The city does not know what to do with the status of Onate
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – After a June 2020 protest ended in a shootout, the city of Albuquerque moved quickly to put a controversial statue of Juan de Oñate into storage. But a year later, the city is not much closer to a final decision on where to place the statue and the rest of the bronze figures featured in the public artwork La Jornada.
The hiatus over the future of La Jornada sculpture has been lingering since around December 2020, after the city’s Race, History, and Healing Project released a report on the artwork. This report suggested that the Oñate statue and the other statues in the La Jornada room be permanently removed from the corner of the 19th and the mountain, near the Albuquerque museum.
However, this report specifically stated: “where the Oñate statue will end up and how La Jornada could be redesigned has NOT been determined”. After receiving the reports, city councilors chose to take the time to wait for the pandemic to end in an effort to gather more community conversations about the monument’s next step.
Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Peña helped lead some of the initial work to start community conversations after the statue was removed after the protest. Peña says she is concerned that many important local voices are still waiting for the pandemic to subside and may be left out of the next round of community conversations.
“Although it’s been a year since we had these discussions initially, I think we still have to wait to make sure all voices are at the table and heard,” said Peña. “Not everyone is vaccinated, we are not 100% open.”
Since the removal of the Oñate statue in June 2020, the rest of the La Jornada statue has remained intact outside the Albuquerque Museum. A spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller’s office said on Monday that the final decision on the location of the Oñate and La Jornada sculptures rests with Albuquerque City Council, referring to a 2020 resolution passed by councilors. This resolution states, in part, that “the recommendations of the community will be presented to the Albuquerque Arts Council for consideration and then submitted to the Albuquerque City Council for consideration.”
Albuquerque City Council President Cynthia Borrego recently proposed a new resolution that would consolidate “no new changes, modifications or related actions” for the artwork until the end of the criminal investigation related to the protest shooting. In a written statement sent to KRQE News 13, Borrego said it would postpone action on the resolution until September.
“This resolution will be postponed for 90 days,” Borrego said. “Due to the pandemic, it is too early in our healing process to raise this divisive issue. Borrego and other city councilors unanimously adopted the postponement at a Monday afternoon meeting of the Finance and Government Operations Committee.
While the sculptures of Oñate and La Jornada await their move, a mayoral election is also taking place this year. KRQE News 13 asked Councilor Peña on Monday if a decision or discussion is delayed due to this election. Peña said she didn’t think about the election in the context of the statue’s future.
“I have heard from many constituents in my community,” said Peña. “I think we have a lot of people who are obviously indigenous and Hispanic, Latino, Chicano whatever they identify with, mixed race people, who are really passionate about this and really want the right thing to be done. “
Albuquerque City Council does not have a mandate on when to decide what to do next. Meanwhile, the city decided to rename Don Juan de Oñate Park to Brentwood Hills Park in northeast Albuquerque. Kit Carson Park near the Albuquerque Zoo has also been renamed Rio Grande Park.