The dust settled an hour or two after activists pulled down the obelisk in the Santa Fe Plaza, cheering as the first half toppled, and then the second. The stone crumbled into pieces as it hit the ground, sending up miniature plumes of grit that hung over the crowd.
For Hispanic business owners and entrepreneurs in Santa Fe, not much about the events of Indigenous Peoples Day feels settled, despite the Plaza returning to its usual quiet, red-and-gold autumn splendor. SFR interviewed members of the board of directors at the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, an organization of member entrepreneurs with businesses scattered across the city in dozens of industries.
SFR found some agreement: The destruction of the obelisk was a violent act, members said, and a poor approach to demanding change. And members agreed that Mayor Alan Webber's administration acted too slowly in addressing the boiling local and national racial tensions that preceded the obelisk's undoing.
There were points of disagreement, too, with some members condemning the activists' move. Others acknowledged that drastic action may have been required to be heard and that the monument celebrated genocide.
The differences, at least among chamber members, cleaved along generational and cultural divides: Younger members offered sympathetic takes on last week's actions, which led to two arrests. Older members say that pulling down a monument is an unfair effort to rewrite history.
Webber and his police department, which chose to stand down as protesters took the obelisk, have offered varying stories to explain their stance on the meaning of the monument, which many have seen as racist.
Tony Horta Campos, 28, is one of the younger members on the chamber's board, and believes he may be the only one who considers himself Latino as well as Hispanic.
"My view on [the obelisk] is definitely different. That might be because I am a millennial. It may also be because I am not from the area originally," Campos tells SFR. "I don't think bringing down monuments by force is the right way. But I do understand [the activists'] side…As a Mexican, I definitely not only identify with my Spanish roots, but definitely my Indigenous roots, and I'm proud of them."
Campos sees the monument as "oppressive" and says the history has been presented in a "sugar-coated way."
"They don't acknowledge the full magnitude of all the bloodshed that was done and I think that's what is offensive to Native Americans," Campos says.
He says Webber dragged his feet in setting up a group to discuss the further removal of monuments around the city, potentially leading to the events of Oct. 12. In June, Webber removed a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas and claimed he would revive a commission to evaluate other statues and monuments.
That commission has yet to materialize.
Indigenous-led groups have organized similar protests in Santa Fe before. Elena Ortiz, co-chair of the central governing council of The Red Nation, tells SFR the tensions between Indigenous groups and city administrations have been heating up since the protests to abolish the Entrada three years ago.
"When the coalition of… Indigenous women activists got Mayor Webber to promise to remove the obelisk, and that didn't happen… this was once again, we are being ignored," Ortiz says. "We actually grew up and live in Santa Fe so being dismissed by the mayor of our hometown after being promised certain things is really egregious and so that, I think, is part of what boiled over."
Ortiz tells SFR the rally last Monday was not organized by any one group and the toppling of the obelisk was an "organic moment." She points out that while the statue did honor Union soldiers who fought against the Confederates during the Civil War, those same Union soldiers were then used to massacre Native people across the West.
For Dwayne Trujillo, 51, who has been on the Hispanic Chamber's board for about a year, the obelisk represented Hispanic culture and "the good, the bad and the ugly" parts of the state's history. He understands that the words "Savage Indian," which were inscribed on one of the plaques at the monument's base, upset people, but he says he thinks there should have been a discussion.
"Maybe that means new monuments and that's OK. Times change, history changes, and maybe that obelisk wasn't the best representation of Santa Fe," Trujillo tells SFR. "But as long as there is a dialogue for future monuments and what does that look like moving forward for Hispanic people and for Native Americans as well?"
James Borrego, 69, Hispanic Chamber board member and owner of Borrego Construction, is simply upset about the destruction of the monument.
"There's always going to be conflict with an outsider coming into your perceived land, your nation, and changes are always hard to deal with, but the bottom line is that the Native Americans, Hispanics coexisted for 300 years," Borrego tells SFR. "Because of the national dialog of Black Lives Matter and everybody else, it has inflamed this racial tension."
Another young chamber member, board President David Fresquez, 34, says that he grew up in Santa Fe seeing the Hispanic and Native American cultures mix downtown, so the destruction of the obelisk mostly made him sad.
"I think we have to be extremely sensitive to people's feelings but that doesn't equal destroying property. That usually equals thoughtful communication and bringing people together," Fresquez says. "So I guess my question to [the activists] is, what exactly does it solve?"