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Santa Fe plans to keep its historical monuments

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

While calls across the country to remove statues and monuments honoring Confederate leaders have spread to include such European colonizers as Christopher Columbus and Juan de Oñate, the city of Santa Fe has no plans to remove any of its monuments to controversial historical figures.

“Public art, including monuments, memorials and murals, can serve as a vehicle for dialogue about the history and stories of a community,” Pauline Kanako Kamiyama, director of the city’s Arts and Culture Department, said in a statement to the Journal. “The call to action that has taken place through marches, candlelit vigils and peaceful protests here in Santa Fe, as well as similar actions nationwide, provide an opportunity to have difficult conversations about colonization of this land and systemic institutional racism. The erasure of history without conversation serves no one.”

Santa Fe held several peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police officers last month. The incident has reignited debate over race relations and whether it is appropriate to honor controversial historical figures, such as Confederate leaders.

In Santa Fe, there is a monument dedicated to Kit Carson, the frontiersman who led the Long Walk, the forced removal of Navajo people in 1864, and a statue of Don Diego de Vargas, the Spanish conquistador who led the reoccupation of Santa Fe 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Some Native American people say these men participated in the genocide of their ancestors. Activists in 2018 successfully brought an end to Santa Fe’s Entrada, a reenactment of the de Vargas-led resettlement held during the Santa Fe Fiestas.

In addition, an obelisk that serves as the centerpiece of the city’s historic Plaza was originally inscribed with a dedication to soldiers who died in “battles with savage Indians” until someone decades ago removed the word “savage” with a chisel.

“We know history is often told by a dominant culture, usually the ‘victors’; however, we also know that history is constantly evolving. These are living stories that need to be told from many perspectives,” Kanako Kamiyama said. “This can be accomplished by making equity and healing the guiding principles when considering art and monuments in public space.”

Santa Fe’s Entrada has been replaced by a ceremony that places emphasis on reconciliation between Spanish and Native people.

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