You have permission to edit this article.

Hundreds Petition County to Remove Oñate Monument

  • Updated
  • 21
  • 3 min to read
Oñate statue (copy)

As protesters and governments tear down Confederate monuments across the U.S. a petition has gained steam in Rio Arriba County to remove the monument to Don Juan de Oñate in Alcalde.

Residents of Rio Arriba County are calling for the immediate removal of the Don Juan de Oñate monument in Alcalde.

Luis Peña, an artist originally from Servilleta, began an online petition Monday afternoon to demand that the statue of the conquistador come down.

As of Tuesday at noon, more than 650 people had signed the petition.

“Oñate perpetuated cruel and inhumane violence against the Pueblos and was prosecuted and exiled by the Spanish for war crimes,” it states. “He is not a symbol that fosters unity among our people and must be removed.” 

The demand is made in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women and LGBTQ2+ relatives lost to continued colonial violence, and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the petition states.

Throughout the U.S., as protesters for racial justice march on, Confederate monuments are falling.

Since the protests began, government officials have taken down over ten Confederate memorials or have promised to do so.

“It’s very difficult for communities to move forward to address the violence when the symbols of historic violence are still allowed to exist,” Peña said. “We need to address issues of the past before we can move forward.”

The Oñate statue was erected in the early ‘90s as part of the County’s Oñate Monument Resource and Visitors’ Center, which, according to the County website, “promotes the Hispanic heritage of the Española Valley and Rio Arriba County.”

In 1997, an anonymous group removed the statue’s right foot, as a symbol of justice for members of Acoma Pueblo.

Oñate ordered his men to cut off the right feet of at least 24 men from Acoma Pueblo, according to historical accounts.

He also oversaw the killing of hundreds of indigenous people and sentenced many others to slavery.

After gathering as many signatures as possible, organizers will submit the petition to remove the monument to County Manager Tomas Campos for review and ask that County commissioners discuss the matter at the next commission meeting, Peña said.

District 1 County Commissioner James Martinez did not return a text message requesting comment about the petition.

District 2 County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo said in a Tuesday phone call that he is meeting with Campos on Friday to talk about how the County could remove the statue, and that members of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area Board, on which Jaramillo sits, have already been discussing the cost of removing it and where it might go.

District 3 County Commissioner Danny Garcia said he does not understand the reasoning behind removing the statue and that he will have to hear from more County residents before deciding his position on the matter.

He does not believe the statue honors anything or demonstrates pride in the conquest, only that it marks history, he said.

“History happened, and we don’t have control of what happened,” he said. “It’s not like we’re repeating history just because we have the statue there.”

Others disagree.

Elena Ortiz, who is from Ohkay Owingeh and the chair of the Red Nation Santa Fe chapter, said the statue glorifies the Spanish conquest.

“Nowhere in that complex, that compound, is there any notification or notice of what he did when he got here, of his murder of Pueblo people, of his enslavement, and forced labor to build this so called capital of New Spain,” Ortiz said. “That is not recognizing history. That is choosing a part of history which upholds the value that you choose to uphold.”

She said Norteños choose to identify as Spanish because they believe the identity will afford them white privilege.

“The issue is so complex, but really I think it boils down to one question for me: why do people in Northern New Mexico want to define themselves as Spanish and elevate this Eurocentric ideal of Spanishness, of whiteness?” she said. “To elevate this figure to a point of worship because they’re defining their culture as what it was that he brought with him into Northern New Mexico is sad. It’s unfortunate, and it’s tragic.”

She said she wants people to realize that activists are protesting Oñate out of a sense of unity.

“We’re not doing what we do out of hatred,” she said. “We’re doing what we do out of love for all of our people. It’s an act of violence to have these sculptures and these fiestas in our homelands.”

Tewa Women United Environmental Health and Justice Program Coordinator Beata Tsosie-Peña, who is from Santa Clara Pueblo and El Rito, also emphasized the importance of solidarity between Pueblos and acequia communities in a Tuesday text message.

