ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While Confederate statues are being taken down across the country, New Mexicans are now calling on city and state leaders to remove a statue they say represents violence against indigenous people.
For 20 years, a statue of Juan de Oñate has stood on the corner of Mountain and 19th Street, right in front of the Albuquerque Museum. “It’s placed in such a prominent, like right on the corner, and it’s elevated on a berm,” said Ollin Trujillo a long time Old Town resident.
The statue shows Oñate and other conquistadors leading the Spaniards through “New Spain.” “The particular statue is part of a public art piece called La Jornada,” said Shelle Sanchez, the Director of Cultural Services for the City of Albuquerque.
Friday, a group called Genizario Nation created a petition requesting the statue be removed, saying it represents and continues a legacy of colonial violence. “He represents something that I think is not to be honored,” said Susan Olsen, who signed the petition.
Sunday morning, city crews were out on the corner with power washers, cleaning up after someone vandalized the statue Saturday night. “Just costing us money to repair this kind of work,” said Jose Valdez, an Albuquerque resident.
The vandals spray-painted Oñate’s feet, face, and chest red, and left a message on the sidewalk in front of the statue. “It said ‘racist murderer’,” described Trujillo.
While some recognize why the statue is considered offensive, “I understand that Oñate was not a good person,” said Trujillo. Others say enough is enough, “I don’t know when this is going to stop, this is 500 years ago and I think we in New Mexico are living in peace with each other. Why start new problems,” said Valdez.
The city is organizing a community group to discuss what to do with the statue, but they did not say if they’re on board with removing it. There is a similar petition circulating in Rio Arriba County.