Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 15, 2020

Acoma Pueblo Maurus Chino: Onate, the Conquistador Butcher

Photos: In Alcalde, N.M., county authorities removed the bronze statue of Juan de Oñate in northern New Mexico amid a new wave of criticism of the memorial as an affront to indigenous people and an obstacle to greater racial harmony. A forklift pried the massive bronze statue of Oñate from a concrete pedestal to the sound of cheers and ululations from bystanders. A demonstration also was planned in Albuquerque at another bronze Oñate likeness. KOAT News. Video by Ryan Begay

Acoma Pueblo Maurus Chino: Onate, the Conquistador Butcher

With the removal of the Onate statue today, Censored News re-publishes today the words of Maurus Chino

Maurus Chino, Acoma Pueblo, said, "We equate the conquistador Juan de Onate and his soldiers with Hitler and the Nazis. Both practiced genocide. The Spanish land grant system is nothing but double-speak for the theft of native lands. These lands that were so freely 'granted' are Indian lands," Chino said in 2006. Objecting to a celebration for Onate, he said, "We are offended by these 'celebrations.' Would decent people sit by and do nothing if we had a parade of Nazis as part of an event of 'cultural heritage?'" 

"In January 1599, a larger force was sent to Acoma, where an epic battle ensued lasting three days and by historical accounts of the Spanish themselves, the ended with over 800 hundred men, women, and children being butchered. Men over the age of 25 were sentenced to have one-foot cut and 25 years of slavery. Males between the ages of 12 and 25 were likewise given 25 years of slavery. Young girls between the ages of 12 and 25 were given 25 years of slavery. 60 young girls were sent to priests in Mexico, never to return to Acoma."

by Maurus Chino, Acoma Pueblo
Statement March 19, 2011, opposing rally commemorating Iraqi War, Albuquerque
Statement Huaba Hanu Listening Conference May 7, 2005  
Censored News

Moment of silence for the brave ones alive and dead who stand and stood for the People in the face of oppression throughout the world

Guwaatsi! Gai d’awa hauba? Wa shinum’e Kaaimaisiwa d’aagashi, D’yaami Hanu suda. Uusraatra Hanu waashdi suda etyu. Ak’ume suda.

Greetings! Are you all well? My Acoma name is Kaaimaisiwa. My American name is Maurus Chino. I belong to the Eagle Clan, and am a child of the Sun Clan. I belong to the Acoma People.

Acoma, a beautiful and wondrous place to the west of here, is for us the center of the universe. I may live in other places, as I do now, here in Albuquerque, but Ak’u, beloved Ak’u is a strong force that draws those of us who were born for Acoma and those who will be born for Acoma, always back to its center.

Ak’u is the word for the actual rock upon which the old village sits. Ak’ume translates as, “a person from Ak’u”. From the word Ak’ume, comes the word Acoma.

‘War and Terrorism’. We’ve heard these words a lot lately, but here in New Mexico beginning four hundred years ago, they have been much more than buzz words about lands far away. Here it has been actuality.

In October 1598, My Acoma People in defense of the Land and the People saw the first violent contact with the so-called Spanish conquistador. In that initial conflict thirteen Spanish soldiers were killed and as a result, in January 1599 a war ensued at Acoma that nearly destroyed the village. The epic war left hundreds some say thousands dead and butchered. Juan de Onate ordered the right foot of all warriors chopped off and the young girls and women between the ages of 12 to 25 enslaved for 25 years.

I say the ‘so-called conquistador’ because in spite of the horrific events my people endured, we were never conquered. We still practice the ancient beliefs that have sustained the people for thousands of years. The sacred songs, rituals, and prayers are much the same as they have been for millennia. We were never a Spanish speaking people. Against all odds, even in the face of genocide, we are still here.

