A naming controversy over a statue of a brutal Spanish conqueror grips the Southwest city.
Before the first year was out, the Indians of Acoma rebelled and killed 11 Spanish soldiers, including Oñate's nephew. Oñate's response was swift and harsh, wiping out their village, killing hundreds of men, women and children and famously severing one foot of each adult male survivor.
Sculptor John Sherrill Houser, who worked 10 years on the Oñate statue, says his goal was never to honor the man as an individual. "People think monumental sculpture is supposed to glorify heroes," he told me, "but I wanted to find a figure to represent a stage in history. It's not a value judgment but a way to make people aware of the past."
If you want to represent history, show Oñate butchering an Acoma Indian. Then tell people there's no value judgment and you're just depicting history the way it was.
You'll never see the non-Native majority sanction such a statue. Why not? Because this is all about glorifying Hispanic heroes--despite the sculptor's disingenous remarks.
See Best Monuments to Topple for more on the subject.