Debate heats up surrounding removal of Don Diego de Vargas statue

New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) –The removal of the Don Diego de Vargas statue in Santa Fe more than a week ago continues to spark debate. Now, one woman is calling out Santa Fe’s mayor publicly, saying he’s destroying the city.

Don Deigo de Vargas was a Spanish conquistador who lead the reclamation of the Santa Fe territory after the Pueblo Revolt of the 1680s. Karla Moya-Crites is a fifth-generation Santa Fean of Spanish descent and calls the Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber’s decision to remove the statue, without public input, ‘despicable’ and divisive.

“I am offended by it. Because these were, this is my, these are my ancestors. I am not responsible for what my ancestors did. All I can tell you, I’ve learned from it, I’ve learned my history from it,” Moya-Crites said. “We’re not those violent people anymore just like Pope probably, his people probably aren’t as violent as a person either. So, we have to learn our history and learn from it…Removing the statue is not going to remove what happened years ago. It’s just, it reminds us that yes, this occurred, let’s be better people from it.”

In an open letter published in the Albuquerque Journal, Moya-Crites calls Mayor Webber a ‘hypocrite,’ accusing him of adopting Spanish traditions while trying to erase her heritage. She also says is a transplant to the city and doesn’t represent Santa Fe.

Mayor Alan Webber said the decision to remove the statue was out of concern of public safety and had to be done immediately and decisively. He said after protests and counter-protests surrounding the Juan De Onate statue in Albuquerque, the city of Santa Fe had similar threats of protests and counter-protests erupting.

“It seemed to me as mayor that the situation was potentially a very dangerous one,” Mayor Webber said in a press conference Monday. “There’s no statue, there’s no memorial or monument that’s worth one person’s life.”

Mayor Webber said he reached out to “several dozen” leaders in the community including some city councilors for guidance.

In her open letter, Moya-Crites also addresses the Fiesta de Santa Fe. She said for her, it’s a very religious celebration and was never controversial until recent years.

“However this turns out to be, I as a person cannot forget my religion,” she said. “I just want people to remember Fiestas is also a very religious ceremony and that I know some people don’t feel that, but I really feel like I need to emphasize that…We come together because when Don Diego came back to Santa Fe, he pledged his loyalty that everything would be peaceful.”

Moya-Crites said she wants all sides of history to be recognized and suggested the Diego de Vargas statue go back up next to a statue of Pope, the leader of the Pueblo Revolt.

The Diego de Vargas statue is getting reviewed by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission but there is no word yet on what will happen to it. Mayor Webber said it’s been suggested to him to create a museum that honors all sides of history, which he said he would be in favor of.


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