I speak of this because it is important to understand the mindset of violent greed and colonialism. It is why we are gathered here today. We are beset on a worldwide level, and in our hometown communities with social ills directly related to this mindset of greed, violence, and entitlement. In this sacred Land right where you are right now; four hundred years ago; and nearly one hundred years earlier in Central and South America a violent invasion crashed upon the People. And it happened for much the same reasons that war in Iraq happened: for greed, empire, and in the name of Judeo-Chirstian dominion. In the Middle East it started for oil and here in the southwest it was for gold and human souls.

In the Albuquerque Journal, Feb 25, there was a picture. The title read: “A living History Lesson.” It was about Spanish conquistador re-enactors, who visited Madison Middle School to attend a history exhibition of student work. The picture implied the event was lighthearted; a good time to be had by all. Conquistador re-enactors smile as they encourage the children. Of course nothing was ever mentioned of land thefts, genocide, streets running red with blood, babies smashed to the ground at Acoma, the exact same way the civilian deaths in the Middle East are never mentioned. And how can they be? It doesn’t jibe with the rhetoric of freedom and democracy.

When we allow the children to learn a history that is false and one-sided, we allow ignorance and bigotry to perpetuate. It’s true when we hear that if we don’t learn from our history then we are doomed to repeat it. In the years to come, as these young impressionable students become the leaders of our communities, do not be surprised when they are confronted with the same social ills that trouble us now. These beautiful young minds poisoned in the schools today become what we will stand against tomorrow.

The so-called conquistador Juan de Onate, mass murderer deified, throughout much of New Mexico, and into west Texas still enjoys a misguided reverence, even as we wallow in the violence and death that he represents. We have schools, streets, town plazas, and public buildings, from Taos to El Paso, Texas named after him. You can see Onate today in front of the Albuquerque Museum, a gruesome smile on his face; a clumsy and incompetent attempt by the sculptor to bring lightness to the subject of bloodthirsty colonization. And just outside Alcade, NM, another bronze homage to Onate, this version as mediocre as our own here in Albuquerque, appears to have Onate rising from the low; dripping mud or blood. Sloppy though the work may be, it may be eerily accurate and perhaps a poetic justice. And in El Paso, Texas a 2 1/2 million dollar statue, 41/2 stories high, adorns what one magazine called the fifth ugliest airport in the nation.

Shamefully, New Mexico alone has spent millions to honor a butcher when these millions of dollars could have been spent better fixing the social ills that have plagued us and will continue to plague us if we do nothing, namely: drug and alcohol abuse, violence in the streets, jobs, education, and healthcare.

As you know, the heroes we choose to celebrate reveal much of who we are as a people. Read the news stories and sooner or later you will see New Mexico prominently fixed on one ruinous list or other. We are the most ignorant, the most violent and as shown from the news stories that keep on coming; the most politically corrupt. We should not be bewildered when we read the stories of drug and alcohol related crimes and violence. That we are one of the most violent states in the union shouldn’t surprise us, and it should not surprise us because we have in a way let it continue. When we stay quiet, when we do nothing even as we see the world crumble around us; we become part of the problem.

In 2004, I along with other Indigenous activists drove down through Mexico, down to the Mexican State of Chiapas, to San Cristobal de las Casas. We went down to help the Zapatistas celebrate the 1994 uprise against oppression. We drove for three days down, and three days coming back. We drove through desert, mountains, jungle, small towns and large cities. We spoke to Mayan community leaders in mountain villages, yet we never saw any monuments to the Spanish conquistador. Some would think that if there were a place for conquistador monuments, Mexico would be that place, but no. Only here in the American southwest do you see such a pitiful hanging on to a misrepresented and violent past.

