De Vargas on Ice

Santa Fe city workers have removed the statue of Spanish conquistador from Cathedral Park

Santa Fe city workers used a crane and a truck to remove a statue of Don Diego De Vargas from the Cathedral Park downtown just after daybreak.

No protesters cheered nearby, as was the case when Alcalde and Albuquerque removed their statues of Juan de Oñate earlier this week, but the action came the morning after Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber reversed course on the topic and said he now advocated for removing several of the city's contested monuments.

A worker told SFR the statue was on its way to the Siler Road Public Works Yard, but city spokeswoman Lilia Chacon said she did not know whether that was true. "I don't know. I was sleeping," she said when reached shortly after 8 am.

In 2017, then-Mayor Javier Gonzalez asked the city manager to compile an inventory of all historic monuments in the city and present a report with analysis of monuments that should be removed. The list was compiled and is publicly available on the city website, but that's apparently all the action the city took at the time.

Likewise, the Webber administration has done nothing with the list.
According to that list, the sculpture by Donna Quastaoff was installed in 2007.

In addition to the Cathedral Park version of De Vargas, Webber called for removal of obelisks on the Plaza and Federal Place that also honor events and individuals from racist historical acts.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports city workers also attempted to remove the Plaza obelisk in the night "but those efforts failed as workers believed the effort would damage the monument."

Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor, tells SFR the workers at the obelisk in the night were state contractor who were only there to assess the monument's stability given the potential risk. They removed a 150-pound section at its top. Removing the feature, he says, will likely take "a bulldozer."

Asked whether the city or state technically owns the monument, he said there's not a clear answer. For now, "the city is steering on this … the governor just wants to be helpful," he said.

On Monday, someone defaced the obelisk for Kit Carson in front of the federal courthouse.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports city workers also attempted to remove the Plaza obelisk in the night "but those efforts failed as workers believed the effort would damage the monument."

Chacon issued a statement via email at 9:15 am that reads in full:

"Last night the Governor and the Mayor touched base regarding the obelisk. The Governor dispatched state assistance in the inspection of the property. State contractors determined the top of the obelisk was unstable and removed, they verified the remaining portions were stable. The safety of the community in advance of the protest tonight will continue to be the focus of everyone's efforts. We want everything tonight to be peaceful."

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