Taking Inventory

Santa Fe releases an initial list of monuments and events commemorating local history

In an attempt to make Santa Fe “a leader in racial healing,” the city today released a list of monuments and events commemorating figures and happenings in local history.

The list contains 58 monuments, memorials and markers around Santa Fe, as well as 33 special events that "recognize historic events/people that receive city support." The city considers it to be a "working list," and is encouraging the public to submit suggestions for other items to include in its roundup.

Stopping short of saying he'll advocate for additions or subtractions to list, Mayor Javier Gonzales said in a press release that the city should "strike a balance" in how it memorializes its own contentious history.

"Native and Hispanic people have contributed so much to the richness of our community, and while it may be difficult at times, the conversation about how we do a better job of telling that story will require all of us to come together," Gonzales said in the statement.

Gonzales tasked City Manager Brian Snyder to create the inventory on Aug. 17. A staff of four people decided which markers and events would count as "historic," including all those that memorialized events or people who made their mark on Santa Fe before 1967. Staffers then created lists of city divisions and departments from whom they solicited information about markers and events across the city.

“For monuments, markers and memorials, we relied heavily on public art inventory, where work had been commissioned over the last 30 years,” says Debra Garcia y Griego, the director for the Santa Fe Arts Commission and leader of the inventory effort. She adds that the team also used online sources and toured on foot to complete the list, which took over two months longer than expected. 

The mayor announced the city’s intent to create the inventory in August, shortly after a neo-Nazi murdered a protester in clashes between white nationalists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. The event that precipitated the clashes was a rally by far-right organizers ostensibly in support of a statute of Robert E Lee, commander of the Confederate Army.

At that time, the Fiesta de Santa Fe was less than a month away. The Entrada pageant, which kicks off Fiesta and depicts an inaccurate account of Santa Fe's reconquest by Spanish colonists, sparked protests that resulted in eight arrests. Santa Fe Police Chief Patrick Gallagher later told SFR that events in Charlottesville influenced the police department's strategy of confining protesters to a so-called "free speech zone" in order to limit contact between Entrada supporters and detractors.

The city does not specifically list the Entrada on its special events list. Instead, it names the entire Fiesta weekend as an event, in addition to six other Fiesta-related events that either precede that weekend or happen concurrently. Elena Ortiz, an organizer of protests against the Entrada, tells SFR that she believes the pageant should have been singled out because it is uniquely offensive.

“No one has a problem with the pet parade or the Santa Fe Historical Parade,” Ortiz tells SFR, referring to other attractions that take place during Fiesta. “It just seems to me to be very obtuse.”

Garcia y Griego tells SFR that the reason her team did not list the Entrada separately from Fiesta weekend was because they included events based on a permit list from the parks division, which treats Fiesta as a single event.

The 58 monuments on the city's website include a range of murals, plaques, statutes, sculptures and other markers, some more obscure than others. For example, the city lists the well-known Plaza obelisk—another controversial structure—as well as a plaque in memory of writer and anthropologist Oliver La Farge at the La Farge branch of the Santa Fe Public Library.

The city's descriptiveness of each marker also widely varies. A plaque located in the Railyard is simply described as "Spiegelburg Memorial," while another monument called "Hitching post at the end of the trail" is described as the "end of the trail to American cattlemen and their horses for their glorious role in winning the West[.]"

Visitors to the city's website are currently able to flag errors or suggest additions until Dec. 31. The working inventory will also be presented to the City Council on Dec. 13, and a final version that incorporates public suggestions is set to be released next year.

Garcia y Griego says that a written report will eventually be produced out of her team's initial work, but the city will probably keep a digital version up on its website, too.

“I imagine it will remain a work in progress to some extent, so to that end it may stay up on the website so it’s easier to change and add things as they’re identified,” she says. 
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