New Mexico’s love, dependence and obsession with violence used to perplex me, until I realized that what I was seeing around me was a mindset, a mindset locked in stone long before drugs and immigration across our borders. What started with a glorification of a violent past continues to this day when we see our people so independently proud, yet so dependent upon the military industrial complex for our economic survival. Once a year in our lone Albuquerque newspaper, we read a story insidiously implying pride to be the birth place, of one of the most evil inventions ever to be conceived by humankind: the atomic bomb. I’ve heard many people refer to retired New Mexico Senator, Pete Dominici as “Saint Pete”. St. Pete of course championed our continuing nuclear arms research at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Every August, the morbid Santa Fe Fiesta is held. It celebrates the so-called ‘bloodless re-conquest of New Mexico’, which in fact was not bloodless at all.

When people love and obsess over violence then the communities and values become bedeviled by that same obsession. In a collective mindset, obsession with violence manifests violence.

When I was a young man, back in that booze-haze of a different time, I used to drink with this Acoma man. He is gone now. Beloved, he has returned back to the source. His name was Paul. He was a Marine and had just come back from the Viet Nam War. We would talk me and him, about all manner of things, but somehow it seemed our conversations would many times turn back to the good ol’ days, (those good ol’ days we all know).

And once he told me something that startled me because I knew exactly what he was talking about. I was taken aback because I thought I was the only person who knew this trivial, seemingly unimportant piece of my life. He said, “when I was I was in high school, I joined football just because the football team ate good on game days”.

That was me exactly. I was on the cross-country team. I loved running, the nervous anticipation, the adrenaline coursing through my body, and the thrill of the competition. But man, how I looked forward the meals at those greasy spoon restaurants. It was my best meal of the week. Paul and I you see knew poverty in our homes.

It’s much the same even now with many of our youth and I speak of our Indian youth; our young women and men. Though not many if any, experience the same poverty Paul and I knew, the sad fact is that many experience the same lack of opportunity, the same lack of quality education in a school system filled with poorly paid teachers. Some of our young people feel that there isn’t much choice other than the military.

Many young people beloved, from Acoma, and our neighbors our indigenous relatives, the Din’e, Apache, Southern Ute, Cheyenne, Comanche, Hopi, Zuni, K’awaik’me, T’amayam’e , K’ewam’e, Ohkay Owingeh, Zia, Cochiti, Lakota, Kiowa, Taos, O’odham, on and on, have been to the endless wars: World War ll, Iwo Jima, Korean War, Cambodia, the Viet Nam War, and now the Middle East. They return and it is hard for them to get back to the values of these two most important things: the Land and the People. “Amuu haatsi e amuu hanu, the beloved land and the beloved People”. Beloved, they come back changed if they come at all. Without exception, we all know this to be true.

But remember this too People: that though the wars are unjust we must always, always respect our women and men who serve.

I praise all of you here today. By this act of being present you are doing something that the overwhelming majority of the people will simply not do; and that is to take action. It is not easy to take action I know. I have been doing my work as an activist for many years and I would have stopped a long time ago if I thought I was not making any difference.

I’ll tell you something that I heard years ago that helps me to continue. I was planning an event with a Mexican man, an older man and activist of many years. “We know, he said, that we are going to lose the battle, but we do it anyway. We continue to do it because it is the right thing to do”. That is why I continue. It is the right thing to do.

I try to make my way in these uncertain times as an artist. I pour myself into my work just like you. We all have much the same issues in different forms as we try to make our way. No one has it easy. It’s hard to devote time for social justice, but we must if we are to remake our communities. We belong to the community, and so we have a responsibility. Should we not be looking out for each other?

We see much unrest around the world today, Egypt, Libya and recently here in the U.S., Wisconsin. We see a mighty struggle for social justice, and it can be heartbreaking to such struggles against overwhelming odds. Yet, it is heartening to see that the People truly can possess power. We can make a difference if we speak in unity, and if our purpose is worthwhile. It starts here. The madness in the whole wide world can be remedied right here.

Write letters to the city council speak up when you see monies misspent; speak out against the ROTC programs in the schools. Denounce the glorification of conquistador celebrations. Vote and make sure you know the values of those people who propose to help you. Do something any big or small worthwhile thing. Our actions create a butterfly effect. Our positive actions can and do have an effect on everything else.

