I’ve been asked to comment on what happened in Albuquerque yesterday. Presumably because, as much as I hate the place, it’s the answer I give when asked where I’m “from”. It’s not where I was born, or where I grew up, but it’s where I spent a significant amount of my adult life. Albuquerque is also the last place I lived before moving to Finland, so in some legal sense it’s still my official “home”. Ugh.
What Happened in Albuquerque
As is happening all over the world, protesters tried to pull down a statue. This time, they were allegedly shot at by one or more militia members. No one died, but one person was seriously wounded and at least one person has been arrested.
When I told Katie this she just asked, “Oñate?”.
Yes, I said.
“Good,” she spat, with as much contempt as you’re likely to ever hear from such a sweet-natured person.
Who the Eff is Don Juan de Oñate?
Don Juan de Oñate was a right motherfucker and a conquistador, as if the terms aren’t interchangeable. When the area was being colonized by Spain, he was the governor. In 1599 the plan was to “relocate” the Acoma people to a village under Spanish control where they would be forced to be laborers. The Acoma people weren’t having it. When the Spanish soldiers arrived, the indigenous people killed 12 or 13 of them. This really pissed off Oñate, especially since his nephew was one of the soldiers killed.
So he marched a large force in. They killed around 500 Acoma men and about 300 women and children. Another 500 were taken as slaves, males between 12 and 25 and all females over 12. Oñate further ordered that all men over 25 have their right foot amputated.
When word got back to Spain about what Oñate had done, King Philip was appalled. Oñate was banished from the New World and recalled to Spain, where he lived out the rest of his life.
There are statues of this asshole all over the state of New Mexico.
10% of New Mexico’s population is native. There are 23 tribes in the state. Imagine being native and growing up having to look at this bullshit. Yeah. Just for the hell of it, I’ll throw in the fact that 31% of the COVID-19 cases in the state are from that 10% of the population, just so you maybe think that these problems went away 400 years ago when Oñate left.
But What Happened in Albuquerque?
So, in Old Town Albuquerque there is (well, was) as statue of Oñate outside the Albuquerque Museum. Katie and I have been there many times. I always joked that it looks like he was gazing up the street at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, because he felt kinship with the dinosaurs. A bunch of Black Lives Matter protesters decided that it was well past time for this monument to atrocity to go. I saw the video. There was a rope around him, and a bunch of people pulling and chanting. One guy had a pick axe and was chipping away at the rock was anchored to. Then shots were fired.
This part is confusing, the facts aren’t in, but it all makes perfect sense to me. Reportedly there were armed members of a local militia group, New Mexico Civil Guard, at the protest. Five or six guys wearing military fatigues, you’ve seen the general type all over the news lately. They had apparently been trying to protect the statue. As I said, this all makes sense. These are the sort of right-wing white supremacists that “protect” the border, so naturally they’d identify with a brutal conquistador.
You Want To Try Whataboutism, But Don’t
Anyway, the “Civil Guard”, like many militia groups, allegedly have ties to law enforcement. Shocking, I know. It’s been reported that the guy that got taken down by the Albuquerque Police was yelling that he father is a deputy for the county sheriff’s department. As if that gave him a pass, or entitled him to special treatment, or made shooting protesters okay. I know, I can hear “but vandalism” and fuck you that’s a misdemeanor not a death penalty case, and militia members haven’t been appointed judge, jury, and executioner yet.
Of course the police responded by using tear gas and flashbangs to disperse the protesters, while they calmly disarmed and arrested the alleged militia members.
Around the state statues of Oñate, including the one in front of the Albuquerque Museum, are being taken down.
Anyway, I really don’t have anything to add other than I left there for a reason. There are cool things there, I have friends that I love who are still there, but between the heat, the violence, and the racism, it’s basically a little slice of Hell on Earth.