Man Is Shot at Protest Over Statue of New Mexico’s Conquistador

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tags: colonialism, Native American history, southwest, conquest

Gunfire broke out during a protest Monday night in Albuquerque to demand the removal of a statue of Juan de Oñate, the despotic conquistador of New Mexico whose image has become the latest target in demonstrations across the country aimed at righting a history of racial injustice.

As dozens of people gathered around a statue of Oñate, New Mexico’s 16th-century colonial governor, arguments broke out between a multiracial group of protesters urging its removal and others defending it, including a right-wing militia made up of armed white gunmen.

In the chaos that ensued, a man was seen assaulting female protesters by violently shoving them to the ground. At one point the same man used pepper spray on protesters. As protesters pursued the assailant to drive him out of the crowd, the man pulled out a weapon and shot one of the protesters, prompting police officers in riot gear to rush in.

The injured man, who was not identified, was taken to the hospital, where he was later listed in critical but stable condition. The police took into custody several members of the militia who were dressed in camouflage and carrying military-style rifles.


Earlier in the day, authorities in the northern town of Alcalde removed a different statue of Oñate, whose brutal rule as provincial governor put into motion centuries of Spanish rule in the region.

The agitation against honoring Oñate reflects a tension that has long festered between Native Americans and Hispanics over Spain’s conquest more than four centuries ago, with protests this year over police violence unleashing a broader questioning of race relations in this part of the West.

Oñate’s period as governor was marked by a violent repression considered severe even by the standards of his time. He killed 800 Indigenous people in Acoma Pueblo and ordered his men to cut off the foot of at least 24 male captives. Spanish authorities convicted him on charges of excessive violence and cruelty, permanently exiling him from New Mexico.

Read entire article at New York Times

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