Santa Fe Monuments Committee Launches Amid Cloud of Controversy | Local News


The city of Santa Fe’s plan to tackle controversial monuments and other public art works is finally launched more than a year after Mayor Alan Webber requested the review and nine months after the centerpiece of the downtown plaza, an obelisk dedicated to civil war soldiers, was toppled by protesters.

But the process known as CHART is already under criticism, especially over a consultant hired to lead the effort.

City councilors last week approved a $ 254,000 contract with Albuquerque-based Artful Life to facilitate its Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth process, kicking off what is expected to be 10 months of panel discussions.

Webber said about 300 people and organizations have signed up to participate and he has contacted other community organizations, including the Catholic clergy, the Spanish fraternal organization Caballeros De Vargas and the NAACP.

“There really is an open opportunity for people to participate,” said Webber. “This is why I spoke to a large cross section of Santa Fe. I spoke to the leadership of the Caballeros, the leadership of the Fiesta Council. I think there are a lot of individuals and a lot of people in Santa Fe who want to see a unified community.

Several community members raised concerns over comments made by Artful Life’s founding director, Valerie Martinez, about her Native American origins at a city council meeting on Wednesday. Some of the critics have argued that Martinez’s characterization of his heritage gives a false impression of Indigenous representation.

Martinez, from Santa Fe, said she took a 23andMe DNA test which revealed that she not only had Hispanic heritage, but also an Aboriginal background from her mother’s side. She said she knew the lineage before taking the test.

“I am of mixed blood,” Martinez said. “This is who I am, as are most of the people in New Mexico.”

Martinez clarified in Wednesday’s meeting that she has never claimed to be part of an indigenous community.

Carrie Wood, a board member for the Santa Fe Indigenous Center and the Navajo Nation, said during public comments at the meeting that she reached out to Martinez about the issue of using 23andMe results as a basis. of his request.

Wood said she was discussing the issue with her tribal government.

Karen Buller, chair of the Santa Fe Indigenous Center board and member of the Comanche Nation, said in an interview Monday that members of the Native American community she spoke to continued to dispute Martinez’s comments. characterizing its heritage.

Buller called the comments “strange,” but said she appreciated Martinez’s willingness to address the issue publicly.

“When it comes to the community, the Native American community wants our city officials and contractors to make an effort to hear and understand us, and we don’t want people to imply that they know what we are thinking and know what we are thinking. we want, ”Buller said. mentionned.

Martinez said these kinds of comments were important to her and Artful Life.

The CHART process, based on a similar framework in Albuquerque, was approved in January to help the city deal with monuments after a year in which the monument to soldiers in the square was destroyed during a rally of On Indigenous Peoples Day, a statue of Don Diego de Vargas was removed from the cathedral grounds and efforts were made to remove an obelisk dedicated to Kit Carson that sits outside a federal building.

The destruction of the soldiers’ monument, which has long sparked controversy over an inscription dedicated to soldiers killed in action against “wild Indians”, was rejected by the Union Protectiva de Santa Fe, which claims to be one of the most old Spanish cultural organizations. in the city.

The organization is suing the city of Santa Fe and Webber to force repairs to the monument. Meanwhile, the lawsuit seeks an injunction on any art in the Plaza until the lawsuit can be heard.

Union Protectiva de Santa Fe president Virgil Vigil declined to comment due to the lawsuit.

Jenice Gharib, co-founder of Artful Life, said that while the group has no response at this time, she expects the dialogue to lead to some sort of solution for the Obelisk.

“We want the community to find ways to move forward,” Gharib said. “I think that’s the first part, the truth. … It is to dialogue. The second is reconciliation; take action.”

Ron Trujillo, who recently resigned as chairman of the Caballeros DeVargas fraternal organization following the decision to send a letter to Webber requesting the return of the Vargas statue, said he was concerned about the end result. by CHART.

“As much as they say they’re going to do this or that, in my opinion it’s already done,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo falsely claimed that Artful Life was involved in the Albuquerque reconciliation process, which Martinez denied during Wednesday’s meeting.

Martinez also rebuffed a claim that she was involved in the decision to end the Entrada at the Fiesta de Santa. Martinez said she got involved in the process long after the decision to end the annual tradition, a reenactment of de Vargas’ recapture of Santa Fe.

Webber said CHART’s outcome will be based on community discussions.

“We are about to begin a community dialogue, and its results will be determined by the participation of people from across our community,” said Webber.

Webber added that he expects the conversation to include statues that may not yet exist as well as those that do.

“Where are the statues dedicated to farmers or teachers or nurses?” Webber asked. “Those dedicated to healers? Many are devoted to generals. People who have won battles receive a statue. But in Santa Fe, the cultural interaction that is the source of our strength was really based on faith, family, agriculture and shared values.

Webber added that he hoped CHART would attract more than members of Hispanic and Indigenous communities.

Martinez said Artful Life plans to launch an open appeal to members of the CHART team after the city’s deal with the group is finalized.

She hopes to have the first official CHART event in September, she added.

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