Thank you all for being here. I want to wish you all the blessings.
D’awa’e hauba, baa Druuwishatsi. Thank you everyone, may you fare well.
Maurus Chino, Acoma Tribe, Founder Southwest Indigenous Alliance

Statement for “Huaba Hanu” Listening Conference May 7, 2005   C. Maurus Chino

Beloved People, Beloved Land. Amuu Han’u, Aamuu Haatsi. At Acoma we hear this often. These are the principles and values that guided the People then and the People now. The religion of the People revolves around the land and our harmony with the universe and our creator. The land is a living being, in and of itself. The land and the people are inseparable: they are one and the same. This land and the people have always been part of a sacred cycle of struggle and harmony. This is the meaning of Amuu Hanu’u, Amuu Haatsi, it includes all people. It means we are responsible for the values we hold precious.

In this spirit, we are here today to address issues to which the cities of Albuquerque and El Paso and the state of New Mexico and Texas have turned deaf ears. The governing bodies have continued to shove their idea of “commemorating cultural heritage” as seen from one point of view, in our faces. In an effort to tie together the Spanish road, the El Camino Real, monuments to the Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate are currently in progress and are planned to be installed in El Paso and Albuquerque. These monuments commemorate Onate and the Spanish conquistador, the cause of great human suffering. Even now the City of Albuquerque is celebrating the great fanfare and at taxpayer expense the violet Spanish colonization and founding of Albuquerque. We have not heard of the violence and genocide that it took to take this land. The Indigenous People of the southwest endured genocide, theft of homelands, and forced Christianity. Thousands of people perished, whole tribes disappeared. Yet for all that…we are still here.

Guwaatsi huaba: Gaidawa trudrayaskra? Wa shinume Ka-aimaisiwa daakaashi, Dyami Hanu suda, etyu Uusratra Washdi suda. Greeting everyone: Good morning people, relatives, and friends, my American name is Maurus Chino. I am from ak’u, Acoma. My Acoma name is Ka-aimaisiwa. I belong to the Eagle Clan and am a child of the Sun People. Acoma is part of the Keresan People with include the present day tribes of Santa Ana, Zia, Cochitit, Santo Domingo, Laguna and San Felipe. My People’s origins are from the north. How far north is buried in the collective subconscious, but where the conscious memory begins is at Kashkatruti, Chaco Canyon and from various places, most of them impermanent; momentary, for the people still had not found the place for with they were searching. Stone remnants of these settlements can be found at Kaweshdima, Mt. Taylor, and at K’owina, near the lava flow known today as El Malpais. A permanent village at Diitsiama, the “north Door”, so named because of its location at a natural pathway between the foothills of Kaweshdima and the mesa country that stretches fifteen miles southward to Ak’u, Beloved Acoma. Through this village flows a stream, the Chuna. Follow this stream eastward and it leads you to the village of Diichuna, the North Stream.

Numerous settlements recounting the ebb and flow of the people’s existence and migration from the north and always to Beloved Ak’u. Settle, some large and more permanent, others small and temporary though no less significant. The People speak of the Warrior Twins who guided the people from Siapapu, our place of emergence in the north. Ak’u was the destination. This city of Acoma sits atop a 350-ft. rock mesa of sheer sides, situated in the middle of a fertile valley 6,300 ft. above sea level. It was referred to Haak’u which means ‘prepared’ because we believe it was there already prepared for us. It was there waiting, Ak’u is and always was. ‘Aku’me’ means “People of Ak’u”, so comes the word “Acoma”.

