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Onate's Rage

Walnut Burl

During 1997, several processes were in full swing to celebrate the cuartocentenario (400 years)of Hispanic presence in the south western United States since 1598.

One project was to commission and install a large public sculpture in a downtown park in Albuquerque. After a lengthy review offered by a group of artists and presided over by various government regulators, it was decided to represent the coming of the Spanish by a large sculpture of the colonist, Juan de Onate.

Onate was the first governor of New Mexico. He was a Spaniard of privilege. He also was a butcher. In his callous hubris to colonize the southwest, Onate decided that he needed the wealth of the Acoma Pueblo. He sent off a group, headed by one of his relatives, to subdue the people of Acoma. The invaders were defeated. Among the dead was Onate's nephew.

Onate flew into a rage. He trounced the Acoma Pueblo. The maidens were sent to Mexico. The young men had their right foot cut off.

The blunder came when it was decided that the sculpture was to be installed in a public park which was dedicated to the Indians. A poor choice.

This adulation of an historically barbarous despot opened up old wounds. At the Hispanic center north of Espanola, New Mexico, the right foot of a large sculpture of Onate was cut off and removed and the media was notified. As a result of arrogance and denial, conflict and disagreement, a series of public debates occurred. (See included articles for more history).

Like the wave of a stone being dropped into a still pond, the rage of malice reverberates to this day.

Peter Cooke * 1233 Mount Maxwell Road * Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2H7 * (250) 537-4617

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