Updated: June 16, 2020 11:03 PM
Created: June 16, 2020 10:31 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - When the city of Albuquerque commissioned the statue of Juan de Oñate back in the late 90s, there were just as many concerns and debates happening then that are being echoed now.
"1998 was the 400th anniversary of the founding of New Mexico by Juan de Onate,” explained Felipe Gonzales, a professor of Sociology Emeritus at UNM. “There was a nonprofit organization here in town that proposed to the city of Albuquerque a bust of Oñate.”
What followed the proposal was major backlash against that idea. There were plenty of emotional Albuquerque city council meetings to find a compromise, but ultimately, two pieces of art with an $800,000 price tag went up next to each other in Old Town.
“On the Native American side, who's felt like any representation of Oñate was unjust and, and one that would end up celebrating the atrocities that were committed by Oñate,” explained Gonzales. “On the other side, that was just a strong commitment to Oñate as the so-called father of New Mexico.”
"He did bring Hispanic people here and Hispanic culture,” said Robert Martinez, New Mexico’s state historian.
The debate over Juan de Oñate never ended-- it's just intensified.
“I've heard the arguments, and I understand people saying we can't tear down these monuments,” said Martinez. “I learned all my history from books from documents from professors from people from my grandparents. I didn't learn history from statues. If you put a person up in a monument, what you're saying is we approve of everything you ever did and ever were.”
“I do think that Native Americans have the moral high ground here, because it is true that they were in possession of the land, before the Spanish came,” explained Gonzales. “Then you had a Spanish rule that in the first period of colonization, exploited them for their labor, and then after that continued with a kind of a cultural colonialism.”
During Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller's news conference, KOB 4 learned the artist who created Old Town's Oñate statue actually asked for it to come down.
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