Conquistador means “conqueror” – not benevolent grandfather!

Channing Concho, left, and American Horse photograph themselves after a statue of Juan de Onate was removed in June in Albuquerque

The movement for racial justice is toppling statues across America, from Robert E. Lee to Christopher Columbus — and now the Spanish conquistador, Juan de Oñate, the first European to colonize the arid wilderness of New Mexico, the state’s first colonial governor and a despot who inflicted misery on Native Americans…

Time was when there were costumed pageants in the cities of Santa Fe and Española that reenacted the entry of Spanish governors into New Mexico, but both have been permanently cancelled after protests that they were culturally offensive to Native Americans.

Authorities have removed both statues and put them in storage, with their futures uncertain…

Oñate left Mexico in 1598 with a long caravan of settlers, missionaries, and livestock to establish a colony at his own expense, with the goal of subjugating and Christianizing the Indigenous population and extracting all the riches he could. He made land grants to his colonists and empowered them to collect tribute from the forced labor of Indians.

In the most infamous episode, Spanish soldiers who had demanded cornmeal and blankets from the Indians of the Acoma Pueblo were attacked by native warriors. Twelve soldiers died in the fighting. In retribution, Oñate declared a war “by fire and blood” against the Acoma. Soldiers returned, scaled the soaring mesa — now known as “Sky City” an hour west of Albuquerque — and slaughtered at least 800 warriors, women and children. The Spaniards enslaved most of the survivors, and cut a foot off of 24 young men as a warning to other rebellious pueblos.

Most folks in any generation have portions of their ancestral culture that might make them proud – if that’s important to you. Certainly, any group that fashioned and led a fight for freedom, against tyranny, is worth respecting. Murder and exploitation aren’t characteristics worth celebrating.

6 thoughts on “Conquistador means “conqueror” – not benevolent grandfather!

  1. Norteño says:

    AMERICA’S FIRST REVOLUTION: Jason Garcia’s Tewa Tales of Suspense! Series

    “Popé or Po’pay (/ˈpoʊpeɪ/; c. 1630 – c. 1688) was a Tewa religious leader from Ohkay Owingeh (renamed San Juan Pueblo by the Spanish during the colonial period), who led the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 against Spanish colonial rule. In the first successful revolt against the Spanish, the Pueblo expelled the colonists and kept them out of the territory for twelve years.”

      • jijakwzjc says:

        Beloved Pojoaque teacher dies from COVID-19 (Santa Fe New Mexican 11/27/20)
        Laura Escalanti’s wisdom was imparted in classrooms through the strength of the Tewa language, said former students and northern pueblo community members who added that her time as a Spanish and Tewa teacher in the Pojoaque Valley School District can never be replicated.
        Escalanti, who spent 20 years as a teacher, imprinting the importance of culture on students in their formative years, died suddenly Nov. 21 of COVID-19 complications at Los Alamos Medical Center, said her daughter, Tree Escalanti.
        Laura Escalanti was 69.
        A beloved teacher who helped many Native American students connect with their culture through the Tewa language, Laura Escalanti’s contribution was critical in a school district that includes students from six pueblos.
        [Tewa is on UNESCO’s list of the world’s severely endangered languages]

  2. Update says:

    Fate of Alcade Oñate statue in limbo
    The statue has been a source of controversy since it was erected in 1994. Three years later, someone removed one of the Oñate statue’s feet, a callback to when Oñate and his men purportedly cut off the right foot of dozens of Acoma men in 1599.

    The Acoma Massacre refers to the punitive expedition by Spanish conquistadors at Acoma Pueblo in January 1599 that resulted in the deaths of around 500 Acoma men killed in a three-day battle, along with 300 women and children. Of the remaining Acoma who survived the attack, many were sentenced to 20-year enslavement and 24 suffered amputations.

    “…Oñate severely punished the people of Acoma. Men over twenty-five had one foot cut off and were sentenced to twenty years of personal servitude to the Spanish colonists” “Oñate, Juan de”. New Mexico Office of the State Historian.

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