SANTA FE, N.M. — In response to “Oñate’s history should be revealed,” by Clovia Cummings, Nov. 3
Ms. Cummings – You are so fortunate you live in the 21st century – your ancestors were very cruel. You would not even wish to go back in time.
One cannot compare today’s psyche to that of humans living during the time of exploration and European settlements. Life as we know it today is pretty civilized. Back in Oñate’s day, life was dreadfully cruel. The Indian was considered savage by Europeans, but life across the ocean was just as savagely cruel. King Henry VIII had one of his wives brutally beheaded. Beheading was not unusual; centuries earlier, John the Baptist was another victim; Jesus was atrociously crucified, a common practice in some societies; people were horrendously skinned or burned alive. Violent scalping, human sacrificing and inhuman cannibalism were not unknown in the Americas by indigenous Indians.
And in some societies, feet were unbelievably cut off. Why would Spanish Oñate be atypical in a ruthless world? Oñate was no more ruthless than the enemy holding a position parallel to his, an Indian Chief, or Popay for that matter, who became enemy to the Pueblos after the Revolt.
Wasn’t it the toes that were cut off, or were the Acoma even mutilated at all? They were able to escape and make their way back home from San Juan Pueblo to Acoma; that was quite a distance to travel in those days.
Decapitation was not out of the ordinary in ancient times. Not that this is excusable, but, remember, these were primitive days. Perhaps Cummings and filmmakers Chris Eyre, and Lonnie Anderson (who are making a film about a man who cut a foot off of an Oñate statue) can reveal to us ancient societies that did not practice such violent cruelties. When will you learn to accept that throughout the history of humans, war and conquest has been part of life – resulting in today’s modern world?
Oñate brought the first European settlements to northern New Mexico in what is today the United States. Simultaneously, he did not exterminate the Natives or exile them as the English did in the East Coast. Oñate also introduced Christianity, still practiced to this day by the Pueblo Indians.
Regardless of Oñate’s 16th-/17th-century cruelties, some of his many credits are that the Pueblos are still in ancient lands where the Spanish found them; he allied with the Pueblos during attacks by nomadic marauding Indians; he introduced Spanish blood, kin, names, traditions and customs, and merged them all into a Pueblo identity; and he practiced human rights more than any other European during the 1600s. Records of that day show that Pueblo Indians were not united and not all were anti-Spanish, with all the introductions the Spanish brought.
It is un-American to de-statue Oñate. It is also un-American not to have Oñate’s statue at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda/Statutory Hall as the first European leader/settler in the United States, representing Spain’s unmatched empire in America during the Spanish Colonial era.
Ortiz is a resident of northern New Mexico.