Sharing this land of high semi-arid desert and mountain country include the Keres, Towa, Tiwa, Tewa, Zuni, Hopi, Apache, and Navajo. The Comanche further to the east and the Ute up in the north. Long before any European colonization, the People were here. The people were not merely wandering around in soulless half-existence waiting to be “discovered” by Columbus or any Spaniard conquistador. Indigenous cultures in the southwest and all of North America were vibrant and accomplished. In our struggle for survival yes, there were conflicts. In human nature conflicts will ultimately arise but Indigenous people allowed for differences in belief. No one tribe forced their belief system on another. Tribal ceremonies were respected and in many circumstances certain aspects other ceremonialism were borrowed from one another.

Trading and interaction with other tribes was extensive. With the Mayan People to south we acquired precious stones for ceremonial use and personal adornments, sacred parrots, and sea shells. At Acoma today we have a Parrot Clan. Abalone shell was acquired in trade with the People from the west coast of California. Survival, though never easy, was easily possible. By some estimates before the arrival of the Spanish conquistador, there were 60 million Indigenous People on the continent of North America, not counting it must be noted, the millions of Indigenous People in Central and South America.

When Columbus blundered into the New World with Spanish soldiers, the Indigenous World was to experience a violence shift in existence. Beginning with the Caribbean, the slaughter of the People was set onto motion. Before each battle began, the Spanish conquistador had been ordered to read a statement of Christianity and allegiance to the Spanish Crown. It reads in part:

“I certify to you, that with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses. We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them…And we shall take your goods, and do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict him”.

This then, was the mindset and violent intention of the conquistador even from the beginning. By 1496, the population of the Caribbean Islands fell from eight million to between 4 and 5 million. By 1535, there was not one Indigenous person alive. They were extinct. The slaughter at the hands of the conquistador in Central and South America had not even begun. It would not be for another 63 years before the violence and genocide reached us here in the Southwest. Onate, had not yet left Spain.

The wholesale slaughter of the Indigenous People in North, Central, and South America is impossible to comprehend. How do we measure human suffering? Who has the right to justify murder in the name of God? Never before or since has genocide of this magnitude taken place. Even the Jewish Holocaust pales in comparison. In the Americas, hundreds of millions of Indigenous People perished from violence and diseases brought by the Spanish. And what was the motivation for this madness? It was greed, greed for wealth, greed for land, greed for the very souls of the People.

April 1598, Onate and his soldiers arrived from Zacatecas, Mexico, following rumors of gold. Accompanied by Franciscan Friars they crossed the Rio Grande, held a formal ceremony and Catholic mass. Onate formally took possession of all lands and all resources north of the Rio Grande, and held all Indigenous Peoples in subjugation to the Spanish Crown. In an effort to legitimize and whitewash the theft and genocide some Hispanics are calling for this event to be recognized as the Nations “First Thanksgiving” It is amusing to note that they are so “thankful” for this brutal invasion of native land.

In December 1598, the first major confrontation with the conquistador occurred at Acoma. In that battle 13 Spanish soldiers killed, including the nephew of Onate. Contrary to some historians, we never saw the Spanish as gods on mythic beasts, rather we saw them as men with evil intentions.

News of the humiliating defeat quickly reached Onate in Santa Fe. In January 1599, a larger force was sent to Acoma, where an epic battle ensued lasting three days and by historical accounts of the Spanish themselves, the ended with over 800 hundred men, women, and children being butchered. Men over the age of 25 were sentenced to have one-foot cut and 25 years of slavery. Males between the ages of 12 and 25 were likewise given 25 years of slavery. Young girls between the ages of 12 and 25 were given 25 years of slavery. 60 young girls were sent to priests in Mexico, never to return to Acoma.

The noble city of Acoma was burned. Acoma had to be made an example of. Resistance to conquistador power would not be tolerated. These atrocities were executed on my people for what any People with any self-respect would do: defend the two most important things; the Land and the People. The effects of this trauma is evidenced today by the secrecy in which the people govern themselves, and the secrecy in which the religion is practiced. The values we held precious were never lost; the People just held them closer.

