The poll on #4 among yesterday’s “ethics grab bag” is running strongly in favor of leaving up statues of Juan de Oñate, a particularly nasty Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain. [Aside: I was going to link to the article on the Britannica site, but as soon as I whitelisted it, I was bombarded with pop-up ads, drop-in ads, slide-over ads and more that shifted the text and made it nearly impossible to read. They are morons, and screw them, to be blunt. I’ll allow a site’s ads if the site is smart and considerate enough to format them so that they don’t make using the site infuriating. I will not be visiting again.] Only 11% of voters so far think that there needs to be some limit on how horrible a historical figure can be to have a community decide that they don’t want to be reminded of him and her every day. Voting is still open:
Here is johnburger2013’s Comment of the Day on Item 4 in the post, “Ethics Grab Bag: 6/18/20: Absolutism, DACA, Cancel Culture And Pancakes”:
In general, I am not one calling for removing art from the public square. That smacks too much of Soviet Russia, Chairman Mao, and the Taliban. Perhaps a more complete history can be shown on the monument discussing the controversies.
The Oñate statue is one of those monuments that maybe should not have been dedicated, even if he founded or claimed the region for the Spanish crown over 400 years ago. Apparently, the statue’s foot amputation was in response to Juan de Oñate’s brutal repression of the Acoma Puebla after the Acoma rebelled in October, 1598, because the Acoma refused to pay a food tax to the Spanish crown, which had been implemented by Oñate. Oñate had claimed the region for Spain in March 1598, and instituted a food tax, which hacked the Acoma off – why wouldn’t it? – so they rebelled. The Acoma killing 11 Spaniards/Mexicans, including Oñate’s nephew, In response, Oñate ordered the burning of the town and the slaughter of almost the entirety of the 2,000 Acoma, leaving some 200 alive, including children. Oñate had his troops amputate a foot of each of the surviving males of fighting age and sent the children to “missions” in Mexico. The revolt has been referred to as the Acoma Massacre. Not sure that is something Spain is proud of.
I had thought the statue had been there for a long time. Nope. It was dedicated in 1991, and its installation was rife with controversy. It has been damaged at least twice, the first being the amputation of the foot (along with a note stating, “fair is fair”) in December 1997, just prior to 400th anniversary of Oñate’s arrival in the region in 1598; and a second time when someone painted the left foot red in 2017, with “Remember 1680” (year of the Pueblo revolt – something Oñate had nothing to do with because – well, he’d have been pretty old and/or a dead guy by then) painted on the monument’s base.
According to many historians, Oñate was not a very nice fellow. He was recalled to Mexico in 1614 to stand trial for the Acoma Massacre and a host of other crimes against indigenous peoples. He was tried and convicted and had the misfortune of being exiled back to Spain where he lived out the remainder of his life eating tapas and developing a new form of music he called “flamenco.”*
Where Hernan Cortez’s history is much more complex and complicated, Oñate’s history seems to be punctuated by failure, brutality, failure, brutality, and utter incompetence. Aside from establishing New Mexico, he was fairly useless as an explorer or conquistador. He was cruel and, basically a jerk. His track record in New Mexico was spotty at best, wreaking more havoc than he was worth. He had to have been pretty bad if the Mexicans kicked him and sent him back to Spain where he couldn’t get into too much more trouble.
In New Mexico, it seems that his reputation/history is more about, “well, there was thing Oñate guy who claimed New Mexico for Spain in 1598, but . . . HEY! Check this out! Here is a really cool outcropping of rocks.” Perhaps a statue celebrating this guy was not really warranted anyway.
*Note: When is the commenter going to learn? Oñate DID NOT invent flamenco and by all accounts couldn’t play a guitar to save his life. But, no. This immature commenter can’t it through his thick head that he isn’t really as funny as he thinks he is. Sheesh!