Removal of Juan de Oñate from Española Fiestas

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As residents of the Tewa Basin, we understand that our shared history is deep and interconnected. For more than 20,000 years, First Peoples have moved around, through, and along the Rio Grande and Chama river valleys. The complex societies of ancestral Puebloan people were a part of a great mosaic of cultures and peoples that stretched across North America ignoring state or national borders. This deep history of our home is still present today in many forms, from landforms and plants and animals to the living cultures of Tewa and other First Peoples. The events of the sixteenth century of the European christian calendar began the connection with a growing and increasingly global world. It also came along with colonial violence and subjugation that targeted women, children, and elders specifically to maintain the generation of wealth for a small subset of aristocrats and large landowners. With the independence of Mexico, the department of Nuevomexico became involved in national politics for the first time and organized local political movements to sway politicians in Mexico City.

The acquisition of New Mexico by the United States through war and treaty by 1853 changed many relationships between people and land with disastrous effect on our communities. But, we have survived and continue to thrive throughout this long history. We have organized our communities in ways which allow us to maintain our sovereignty either as tribes, land grants, or expressive and strong people in community and family. Cutting and gathering firewood or hunting or camping or simply cruising through our beautiful homeland we are always in the presence of our histories. But our history is not well-represented by the Spanish colonial pageants used in the Española and Santa Fe fiestas. This history has reflected a small portion of colonial government which increased exploitation and brutality in order to produce and enrich far-away aristocrats and an effort by businesses and fraternal organizations in the late-nineteenth century to sanitize New Mexican history. This historical forgetting was never complete as long as the majority of New Mexicans had the complex stories of belonging and migration under circumstances of adversity but which have shaped us positively. 

In this context, we demand that Española Mayor Javier Sanchez and City Council remove the symbol of Oñate from all city-sanctioned activities and begin to build a narrative of truth-telling and healing for the people of the Española Valley. We must do right by history and set a good example for our children. Please sign and share.