Even by the brutal standards of the Spanish Crown of the 1500’s Spain considered Onate’s actions disgraceful. He was punished for his deeds and his ineptitude as leader in New Mexico. Onate was sentenced to perpetual banishment from New Mexico, fined a large sum of money, and exiled from Mexico City for four years. Onate afterward was never able to gain complete favor from the Spanish Crown.

Onate, a savage and brutal war leader, inept as a political leader, a disgrace to his government; this is the conquistador so proudly on display in Alcalde, New Mexico, and whose monument will shame the cities of El Paso and Albuquerque. After perpetual banishment, our governing bodies have brought Onate back. We are forced to honor a war criminal.

The People as a result of their resistance and violent contact were changed forever. Native religions practiced for thousands of years were banned as paganism and devil worship. Christianity was forced on the People, who accepted it in order to survive. Tribes were ordered to pay heavy taxes from harvests and weavings. Many women were raped. Running was banned, and runners were punished because runners were used as a form of communication between isolated tribal villages. Horse ownership by the native population was forbidden. Oppression under southwest Spanish rule was extremely heavy. During the dark years from 1591-1638, fully two-thirds of the Indigenous People here in the southwest perished from conquistador contact. Whole tribes and cultures vanished.

But still…underneath the oppression and the violence and seeming acceptance of imposed rule Christianity lay the two most sacred things; the reverence for the Land and the People. These two sacred entities never abandoned each other. The People were not forsaken, nor did we forsake. This is very important to remember: the People never lost faith and never gave in their will.

In 1680, the indigenous people were to rise and imposed their own will. A public whipping of a medicine man from present-day San Juan Pueblo, by the name of Pop’e was to have major repercussions in the survival of the Spanish in New Mexico. Humiliated by the whipping for practicing his beliefs Pop’e swore revenge and vowed to drive the Spanish out of Indigenous Lands. The system of oppression of 90 years had produced a leader. Pop’e was the leader that the People were waiting for, but the People too must be acknowledged. The desire to survive and to remain who they were was fierce. The Tiwa People refused to anything but Tiwa. Kersan People refused to give up their identity. The revolutionary Pop’e embodied the will and the power of the People. Pop’e was a manifestation of the People’s will to survive. Through incredible efforts of communication, a revolution was planned and carried out. Pop’e would somehow unite all tribes in the southwest; Keres, Tewa, Towa, Din’e, Apache, Ute, and Comanche, and overcome the language and cultural barriers to unite the People in revolution. Not simply a revolt as portrayed in history books, but a true revolution. A revolution against what was then the most powerful nation in the world. It was a sacred uprising of complete success. The Revolution of 1680 drove the Spanish out of the Southwest, and for 12 years the Land was restored to the rightful caretakers.

For those brief 12 years, the people were free, though we knew it would not last. In 1692, de Vargas came back into New Mexico to reclaim this land. The State of New Mexico in this day celebrates this event during the Fiesta of Santa Fe. A celebration it is claimed commemorates the “bloodless reconquest of New Mexico” It was not bloodless at all. Many lives were lost. The best Lands were stolen in what is referred to now as the Spanish Land Grant system. And whose land was it that they “granting” so freely? It was Indian Land. Words like “settlement”, “political and cultural contact”, “land grant assignments”, and “recognition of cultural heritage” are examples of hypocritical and political doublespeak. Call it what you want lies remain just what they are: lies.

The momentous events of 1680 were to affect every aspect of relations with the Spanish afterward, yet what does the public know of the 1680 Revolution other than a side note in history books. This too, is a very important part of New Mexico history. These events changed the course of Southwestern, history and yet, we have not seen any recognition of Pop’e or the People’s struggle here in New Mexico. Against overwhelming odds the People are still here, and it isn’t because of the goodwill of the Spanish as I have heard some say. Where is our monument? Would the Hispanic Cultural Preservation Committee even consider such a monument? Several years ago, such a monument was proposed and it was flatly rejected because Pop’e, it was said represented violence. To honor Onate isn’t to honor violence?

