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Editorial: Santa Fe backyard is wrong foster home for divisive statue

This statue of Don Diego de Vargas was removed from a Santa Fe park and put away for "safe keeping" in June. It turned up in someone's backyard.

This statue of Don Diego de Vargas was removed from a Santa Fe park and put away for “safe keeping” in June. It turned up in someone’s backyard.

Apparently out of sight is out of mind for the powers that be in Santa Fe.

How else to explain the rush to remove a controversial statue of Don Diego de Vargas from Cathedral Park, a few blocks from Santa Fe’s historic Plaza, last June? The cloak-and-dagger operation that had the polarizing Spaniard taken to a secret and secure location for his own protection? And the subsequent revelation he’s apparently been hanging out for eight months in the backyard of the crane company that removed him because “the city never told them where to take it”?

Way for a city known for its art to protect the public’s investment in it, folks.

Amid nationwide protests over historical monuments last summer, Mayor Alan Webber ordered de Vargas be removed for his own safety. Webber says he had been assured the leader of the Spaniards’ reconquest of Santa Fe – 12 years after they were driven out during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 – was somewhere on city property. When he learned that wasn’t the case, he “was both very surprised and very upset.”

We would hope so. Love him or leave him, the de Vargas statue is public property and should not suffer the same fate as the toppled obelisk in the Plaza or wind up in some collector’s underground gallery.

Ron Trujillo, a former city councilor and current chairman of the Caballeros de Vargas, declined to reveal where the statue has been stored but said he had been alerted the business hired to remove de Vargas still had him on its property.

Even more upsetting, while both Trujillo and Webber told the Journal the statue is safe, Trujillo said he believes it’s not “secure” in its current location.

Ya think? Talk about inadvertently creating Fenn Treasure Hunt 2.0.

Meanwhile, a woman at the crane company that was on site the day de Vargas was moved would neither confirm nor deny possession of de Vargas, though she did say “we’ve just kind of gotten involved in something we shouldn’t be involved in.”

She’s right. When Webber ordered the statue moved, there should have been a destination along with the pick-up site. He put de Vargas and the crane company in a terrible spot. He needs to get them both out of it.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.