Ask the Filmmakers: The Last Conquistador’s John J. Valadez and Cristina Ibarra

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The Last Conquistador's John J. Valadez and Cristina IbarraWhen John J. Valadez and Cristina Ibarra, learned that the city of El Paso had commissioned a sculptor to create a statue of Juan de Oñate, they knew they wanted to document the controversial public arts project that had come to be seen as a monument to culture by some, and as a glorification of genocide by others.

Why our community can’t respectfully acknowledge the dark edifice of our past and extend a somber embrace to our Indian brothers and sisters is perplexing to us. After all, as Mexican-Americans we do share in their history, their culture; and it is their blood that runs through our veins.

The Last Conquistador follows the heated debates between the city council that had commissioned the work and the divided reactions from the city’s residents — and John Houser, the artist who had never anticipated that his work would create such a firestorm of controversy.
Do you think the opposing communities around the monument can make peace with each other? Do you have any questions for the filmmakers? Enter them here, and the filmmakers will answer them the week of July 14, 2008

Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee was formerly a producer with POV Interactive.
  • Bruno

    FOREIGNID: 16650
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I generally enjoy POV, but found this episode irresponsible in its attack on the sculptor. You took the opportunity to tell an important story, and turned it into a personal slam on Houser.
    John Houser is not Oñate.
    John Houser is not evil.
    The scene at the optometrists was particularly disgusting.
    May I suggest employment at Inside Edition where your skills might be better suited?

  • http://HTML Metlactli calli

    FOREIGNID: 16651
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The Equestrian does not belong in El Paso neither does Mount Rushmore belong in the sacred Black Hills. The Houser family does not get it.

  • Fray Bartolome de la Casas

    FOREIGNID: 16652
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    why don’t you guys make another documentary about General Custer ? didn’t he kill women and children enough ? do we the Spaniards the only bad people all over the face of earth?
    was the anglo-saxon colonization “The salvation ” for Native American ? Why don’t you stop lying? and Why don’t you stop making bigger the racism against all Hispanic?
    And Why guys don’t you read me ? Fray Bartolome de las Casas Obispo de Chiapas

  • Christopher Holt

    FOREIGNID: 16653
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    After viewing the last evening, I could relate to the feeling and emotions of the citizens of El Paso. I have great appreciation of art…but this monument is not art. It, like the Confederate flag is a symbol of white dominance and oppression of colored (brown) people.
    I empathize with the Acoma people. Until last evening I had no idea of the atrocities commited against them. For years I have traveled throught the southwest especially New Mexico. It is a shame the the film was about Houser and not the Acoma people.

  • http://www.mozilla.org ANNIE LINN

    FOREIGNID: 16654
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thank you for a thoughtful and relevant program. How did you maintain your equanimity in light of the reactions of the rich white folks to the people protesting the sculpture? How did you get such an intiminate portrait of Houser? Did you have lengthy discussions with him off-camera?
    I admire your professionalism and artistry. Thank you for a fine show.
    Anne LeBlanc Linn (Ojibwa/Cree/French American)

  • Harry

    FOREIGNID: 16655
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Art that offends no one will inevitably bore everyone and to absorb everyone’s perspective and feelings on any given subject, art or otherwise, would dilute that subject or work of art to drab conformity.
    I’d rather be offended, than bored.

  • http://www.wisdomkeeper.us Tom McCormack

    FOREIGNID: 16656
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Would a statue glorifying Adolph Hitler in the heart of Jewish communities be acceptable as a “historical monument”? This art project is an absolute atrocity against all indigenous people. We are calling on all international indigenous human rights organizations to protest this statue and have it removed. A formal apology (like the Canadian government recently did) to Native-American people is in order….. this is a crucial first step to help make healing a reality. I am contacting the Texas governor and city leaders in El Paso requesting it be destroyed, or face
    an international tourism and trade boycott of El Paso.
    Tom McCormack
    Native-American Interpretive Specialist

  • F.J.T

    FOREIGNID: 16657
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The gigantic de Onate monument is incomplete.
    Ten yards in front of the rearing horse should be placed a life-size
    statue of a Native American lifting his harvest.
    Ten yards behind de Onate should be a statue of two human figures,
    one crumpled over the other with a Spanish lance in his back.
    This will give their history some fullness.

  • Todd Heintz

    FOREIGNID: 16658
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am trying to remember the quote from the movie, it started History is determined by the victors. Is there a transcript. I am trying to get the whole paragraph with that phrase

  • J. Cooper

    FOREIGNID: 16659
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    When will we ever learn? As long as genocide is denied (or overlooked), as long as the pain of the survivors is warded off, history is destined to repeat itself. I’m grateful to the filmmakers and grateful to the Native American and other well-minded citizens of El Paso who had the courage to object and demonstrate in non-violent ways. At the same time, I’m bewildered and appalled by those who actively supported this monstrous project. Even when clear evidence was presented that this ‘Conquistador’ was charged and convicted as a war criminal, the ugly pain-filled project was not stopped. What happened to the City Council’s humanity? In my mind, the artist too, is a lost soul. How could he have allowed this to happen?
    If those who supported this misguided project ever give themselves time to reflect, search their souls and recognize they made a miserable mistake, I trust they will finally apologize to their neighbors and begin to make amends. Yet, there are none so blind as those who will not see!
    Others on this blog suggest ways to transform the shameful statue into something useful. I imagine building a museum in the area, perhaps installing the Conquistador as a fallen figure, lying on its side, a living warning to the vulnerability of humans to inflation and being taken over by evil.
    J. Cooper
    San Francisco
    September 20, 2008

  • shani

    FOREIGNID: 16660
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I wonder how the story of Onate is told in European Spanish history. For example, I believe Spain views Christopher Columbus’ “contributions” quite favorably. I’d like to know how Spain acknowledges Onate. I think it would be interesting to find out.