SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – More controversy surrounds an obelisk that protesters tore down in Santa Fe. Wednesday evening, the Santa Fe Arts Commission held a special meeting to discuss what’s next. There’s now an empty place left in the middle of the plaza. The commission is trying to decide temporary plans to beautify the area, but answers didn’t come easy, as no one felt it was their place to make changes.
“I don’t know that I feel comfortable giving any type of recommendation,” said Alma Castro, a Santa Fe arts commissioner. “I think that we’ve heard loud and clear that we are not the appropriate body to be making this.”
Community members remained divided on the issue. Some agreed with the council’s decision that it wasn’t their place to make changes, while others want the obelisk restored.
“Today, we’re still here, still calling for the removal of these monuments. This land, this property, and this opportunity must be returned to Indigenous peoples,” said Alessandra, a community member. “They are the only ones who should be deciding what happens with this going forward.”
“It is quite alarming that committee would allow public comment from people that actually destroyed the 150-year-old obelisk,” said Melissa, another community member. “The best thing for us to do is to repair what has been destroyed.”
The commissioners noted that they were asked to make a recommendation. To that degree, some even suggested nixing the idea of ‘beautification.’
“Maybe we should just paint the box black, I don’t know. It’s grief. Then putting the sign saying the four signs it was meant to be and an explanation why this is there,” said Jorge Luis Bernal, a Santa Fe arts commissioner. “It’s sorrow, it’s painful. It’s been a total disaster for a year and a half or two and we can’t do anything until the CHART takes action.”
Most agreed that CHART — which is the city’s resolution to take a community member-driven approach to these monuments and statues — should ultimately decide what happens to the obelisk. CHART stands for culture, history, art, reconciliation, and truth.
“I move that no beautification of the obelisk in the plaza occur until the CHART process is underway,” said Adelma Aurora Hnasko, a Santa Fe arts commissioner. “And that a sign be placed on or at the obelisk with language from the CHART proclamation giving context to the box around the obelisk.”
The commissioner added that the sign includes a QR code taking visitors to the CHART proclamation to read it in full and make their own public comment. The final motion was agreed upon by the commission.
“There’s clearly a desire for it to look different because someone is uncomfortable with it,” said Castro. “Maybe that discomfort will move the process forward.”
According to the Arts Commission, Mayor Alan Webber wants to see these changes they’ve decided on — like the sign — in the next few weeks. There is not a set timeline yet as to when the CHART process will begin in Santa Fe, as the city works to hire a coordinator that will communicate with community members. The budget for CHART is $265,000.