“It's important to know that Pueblos and surrounding Acequia communities share a land-based culture and unity that preceded these modern day ill-conceived attempts at colonial divide and conquer strategies," she wrote. "These pedestals to patriarchal violence and conquest contribute to diminishing our collective strength for the struggles we face today. We must dismantle these symbols of oppression and genocide so that our way forward together is cleared to focus on shared resistance, land-based survival, strengthening relations, and a return to the centering and protection of those most vulnerable in our communities.”

(21) comments


First the statues come down. Then the society comes down. Hispanics of New Mexico, be warned. The statue destroyers are coming for YOU next. Prepare your families and yourself. War is coming.


Some people think that all natives got along before the Spaniards came. Not so, they killed, raped, enslaved and stole from each other. I have seen and witnessed natives hating on each other. Please remember this when pointing fingers about hate. We will all be judged one day !


So should we take down any monuments for the Apache’s for killing the thousands of Pueblo people


Their aren't any monuments or statues in Northern New Mexico that exist for any Apache people, if so where at?


If we want to move forward in unity and peace we must bring this statue down. Juan de Oñate raped, murdered and enslaved my indigenous people. I understand the Hispanic community wanting a symbol for their pride but as an indigenous woman this has always felt like a slap in the face. It feels like it openly celebrates the acts of violence against Pueblo people’s. I truly don’t want to offend anyone, I am just giving my point of view as a Pueblo woman. I


Yes, if WE want to move forward in unity and peace WE must bring Popay's statue down. It's sacrilege to Nortenos to see him in the halls of Congress. Put there by Dominici and Bingaman without reconciling the genocide he committed against the Spanish community. I'm sick and tired of politicians (including some Nortenos) caving to pueblo demands. If Jaramillo or any other Rio Arriba Commissioner loses their spine and has Onate removed, they have no business in their elected offices. Again, the pueblos do not pay property tax, so them having an opinion over the matters is mute. Respect is a two way street, stop making demands and start making more concessions. Papay next to civil rights pioneer Dennis Chaves is a "slap in the face."

Big Cheese

"Genocide against Spanish community," what a joke!


I am a Spaniard. My ancestors came from Valverde de Llerena, Extremadura, Spain, along with Onate. The false narrative being spread by some in the Native American community is offensive to me. Native Americans were not all peaceful as they want us to believe. My greatgreatgrandfather was dragged out of his home and shot with a bow and arrow in the back while running for his life - leaving my greatgreatgrandmother screaming and hiding her only child under a bed mattress in order to try to save her life. Onate’s statues in Alcalde, Albuquerque and everywhere else in New Mexico need to remain standing and Spanish New Mexicans need to stand up to this bullying by some in the Native American Community. Our Spanish heritage needs to be preserved, if not, all the sacrifices and suffering our Spanish ancestors went through will be destroyed and forgotten. Enough is enough!

Big Cheese

"Spanish New Mexicans," lol

Stephanie Montoya

My 10th great grandfather started the Montoya family line in NM when he came to the area with Oñate's expedition. There is no question that Oñate in particular perpetrated horrific violence as retribution for native's resistance to being subjugated. I want the statue taken down, because it is not about forgetting where we came from. It is about deciding where we're going.


Stephanie, you can not be politically correct when dealing the pueblos who have millions of dollars from casino revenue AND our federal tax dollars. If you want to make a point about moving forward, advocate for the removal of Popay from Congress. If you want to know about he did to our Montoya ancestors, pick up the book from the historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell. He documented in great detail the slaughter of mostly unarmed Spanish settlers. That is the problem with our own gente, they know only the politically correct history presented in the classroom about the bloodless pueblo revolt. Lets get more educated, and less accommodating.


I am a Spaniard. My ancestors came from Valverde de Ilerena, Extremadura Spain to be exact and came with Onate. I am extremely proud of my ancestry. You claim that you want Onate’s statue taken down out of love for your people. Well guess what? I want Onate’s statute to remain standing out of love for MY people. Certain members of the Native American community seem to be ignoring their part in this. Even just a few generations back my own greatgrandfather was pulled out of his home and shot in the back with a bow and arrow as he ran for his life - leaving my greatgrandmother screaming, hiding my grandmother under a bed mattress to save her life. You try to leave the impression that all Native Americans were peaceful. BS! I say Onate’s statue stays put. And I hope other Spaniards standup to this false narrative being spread by certain Native Americans.


