Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A statue of a Catholic priest, author and historian that stands outside the Museum of New Mexico and some of the walls of the museum in downtown Santa Fe were spray-painted with graffiti in an apparent act of defiance by Native American activists.
New Mexico State Police say they responded to a report of criminal damage to property at the museum Tuesday morning. The words “Land Back” and “1680” were painted on the adobe walls and doors of the museum. Red paint was also used to deface the statue of Fray Angelico Chavez, which stands outside the museum’s history library and photo archives named for him.
It’s unclear when the vandalism took place, but it closely coincides with the 340th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt on Monday.
The graffiti were removed by a state crew Tuesday morning.
It is the third monument in downtown Santa Fe desecrated in the past three months. In June, someone spray-painted “Stolen Land” on an obelisk dedicated to frontiersman Kit Carson outside the federal courthouse. Days later, another obelisk, the “Soldiers’ Monument,” at the center of the city’s historic plaza, was defiled with the same message and “1680.”
Plywood barriers now protect the obelisks.
No arrests have been made in any of the incidents.
The obelisks were vandalized around the same time statues of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate in Albuquerque and Alcalde were removed under threat of being toppled by activists. At that time, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber issued an emergency proclamation that called for the removal of a statue of Diego de Vargas – who led the resettlement of northern New Mexico 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt chased the Spanish from the region – from Cathedral Park to protect it from possible vandalism.
The incidents occurred as statues of Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus and other historical figures who were slave owners or participated in the repression of minorities across the country were being torn down by protesters after the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis police.
Chavez, who died in 1996, spent much of his life ministering to people on pueblos in New Mexico.
Chavez developed theories about the origins of the Pueblo Revolt that some consider revisionist history.
An article by Melina Vizcaino-Aleman published on UNM’s Digital Repository says that Chavez’s Pueblo Revolt theory “should be read as a sign of the friar’s political unconscious, and not necessarily as historical truth.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include additional information from New Mexico State Police.