SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A statue of a conquistador, removed from Cathedral Park in Santa Fe, has been found in someone’s backyard. A photo taken by former Santa Fe City Councilor Ronald S. Trujillo shows the Don Diego de Vargas statue in the backyard of a home. He is not saying specifically where and it is not known who the home belongs to.

Everyone thought it was hidden away. Now, locals and even city leaders are outraged that the statue is in someone’s yard. “We were under the impression all this time that it was under lock and key,” Trujillo says. But in reality, the Don Diego de Vargas statue has been in someone’s yard, it was spotted last week at a unknown home in Santa Fe. “Someone could very easily get to it,” Trujillo says.

The statue of the Spanish conquistador who led the reclamation of the Santa Fe territory after the Pueblo revolt of the 1680s sat in Cathedral Park for years. He is honored and reviled throughout the state. “It’s part of our history here in Santa Fe,” Trujillo says.

It was removed by city crews back in June after Mayor Alan Webber decided it was a concern for public safety. City Councilor Joanne Vigil Coppler says it’s a move that blindsided the council and the community. “I thought it was uncalled for. I believe there should have been a discussion about it,” says Vigil Coppler.

City Councilor Chris Rivera said he asked the mayor and city manager about the statue’s whereabouts in November, after receiving a tip it was being kept in a city employee’s yard. “I received a phone call in response to the email that the statue was indeed in a city warehouse that it was being kept safe,” Rivera says.

Councilor Vigil Coppler says she’s already gotten calls from concerned citizens. “She’s very concerned, even right as we speak, that if it’s not taken away the vandals are going to come for it,” says Vigil Coppler.

President of religious and cultural organization Caballeros de Vargas Ron Trujillo says they donated the statue to the city many years ago and they would like it back. “We will secure it we will ensure it’s in a safe place,” Trujillo says.

Tuesday afternoon Mayor Webber released the following statement:

At the time that the Don Diego de Vargas statue was moved last June, it was a necessary step for the safety of the public and the protection of this important, historically significant work of public art. At that time I was assured by the responsible department head that the statue was taken to safe keeping at a City facility. I learned yesterday I was misled. The statue has been safe; however, it wasn’t in the City’s hands. This should not have happened. I’m upset at this development.

But even a piece of bad news can have good results. Today, following up on stories about the statue, I had an hour-long meeting with Councilor Rivera and President Trujillo and Chairman Garcia of the Caballeros de Vargas to talk about next steps. We all agreed that the safety and well-being of the statue is of paramount importance. We also agreed to continue talking and working together to protect the statue, which represents an integral part of the City’s history and culture.

Thank you. Stay safe, stay well.

Alan Webber, Mayor of Santa Fe