Does the State of New Mexico need another monument to conquistadors? Go up north, right now to Alcalde, just outside Espanola, and you will a statue of Onate in front of his empty house, weeds growing in the parking lot. Neglected he sits on his horse pointing nowhere. This statue as some of you may know was the first conquistador statue to go up in New Mexico. 1.2 million tax dollars was used to fund this bronze of Onate, and to build a center to house the statue. And after some brave soul sawed off the foot in commemoration to the atrocities at Acoma, 10,000 dollars was used for repairs. Recently, 12,000 taxpayer dollars was used to move the statue to the front of the building. This center pulls in meager 700 dollars a month. This chunk of tax money wasted in an area of New Mexico stricken by poverty, drugs, and poor education. Couldn’t they have just bought some books, hired some teachers maybe?

Recently, to remember the revolution of 1680 a play aired on the public radio station KUNM. The play was to have a live audience and a question-and-answer period after the production. Now you would think that an event such as this, which presents an indigenous view of New Mexico history, would go on air without incident, yet the Hispanic Cultural Preservation Committee decides to protest the play on the grounds of racism. The Hispanic Cultural Preservation Committee works closely with Mayor Martin Chavez and the City of Albuquerque and they continue to push for offensive monuments that glorify violence and genocide, but they are ignorant to the irony of their protest of a radio show. Hypocrisy, or just good old fashion racism?

Most of you know by now, that the City of Albuquerque and the City of El Paso have plans to erect monuments that glorify a savage and violent time of our history. Albuquerque’s monument, set to be installed in 2006, was renamed “La Entrada” to tone down the controversy. Toned down I must say, not in consideration to an equal view of history, but rather in concern for their self-image. Likewise, the 4 ½ story obscenity in El Paso, was renamed “The Equestrian”, only after the protest.

The El Paso monument is the same monument, only the name is different. They rename the monuments and act like it is a solution. These “solutions” would be funny, a good story to retell if the subject wasn’t so sick. It makes one wonder, if these people are shrewd or are they just ignorant?

The City of Albuquerque is currently celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Albuquerque and judging from past City Council decisions on honoring Spanish heroes, we are doubtful of their perceptions of celebration and honor. Events that celebrate the subjugation of another people are tacky, insensitive and a slap in the face to indigenous cultures. History documents the conquistador's invasion of Native Lands as brutal and bloody, and if it must be acknowledged, then we must acknowledge it in its completeness. There is another side to this so-called celebration, and it includes anger at the view of history left untold.

Subjugation by force, conversion to Christianity by force, genocide, theft of Native Lands, attempted destruction of culture; these too are the legacy the Spanish conquistador. If we are to commemorate our history in the South West, then we must acknowledge our history without omission of the darkness. Our history includes the sorrow of our genocide.

Some historians, some writers of lies have put forth the idea that the People willingly accepted Christianity, willingly bowed down to the will of the Spanish Crown, even welcomed the violent change. They say, as evidenced by the majority of native populations worshiping in the Christian faith, Spanish surnames, and Spanish forms of government. Ignorantly, they fail to realize that these violent changes were forced on the People. It was a matter of do or die. The People chose survival; they chose life. Spanish surnames were given out so people could be counted on census roles. It was not done to honor the Spanish invaders as some mistakenly believe. Native religions were forbidden and to practice them meant death, so the people were forced to accept the Catholic faith. Native forms of government were seen as a threat, so the Spanish system of government was forced on the People.

In spite of these forced changes the People have remained resolute in identity, and traditional spiritual belief. Traditional spiritual leaders still have a powerful voice in decisions that affect the People. Most out of convenience still use Spanish surnames, but all have Indian names. Most importantly the native languages are still spoken, and religions are still practiced. The People wisely chose survival. It is ironic that the purpose of the oppression was to defeat and change the People, yet it was to have the opposite effect. The bond between the People and the Land grew stronger.

