Protestors plead for state to keep mural up

New Mexico News

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – People in Santa Fe Saturday are working to preserve a long-time mural that the state plans to tear down. The building it’s on is expected to be transformed into a new, state-of-the-art museum. The so-called multi-cultural mural has been on the side of the former Halpin building near the railyards since the 80s.

Protesters said it has deep roots in Santa Fe and removing it would be another step toward gentrification. “I’m asking the governor to please tear down this tarp and bring back that mural to life,” said Rick Martinez, with “Keep Santa Fe Multicultural.”   

Despite the rain, the group hosted a protest near the Santa Fe Rail Yards. They want to keep a mural they believe represents the city’s ever-growing cultural melting pot.

“In downtown Santa Fe, typically the only indigenous representation you see is a stereotype,” said Carrie Wood with Keep Santa Fe Multicultural. “It’s a caricature of who we are and it’s not necessarily positive. But I think this mural is a good representation of not just Indigenous peoples, but of a multicultural community.”   

The mural in question is called “Multi-Cultural.” It’s been on the Halpin State Archives Building along Guadalupe Street since the 1980s, it’s currently covered by a tarp on the old building where the new Vladem Contemporary Art Museum is planned. “There’s no reason in the world that it wouldn’t be a great asset for a museum of contemporary art or modern art,” said Peter Chapin.

But as News 13 reported back in 2019, officials with the museum determined the iconic mural is past its expected life span and cannot be saved because it’s painted on crumbling stucco. That being said, protesters believe it’s still worth preserving; they say they’re concerned its removal will continue stripping away what makes Santa Fe special. “This is a multicultural town and when we lose multicultural items – things like this – it doesn’t make us multicultural, it’s either rich, poor, or that’s it,” said Martinez. 

KRQE did reach out to the state’s Cultural Affairs Department to get a response to Saturday’s protest, but did not hear back. 

In March, the artist Gilberto Guzman asked a federal judge to stop the state from removing the mural but both sides agreed to dismiss the case. It’s still unclear when the state will actually remove it.

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