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Creating a ‘conversation of connection’

SANTA FE, N.M. — For many years, the New Mexico History Museum has presented an hourlong lecture during the week preceding the Santa Fe Fiesta, usually given by a notable historian, and addressing the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the Spaniards’ reconquest of northern New Mexico 12 years later.

This year, the programming has been expanded into a six-hour symposium featuring three speakers offering their perspectives, the showing of a documentary focusing on the culture of Native American protest, and culminating in a community conversation addressing the lingering repercussions of the Revolt and the Reconquista.

Andrew Wulf

Museum Director Andrew Wulf said protests in recent years by Indian groups during the Entrada, a re-enactment of the re-occupation of Santa Fe led by Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas, held as part of Fiesta weekend, wasn’t the sole reason to expand the program.

“It was more of a sense that we’re the history museum for the state of New Mexico and our history is quite complex, with many points of view,” said Wulf. “We thought it was time we anted up, and say we will be a safe haven and allow multiple voices that are a part of that history to share their perspectives, some that are not often heard.”

The symposium will be held next Wednesday, Sept. 6, two days before the Entrada is performed on the downtown Plaza.

Last year, protesters disrupted the re-enactment with chants of “Entrada is racist” and “Abolish the Entrada.” Entrada opponents feel the re-enactment is a whitewash of reconquest by violence, or the threat of it, and celebrates the subjugation of the Native culture by the Spanish.

The Fiesta Council says the Entrada celebrates a moment in time when the Spanish and Native people agreed to live peacefully together.

As tensions have run high during Entrada and racial hostilities have risen across the country, Wednesday’s community conversation is intended as an opportunity for people to share viewpoints, air grievances and talk about what can be done to ease those tensions.

“It’s really about bringing people together with different perspectives to enable a conversation to work toward reconciliation,” Wulf said. “It’s really about offering the history museum as a place of reconciliation.”

The program lineup doesn’t include a Hispanic voice. Wulf said overtures were made to some Spanish historians, but they were declined.

Dean Milligan, president of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council, told the Journal that the council would send a representative to the event.

The program begins at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday with a talk by Stephen Post, co-curator of “Santa Fe Found: Fragments of Time,” an exhibit on Santa Fe’s founding and first 100 years at the Palace of the Governors.

Wulf said Post, an archeologist and research associate, and former deputy director at the state Department of Cultural Affairs’ Office of Archaeological Studies, has been engaged in archaeological research at the Palace of the Governors for more than 30 years. The Palace, now a part of the history museum, is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. For 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt, the Palace was occupied by indigenous people.

“Veiled Lightning”

The morning session concludes with a screening of what filmmaker Jaima Chevalier calls the “Entrada Chapter” of her documentary “Veiled Lightning,” which looks at the culture of Native American protest and includes footage taken during last year’s Entrada protest, as well as interviews with participants.

The afternoon session starts off with photographer Steven Katzman discussing “This Miserable Kingdom,” his project documenting minorities that have withstood government suppression, with a focus on Pojoaque Pueblo.

According to Katzman’s overview of the project, Pojoaque Pueblo is featured because “it has been repeatedly victimized because of its religious, cultural and historical identity. The survey documents the tribe’s continued survival and its ability to live in cultural harmony while protecting their sovereignty.” In recent decades, the pueblo has repeatedly been at odds with state government over its gambling operations.

Artist Virgil Ortiz of Cochiti Pueblo, whose work combines art, decor, fashion and digital media, and whose pottery features provocative, contemporary images – including of President Trump – is the final speaker.

“There are many issues, especially in current times, that people are increasingly afraid to talk about,” he says on the web page for his “Taboo” project.

“It’s important to show the type of imagery I’ve painted for ‘Taboo’ and record it, even if people are disturbed by it, or it makes them uneasy. It is necessary to create a conversation of connection; we need to engage, participate, support, enlighten and inform one another.”

Ortiz, Katzman, Chevalier and Post will help start the community discussion that follows. But Wulf said the idea is for their seats at the roundtable to be filled by anyone else who wants to take part in the dialogue.

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