UNM Regents to consider removal of controversial murals

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There’s a new push to get a series of murals in one University of New Mexico library removed. They’ve been there for decades and have caused controversy just as long. Now, the UNM Board of Regents is considering action.

Inside Zimmerman Library, you’ll come across the “West Wing Murals” painted by Kenneth Adams in 1939, which show three racial groups of the Southwest.

“I just see the beauty in the art,” said student Zachary Martinez. “I think it helps represent New Mexico well.” 

The first mural shows Native Americans and their works of art. The next mural shows Hispanics and their contributions with agriculture and architecture.

The third mural shows Anglos with their scientific studies, while the fourth mural represents a union of all three groups. That’s the mural that has some people upset.

“I do believe I see a hint of colonialism,” said Letisha Bustamante, who opposes the murals. “And this was the 1930s. It was a long time ago.”

Some believe this paints too pretty a picture of the past conflicts between Anglos, Hispanics and Native Americans. They also point out the Anglo in the painting has a face. The others are faceless.

“I believe we’re in a time of change and it should be updated,” said Bustamante. “We should change it.” 

Still, other students KRQE News 13 spoke with feel differently.

“I mean really, I don’t see a problem with this,” said Teel, who likes the murals. “I mean I don’t see anything that would be considered insensitive.”

“I really like it, it shows the different types of cultures here in the state.”

UNM said a task force was created to talk about the future of the mural. Students have some ideas.

“I believe we should cover it up and then redo another mural,” said Bustamante.

“This is a very debated topic, but I do think that we gotta keep it here at UNM,” said Martinez. “Because I think this will teach us about our culture and our past and will help us prevent these things again.”

A recommendation for what to do with the murals is expected to be given to the Regents Historic Preservation Committee next week.

UNM said the murals are part of the school’s historic character, so any changes to them would have to be reviewed by the Regents Historic Preservation Committee and ultimately the Regents themselves.

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