ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Juan de Oñate statues have provoked protests statewide, prompting local municipalities to remove the statues in the interest of public safety. Now, there are calls for other monuments dedicated to Oñate to be renamed.
The City of Albuquerque and Rio Arriba County have both removed their Juan de Oñate statues amid protests, one of which escalated into a shooting. However, there are still plenty of other reminders of the Spanish conquistador across the state.
Vanessa Jenkins is an Oñate Elementary alumna. “I grew up in this neighborhood, and I went to Oñate for years,” Jenkins said. “It was amazing all five years. My parents live across the street.”
Returning to the neighborhood she grew up on Wednesday, she said she is shocked to hear people calling for her old school to be renamed. “What are we going to do,” Jenkins asked. “Take down the whole history of the world?”
Albuquerque Public Schools said it’s received complaints this week regarding the name, as it is named after Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. There are at least 20 places statewide named after him such as the school and Juan de Oñate Park nearby. The City of Albuquerque said it’s received a complaint about the park.
“Now with everything going on in the world, maybe that is not the best thing for it to be named after,” Albuquerque resident Hannah Evans said. The University of New Mexico has Oñate Hall. Its sign was vandalized this week.
The university scrubbed the graffiti clean Tuesday. Wednesday, the sign has been removed. UNM said they have received one suggestion to change the name and will take a thoughtful approach in making any decisions. “We don’t come from a perfect past,” Albuquerque resident Lee Angus said. “All these names and buildings and statues are part of our past.”
However, it is not a simple process renaming things. The city said applications to rename its parks must go through an advisory board process. According to its website, no park named after an individual should be considered for a change in the name except in compelling circumstances supported by overwhelming public interest.
APS’s website outlines a lengthy process too to rename schools, requiring support from the board of education and the majority of the school community. “It is not a bad concept to want to get rid of their names being on things, but I think it is complicated,” Evans said.
Jenkins said she hopes to see her old school keep its name. “Everyone is doing the best they can, and it is not all about undoing the past but moving forward.”
There are more than a dozen streets across the state named after Oñate a few of which are in Albuquerque. The city said it has not received any complaints about those street names.
Oñate High School in Las Cruces is also facing criticism. The district said they have been asked on social media to consider a name change. A Las Cruces Public Schools spokesperson said there may be a formal discussion at their board meeting next Thursday.