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Timeline / Renewing Native Ways / 1998: 400 years later, Acoma protests Spanish cruelty

1998: 400 years later, Acoma protests Spanish cruelty

In Alcalde, New Mexico, a monument to Juan de Oñate, who began the Spanish colonization of northern New Mexico, is installed at a visitors’ center. The sculpture shows the conquistador mounted heroically on his horse, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his expedition. The Acoma remember him instead for his brutality: in pueblo plazas, Oñate had ordered the amputation of one foot of all males over the age of 25. Now, the Acoma take action to put the celebration and historical record in perspective. Using an electric saw, they amputate the right foot of the bronze Oñate.

In 1598, the Spanish colonial governor Juan de Oñate put 507 Acoma on trial. Women between 12 and 25 were enslaved for 20 years at the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh. Men over the age of 25 had one foot cut off, and younger men were enslaved for 20 years. Oñate was later tried for excessive cruelty.

Native Rights

Statue of Juan de Oñate, with right foot missing. In January 1998, the Oñate Monument Visitor Center oversaw the reattachment of a new sculptured foot.

Courtesy The New Mexican/Craig Fritz