By ALAN M. WEBBER
City of Santa Fe
A lot has happened since last Monday. Our city is hurting. We’re feeling divided in the aftermath of the destruction of the historic obelisk on the Plaza. Some have long called for its removal. Others regard it as a cherished symbol. None of us approve of the way it was destroyed.
What an enormous moment we are in.
Santa Feans have been in a back and forth conversation about how to tell the story of our cultures and our histories that dates back well before the obelisk. And here’s the truth: It doesn’t stop here. This conversation needs to continue.
In June, I said that it was time to take down the obelisk. I moved the statue of Don Diego de Vargas to a safe place. There had been violence and shootings in cities nearby and I worried that could happen here. I spent hours talking to community members, Hispanic leaders, Tribal leaders, faith leaders and members of the City Council. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made as Mayor—and it was the right one. I believe it saved lives. And while what comes next will be difficult we are ready for it.
At the time I said we needed to figure out a unifying process to replace the obelisk with something that honors the story of our shared history in a way that we can all be proud of. I trusted that we could hold on to the conversation and be patient as we sought a process that would be legal and worthy of the moment.
I’m deeply disappointed that a small group of protesters violently tore down the obelisk. It was wrong. It was illegal. I’m angry. I imagine you are too. Those who broke the law will be charged.
That said, I refuse to let a few violent protesters also tear down our city. We are more than that. We are rich in history but we are not defined solely by our statues. We can and we will meet this moment and come together to define what happens next. And we will do so together.
I’ve heard from many of you about the conversations you’re having—online and at the dinner table. Your thoughts about what this means for Santa Fe and the genuine good that can from a process of pain and dialogue are heartening and important.
Many of you have shared some creative ideas about what we can do with the Plaza: A piece of art that is a tribute to our many cultures. An interactive piece that helps people learn about our history. A different kind of obelisk that completely re-imagines the meaning of the old monument. A fountain that recognizes that we live in a place where water is life. Please keep your ideas coming. Something special will be born from our struggle.
I’ve introduced the resolution to form a commission on culture, history, art, reconciliation and truth: CHART. Its job is to chart a path forward for all of us. It will create a place where everyone’s voice can be heard and where everyone’s views will count.
This is a critical step in our city coming together and developing solutions and a way forward—for the Plaza and beyond. The resolution will work its way through all three of our City Council committees and in the end it will be shaped by every member of the Governing Body. I invite you to give input, too. It’s going to take all of us. Once it’s adopted, we will put it to work with intention, inclusion and speed.
We are facing what the nation is facing. We have a reckoning on race, on history, on justice—and on creating a future that acknowledges the pain and honors the best of our past. That takes time and it takes effort.
We will do it, together.