Editorial: What to do with statues

Posted 6/18/20

Statues honor people in history. But not everyone agrees that statues depict an honorable history or an honorable person. History is viewed from an individual perspective. A statue can prompt pride or …

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Editorial: What to do with statues

Posted

Statues honor people in history. But not everyone agrees that statues depict an honorable history or an honorable person.

History is viewed from an individual perspective. A statue can prompt pride or pain, depending on a person's background, culture and upbringing.

Case in point: The controversial statue of Juan de Oñate near Alcalde.

He was the conquistador credited with founding the Spanish colony of New Mexico and setting in motion a chain of events that would mark generations of people, for better and for worse. In addition to bringing European settlers from Mexico, he brutalized people at Acoma Pueblo. His actions reverberate still.

But, when protestors pushed to remove the statue of Oñate and his horse outside of a cultural center in Alcalde, others pushed back, saying he was an important, if deeply flawed historical figure. They say removing him takes away a visible reminder of that history.

In Taos, a controversy is brewing again over the name of Kit Carson Park, commemorating a famed explorer and frontiersman who was also the architect of the forced march of Navajo people to Bosque Redondo, during which hundreds died.

Like statues, names can conjure up a fraught history.

Other communities have explored alternatives to simply removing or destroying controversial statues. One is to put up other statues and plaques that detail the history, memorializing a more complete view of events from all sides. Another is to melt down a statue and re-create something that honors a complicated history, something that includes the voices of those impacted by events.

Instead of simply taking the Oñate statue down, why not erect a couple of other statues beside him, equally tall and imposing, to honor the people he brutalized and tried to subjugate? The Oñate Center could be renamed and become a place where a more complete history of the region is told, a place where visitors could come to hear from descendants of both Pueblo and Spanish leaders.

The center in Alcalde -- with a new name - could become a hallmark of how to rewrite history to a truer depiction of what occurred and explain how those events impact people today.

The initiative would require strong leaders, support and input from all sides.

Please, keep the masks on

Taos, we're not out of the COVID-19 woods yet.

Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands.

Yes, we are all sick of the mantra (and the masks) by now.

But Taos had a new positive coronavirus case about every other day for the last week. That means the virus is still actively spreading through the community.

Taos has kept its numbers relatively low - and prevented overwhelming the only hospital in the region - because of quick action of community leaders who listened to public health experts early on in this pandemic.

From Questa and Taos Ski Valley to the town of Taos, they followed the state's guidance, which was hard on businesses and residents, but also prevented a worst-case scenario with a disease that even when it isn't deadly can be debilitating for weeks or even months.

States that have reopened their communities since Memorial Day are seeing a surge in new cases. The Washington Post reported Tuesday (June 16) that several western and southern states recorded a new spike in patients hospitalized on Sunday for COVID-19: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

As Taos and other communities begin to reopen and businesses welcome back customers, it is in everyone's interest to follow the simple steps to prevent new infections. Choosing not to be safe out of some misplaced idea about individual freedoms simply puts others at risk.

Some people cannot wear masks, such as those suffering from asthma who find it difficult to breathe with the mask on. So those of us who can wear them in public places should, to help protect those who can't.

Taos can safely reopen its economy and people can again enjoy a little time outside of their homes by continuing to take precautions. Stay home if you feel sick. Don't make unnecessary trips especially if you are at risk or have vulnerable people in your home. Remember that many Taos businesses are still offering curbside service so you can order products or food ahead and have them brought to your car.

Let's be good neighbors and keep each other safe.

Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands.

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