The Obelisk Still Stands

Months after Mayor Webber pledged to remove the Santa Fe Obelisk, letter writers ask for a deadline to get it done

(Mark Woodward)

Days after violence erupted at a protest of over a statue of a Conquistador in Albuquerque in June where one man got shot, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber met with members of the Indigenous advocacy group the Three Sisters Collective to discuss taking down monuments in Santa Fe that many Indigenous people find offensive.

Later that day, Webber publicly called for the removal of the obelisk in the center of the Santa Fe Plaza, the Kit Carson obelisk located in front of the US District Courthouse and the Don Diego de Vargas statue at Cathedral Park.

City staff removed the de Vargas statue in the early dawn hours the next morning. Later that evening demonstrators filled the Plaza to celebrate the planned removal of the obelisk that contained a racist inscription on one side.

The day felt like a victory for many of the people who spoke from the bandstand that evening. But in the months since, little has happened to keep the promise. The obelisk stands encased in a plywood box.

Today, a group called the Northern New Mexico SURJ (an acronym for Showing Up for Racial Justice) sent a letter to the mayor alleging that Webber has not responded to the Three Sister's Collective's requests for an update, and requesting answers to questions about what has been done to find out which government entity has the authority to remove the obelisk and what next steps are planned.

"In these chaotic times, it would be easy for this promise to be lost in the cascade of emerging crises or abandoned in a tangle of bureaucratic finger-pointing and passing of the buck. It would also be possible for your declaration to be undone and placed in the lap of a future Commission. But we are asking you to not let that happen," the authors of the letter write, before praising Webber for pledging to remove the monuments and asking him to follow through.

The letter also suggests that the administration agree to have the obelisk removed by October 12, which is Indigenous People's Day.

"This would ensure —for the first time in history—a celebration of Indigenous People's Day on the Santa Fe Plaza without the heavy shadow of colonialism cast by the obelisk at the center of the festivities," the letter says.

Shortly after barriers were erected around the obelisk this summer, the city announced that the plywood box would be used as a canvas for a community art project. However, it still stands bare.

The mayor's office did not respond to a request for comment.

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