Even today we see this oppression, and though it may not be so blatant, it is present with us nevertheless. Despite the majority of public opinion in opposition to the conquistador monument as evidenced by an Albuquerque Journal poll (73% opposed), our city planners approved funding for the project anyway. These monuments offensive and racist are funded by tax dollars. We all contribute to these monuments that are offensive to many gratify and the few.

There are solutions. We must speak out. If we don’t voice our objection, then we become part of the city’s stand on cultural and racial bias. We don’t have to be from Albuquerque or even from New Mexico to say this form of racism is unacceptable. We don’t have to be from El Paso to object to the bronze some are calling “beautiful”. The only requirement to have a voice is human decency.

The City of Albuquerque has a multi-million dollar facility in the Hispanic Cultural Center. Demand that the “La Entrada” monument be moved there. Is it not obvious that a monument of this nature belongs there? Why must it shoved in the face of greater Albuquerque?

Demand that the State of New Mexico permanently abandons any future plans to honor or commemorate Spanish conquistadors.

Demand that books and official literature recounting the history of New Mexico be revised to stress the remarkable achievements of the Revolution of 1680, and credit the Resistance of the People.

Denounce the lopsided and misleading point of view of the City of Albuquerque’s Tri-Centennial celebration.

In this new day, it is possible to be proud of our respective histories. We can honor our ancestors in a way that does not dishonor or demean another culture. Monuments that gratify only a certain people and do not take into account the genocide of a People should not be put up at all. Monuments that are biased distort our history and do a disservice to us all. Old wounds are opened and we have no opportunity to heal.

We hear talk of reconciliation and forgiveness, but that talk is meaningless when we see continue to see a glorification of a violent and brutal time. That talk is cheap when we will have statues that will stand forever. The city planners give nothing up, but rather continue in their superior attitude. They are able to mislead the People because the people are passive or do not know the history of this beautiful land. The State of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque will remain forever backward if the People remain passive. But we do have voice. What we say does matter.

We are responsible for the values we hold precious.

C. Maurus, Chino, Founder
South West Indigenous Alliance
P.O.Box 74
Acoma, New Mexico 87034

About Maurus Chino:

Maurus Chino, Ka aimaisiwa of the Acoma, Eagle clan/Sun Child, creates pottery, animal figures, canteens, oil paintings, pastels, graphics and murals. Born in 1954 in Albuquerque, Maurus attended Grants High School, NM and received a B.F.A. from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, 1980. He is the grandson of Mamie Torivio Ortiz and Joe L. Ortiz; son of Myrna Antonio Chino and Elmer Chino; brother of Larry, Debbie, Keith, Paul and Darlene. Maurus has been a forest firefighter, underground mine worker, illustrator, art consultant, potter, silversmith and full-time painter since 1992. His many awards include those from the Indian Market in Santa Fe and Carl Gorman Memorial Award. His works are in exhibits at the Heard Museum in Phoenix; Acoma Museum; University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and other museums and institutes.

Maurus Chino said, “In a world of uncertainty, critical issues of art, cultural identity, and history become even more clouded and misrepresented in the hands of those who wield political power. Indigenous history and Indigenous voice has been and will become secondary; if we allow it to be so. But we have a choice. We have an obligation to the Mothers and Fathers who gave everything for our continuance, even in the face of overwhelming odds. The People's continuance and resistance though born from the attempted genocide of the people, has beauty. As an artist/activist I present the Indigenous view and give voice to the people.”

Statements copyright Maurus Chino, may not be used without his permission


Chris said...

Mr Chino....your words of peace are as elegant as your art. I enjoy both my beautiful red pots and the memories of our conversations as we talked at the flea market.

I hope to see you again during my visit to Santa Fe in October

Chris Lozier

Vanessa Quinones said...

Maurus, I miss you! Be well, as I see you are.