures and reflect on the positive contributions that have been made over time.
“As we move forward we must do everything possible to start highlighting history where Native/Hispanic cultural traditions have contributed to the richness of our community and are part of our heritage.
“I don’t think any government can lead or solve this alone. These conversations are difficult and require all of us to participate. In doing so will we can heal and grow stronger.
“To that end, I will be moving forward to:
– Continue leader-to-leader dialogue to seek the counsel of Pueblo leaders. Our Pueblo neighbors are sovereign governments, with representatives whose voices must be heard.
– Instruct the City Manager to, within 30 days, deliver to the public and the Governing Body either a report or a timeline for a report that includes:
-All City support for events or organizations that celebrate or recognize historic events or people, including financial and logistical support.
-All city property that holds memorials, monuments, or markers of historic events or people. A process by which the public may submit and comment upon events, memorials, monuments and markers that celebrate or recognize historic events or people for inclusion.
“From there, I will ask the City Council to take action consistent with the findings of the Manager’s Report.
“I believe we can be a leader in racial healing and transformation towards a more unified city, but it will take more than a mayor or city council. It will take our entire community coming together.”