I will gladly protect the statue of Oñate. I’ll be damned if I’ll watch my heritage be brought down.


Yes! Long live Onate and all Spaniards here in New Mexico and throughout Spain!

Big Cheese

Spaniards! Lol

Big Cheese



Buy guns, LOT OF GUNS. Teach your family to defend. The statue destroyers will not stop until the New Mexico Hispanic families are removed from history. The want us DEAD. History repeats again, the fight has arrived at our doorstep.

Doo K'a Hań

Where is Spain? Europe Que no? Los peublos de espania son blancos. We are not white, it is a false equivalence you pose relating nnm culture to other areas of this continent colonized by Britain or France. Many obviously native New Mexicans choose witness because of the crimes of Onate and his men, it is survival, self-hatred, and indoctrination into eurocentrism. It's time our people begin to heal.


I do not which comment is more offensive to Nortenos. Beata Tsosie-Peña's race baiting comment,

“These pedestals to patriarchal violence and conquest contribute to diminishing our collective strength for the struggles we face today,” or Elena Ortiz's, "....Norteños choose to identify as Spanish because they believe the identity will afford them white privilege." Nortenos are not as ignorant as you seem to be. Shame on Molly for reporting the comments in the first place, they would not pass muster with the discussion rules.

“The issue is so complex, but really I think it boils down to one question for me: why do people in Northern New Mexico want to define themselves as Spanish and elevate this Eurocentric ideal of Spanishness, of whiteness?” she said. “To elevate this figure to a point of worship because they’re defining their culture as what it was that he brought with him into Northern New Mexico is sad. It’s unfortunate, and it’s tragic.” Let's talk about elevating historical figures to the point of worship. The Pueblos celebrate Popay like a god like figure despite the fact that he committed genocide on the Spanish and abused the pueblos as a despot after the revolt. According to the discussion rules, this factual. Don't believe me? Open a history book, Twitchell explains all this in detail. Oh, "White privilege" that has gotten Nortenos a lot of political clout over the years. Such a pathetic and overtly racist comment by community leaders. In the age of Trump, nothing is off the table anymore. Lets remove Onate and get Luis Pena to return the tax money used to pay him for the statue. It's hypocritical to say after-the-fact that it represents anything than what it was commissioned. Mr. Pena needs to really consider have the dual petition for the removal of Popay from the halls of congress for the genocide he committed against the Spanish (Spanish LIVES MATTER!) and those he claimed to freeing from systemic oppression.


Lets remove Onate from government property where non-pueblo citizens pay property tax. I agree that systematic hate is a four hundred year legacy by all peoples, including the indigenous. We ought to also remove Popay from the halls of congress. He orchestrated the genocide of nearly 40% of the Spanish population in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt (mostly unarmed agrarian men, women and children). Spanish Lives Matter, too! To suggest that the indigenous did not commit crimes against humanity against the Spanish and other native tribes is a tall tale. I suggest everyone read their history and put forward a co-petition on Popay's removal. Oh, by the way, Northern New Mexicans identify their genealogies back to Spain and Portugal. In addition, most of us are also Sephardic Jew and Native American. 1598 colonist were meztizo's or brought native Mexican wives with them. To suggest that we are less than Spanish is ignorant and racist!!! By the way I have been doing some landscaping, if I paint them pink I think I might have a place for both statues if you are looking for a place to unload them.


I agree the statue should come down as a sign of Spanish/Native solidarity in our community but one thing bothers me about this article.

“why do people in Northern New Mexico want to define themselves as Spanish and elevate this Eurocentric ideal of Spanishness, of whiteness?”

Maybe because we are Spanish and it’s part of our history and culture? It has nothing to do with glorifying “whiteness.” Northern Nm culture is so different than that of White America.

It’s like asking why does she define herself as Native? Because that’s a part of who she is!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.