I am sad that as a community, we could not rise to the challenge of making necessary changes to our celebration by removing the figure of Juan de Oñate from the Española Valley Fiesta.

    I am sad that our community educational systems, in spite of our rich history, has perpetuated the myth of Spanish-American identity of the 1930s forgoing the rich history of pueblo and genizaro resistance of the 1700s and 1800s.

    I am sad that we need some sort of connection to European aristocracy to feel like we are valued and important. I am sad our community leaders could not see the importance of inclusion and respect.

    I was told time and time again, “We have our thing, and the Indios have theirs.”

    In continuing this narrative of historical amnesia we idealize the past, thus avoiding the reckoning that Northern New Mexico was a hub for human trafficking and land theft that occurred through a complex system of legal bureaucracy and religious doctrine.

    We’ve been offered a mythical version of history and we have chose to allow it to represent us. It is of no coincidence that DNA results have shed light on our tumultuous ancestry at this point in history. We have continued to allow ourselves to be played against one another time and time again, despite our shared reality as working-class gente.

    I attended a symposium in Española last year that brought together Chicano and pueblo perspectives in shared prayer to deconstruct the Spanish-American myth that created Oñate and the Española Valley Fiesta.

    Throughout the course of each presentation, we began to unravel the narrative of Oñate. Shamed and exiled from New Mexico for war crimes, he represents the worst aspects of our human nature. So as I have done numerous times on public record, I denounce the pageantry of Juan de Oñate in the Española Valley Fiesta and the colonial violence it implies.

    I hope and pray that some day, we can coexist in this space in a way that honors our shared experiences and builds upon the community that we have established. We are friends, neighbors and family and we must fight any effort to divide us.

    Luis Peña


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