Albuquerque City Council postpones decisions on Juan de Oñate statue

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After months of gathering opinions from the public about what to do with the controversial Juan de Oñate statue, the City of Albuquerque is delaying a decision. However, a couple of ideas have surfaced. During Monday night’s city council meeting the councilors decided to postpone any decisions until further notice. “Due to the pandemic, people sometimes have not had the opportunity to participate because they don’t have internet, or couldn’t get on Zoom,” said City Councilor Klarissa Pena.

Pena says they’d like to wait until the pandemic is over, so more people can be included in the discussion. This summer the city launched the Race, History and Healing Project after a protest over the statue in Old Town ended with a shooting, and then the city removing the statue itself.

The Arts Board spent months asking the public what they wanted to happen to the statue. Nearly 1,300 people submitted an online survey. The city also did phone interviews and virtual meetings. More than half of the respondents felt the statue should not return to its original location.

The Arts Board submitted those findings to the city council for a final decision, but councilors believe more discussion is required before moving forward. “It’s going to be hard to have this discussion for everybody until we’re able to convene people in a personal setting where we can have these very person discussions,” said Councilor Pat Davis.

KRQE News 13 asked what could happen to the statue if they decide not to put it back. Councilor Pena says there’s some talk about possibly moving it to the Hispanic Cultural Center, or maybe even putting it inside the Albuquerque Museum. However, she says right now it’s too soon to tell.

The city has to tell the artist by March 1 what they plan on doing with the statue, but Councilor Pena says she’s hoping they can extend that agreement until a decision is made. Now that the city council has received recommendations from the Arts Board they’ll hold their own hearings in the new year. Under the council’s rules that would include at least two new hearings with public comment.

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