Cancel Culture or Progress in Santa Fe, New Mexico 

Guzman mural on the Halpin Building on Guadalupe Street in Santa Fe.

Guzman mural on the Halpin Building on Guadalupe Street in Santa Fe. 

Cancel Culture or Progress? - Guzman Mural 

  Debate is currently (March, 2020) raging in Santa Fe about the forthcoming destruction of the Guzman mural. Is it cancel culture or progress? The mural was created by artist Gilberto Guzman in 1980 with the help of other artists and students from the Institute of American Indian Art. It is slated for destruction soon with the creation of the new Vladem Contemporary Art building on the site. As the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper has reported, https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/artist-sues-in-federal-court-to-block-destruction-of-santa-fe-mural/article_1cafc2f6-8058-11eb-b468-8bfbd8b87b22.html

Bob and Ellen Vladem gave $4 million to the New Mexico Museum of Art to establish the new museum which will use part of the historic Halpin Building in its construction. However, the mural won't be saved. Instead, the museum plans to "acknowledge the mural and its history with a display in the interior." This does not satisfy Hispanic and Native activists  who claim that the mural's destruction  is a blatant example of cancel culture, since the mural depicts their heritage. 

  The mural is currently in poor shape, as seen in the photo above. It is highly faded, cracked and peeling. Guzman was supposed to maintain the mural, but he has not done so since the 1990s, and he is now 89 years old. He is  suing the State and City to prevent the destruction of the mural. Regardless of whether the destruction of the mural is "cancel culture" or progress in the shape of a new museum, the fact remains that the mural is in very poor condition to be preserved.  Look for the new museum to proceed. 

Cancel Culture or Progress? - Santa Fe Plaza Obelisk

The Santa Fe Plaza Obelisk, as seen in this 1988 photo from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (HP.2014.14.812)

The Santa Fe Plaza Obelisk, as seen in this 1988 photo from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (HP.2014.14.812)

  The Santa Fe Plaza Obelisk had stood for almost 150 years in commemoration of the Union Army's victory over the Confederate Army in 1862 at Glorieta Pass twenty miles east of Santa Fe. The obelisk came tumbling down on Indigenous People's Day (formerly Columbus Day) in October, 2020 as Native activists and their supporters attached ropes and chains to it, and pulled it down, as a few Santa Fe police officers stood by and did nothing. Was this cancel culture in destroying a monument to Union soldiers, or progress in recognizing Native rights? 

The base of the Obelisk monument covered in plywood panels is all that is left. The City of Santa Fe has planted pine trees around it. In the distance is the Palace of the Governors.

The base of the Obelisk monument covered in plywood panels is all that remains. The City of Santa Fe has planted pine trees around it. Isn't it beautiful? In the distance is the Palace of the Governors.

  What had angered Native activists for many years was one inscription  at the base of the obelisk which had referred to "savage" Indians. One activist had long ago chiseled out the word "savage" and replaced it with "our brother."

Inscription change at the base of the obelisk is shown in this 1991 photo from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (HP.2014.14.813)

Inscription change at the base of the obelisk is shown in this 1991 photo from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (HP.2014.14.813)

Cancel Culture or Progress? - The De Vargas Statue

  Like the debate over Confederate monuments in the South, the debate over whether to cancel out offensive (to some) monuments continues to rage in Santa Fe. Earlier in the summer of 2020, the mayor had the statue of Don Diego de Vargas removed from Cathedral Park. De Vargas was the Spanish soldier who led the reconquest of New Mexico in 1692 after the Pueblo Indian revolt of 1680 had driven the Spanish back to Mexico. The mayor removed the statue as a "precaution" to protect it from possible destruction. However, the mayor saw no such need to protect the Plaza Obelisk. The mayor promised to protect the statue in "city custody," but it was later revealed that he did not know where it had been taken. The Santa Fe New Mexican in 2021 showed a photograph of the statue sitting in the back yard of the crane operator who had removed it. Cancel culture or progress? You decide. 

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