What’s Your POV about ‘The Last Conquistador?

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It sounded like a perfect partnership. Renowned sculptor John Houser dreamed of building the world’s tallest bronze equestrian statue, a stunning monument to the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate that would pay tribute to the contributions Hispanic people made to building the American West. The city of El Paso, Texas, was looking to improve its economic fortunes and thought Houser’s statue would increase revenues by creating a significant tourist attraction that would celebrate the city’s Hispanic heritage. What both partners failed to consider was that different segments of the community remembered Juan de Oñate in very different ways.</p?

The Last Conquistador documents the conflict that resulted when Native Americans and members of the Acoma Indian community brought to attention the fact that Juan de Oñate nearly wiped out their ancestors and sold them into slavery. Though violence was associated with nearly all conquistadors, Oñate was so brutal that he was actually recalled to Mexico City, put on trial and convicted for the acts he committed.

El Paso quickly divided along lines of race and class, forcing the artist to face the unanticipated moral implications of his work and city leaders to wrestle with a decision to spend public money on a tribute to such a controversial man. After completion of the statue, everyone was forced to come to terms with a landmark that is viewed by some as a monument to culture and others as a glorification of genocide.

John Hauser Houser says about Oñate, “It’s not up to me to defend him
or accuse him.” What is the role and responsibility of the artist to the community when creating public art?

Maurus ChinoMaurus Chino says, “Violence is violence; genocide is genocide, and there has to be recognition about what really happened.” In response to suggestions that it is time for the Acoma to “let go” of the past or “get over it,” a Native American man says, “Our city is thinking about putting up a statue
of an individual that massacred or tried to wipe us off the face of the eart… You’re going to tell your
grandchildren, ‘I remember 9/11.’ Well, we remember Juan de Oñate.”

Conchita LuceroIn response to criticism of the monument’s subject, Conchita Lucero asks, “Which one of us hasn’t had a benefit of the things that the Spanish brought?”

  • mark ernst

    FOREIGNID: 16661
    Here it is again…. paying homage to genocide and violence in the shadow of benevolence. As well meaning the intentions they can not hide the contradictions of him as a” visionary”. If your Irish you are not placing homage to any English figures that caused the Black 47 . Nor should we pay homage to a Conquistador who’s intentions were to savagely place one peoples dominance over another with the same brutality.

  • Barbara Kohn

    FOREIGNID: 16662
    There was another widely remembered historical “visionary”, who was considered ahead of his time, and who felt through science and technology, he was bringing a greater good to the world. His name was Adolf Hitler. Yet, I have yet to see statues taller than the Statue of Liberty, errected in his honor. If one wants to see homages to Onate, that’s their right, but save them for Spain, not here. “Everybody has been screwed over at one time or another”? Yes, maybe you are correct. But does that make it okay to idolize a war criminal? Does it make it right to shove it in the faces of those who have suffered? My ancestors are long gone…physically. But as a Laguna Pueblo woman, I am still connected to them spiritually. Maybe you would feel differenty if it was your ancestors who were massacred. Maybe you would feel different if San Diego’s football team was a derogatory term for Mexicans instead of the Chargers. Anyone reading this a Redskin fan? That’s okay. Because honestly, sports teams names don’t really bother me. But the point is Native America seems to be the only American minority that is still okay to step on. In sitcoms, literature, music… any where you look. It’s still okay for school aged children to not know the difference from a Hopi Pueblo and a Navajo. No one cares that Choctaw and Seminole tribes are totally different. It’s still okay for every middle-aged white tourist to claim that their “great-great grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee princess”. No, it’s not okay, but it’s something we have to live with. Just like we will probably have to live with the fact there is a statue of savage, who brought with him; pain, disease, suffering, rape, greed, hate and religious persecution, at the U.S.-Mexico border. Just don’t expect his to see his feet or his hands intact for too long.
    edited by moderator for language

  • T.Sanders

    FOREIGNID: 16663
    I am so sad… that the native americans are still suffering.. I am very upset that from the beginning of the uprising and taking over of the world by one race over another. I am sick of this disrespect.. I am so sad.. That we can onto get along. I am grateful for people standing up for what they believe in…
    I pray that people will come together..
    and make peace

  • Jonathan Peizer

    FOREIGNID: 16664
    I’m Jewish, and a significant part of my family was killed in the Holocaust – so the slaughter is even more immediate. Recently I’ve been thinking about the wax figure of Hitler in Madam Trussauds in Berlin. Actually I understand and sympathize with the historical perspective and that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it – The question I have is “Why not put the statue in context? Onate is a historical figure — So why not put a plaque up that puts him in context and record what he did along with the statue???” That way, in fact he will be remembered – in context – not only by the people he murdered – but by everyone, so he is not honored because of ignorance again?
    On a separate note, given the issues Al Paso has, one does have to question the decision to put up a statue rather than spending money on other more pressing human issues – but that’s another story….

  • helen mendes

    FOREIGNID: 16665
    I am grateful to the Acoma people , Counselman Cobos , & the artist who
    stood up to the appalling waste of money and monument to the cruelty of this
    Conquistador, How can anyone want to memorialize a man who ordered the
    cutting off of a child’s foot so he won’t run, or the selling into slavery of children by the hypocrites who claim to be Christians ? To me as a woman of English, S. American Indian-American heritage , I am deeply offended. I pray you will not give up fighting. This statue is the equivalent to me of placing a statue of Pontius Pilate and Herod in Vatican City. AS Gandhi famously said, when I despair I remember that there have always been murderers and tyrants and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end
    they always fall, think of it always.

  • Edward Garcia

    FOREIGNID: 16666
    I have to agree with removal of the statue. white people may not find it offensive but if there was a huge 100 ft tall statue of Osama Bin Laden then they would know how they feel.

  • Barry Mooney

    FOREIGNID: 16667
    I see Houser’s work as an absolute atrocity to all that America supposedly stands for.

  • joe

    FOREIGNID: 16668
    What Mr. Houser did with the Statue is an injustice and selfishness to his artistic expression. Houser new the history of Onate and continued with the project. Mr. Houser cant related because its not part of his history. Is Onate someone we want our children to look up too. Why not erect statues of the 911 bombers in the name of artistic expression. Mr. Houser is way off…..joe

  • Dominique

    FOREIGNID: 16669
    If it is OK in ElPaso ……..Why not a giant statue of Hitler in the middle of Brooklyn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After all it was an historic figure too.
    See what type of world reaction that would justly create ! Bu because it is about what white affluent citizens consider as sub- humans who cares!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paul

    FOREIGNID: 16670
    I am dumbfounded why anybody would consider a project that would offend a significant portion of our citizenry. Out of respect for others, the project should not have been conceived, approved, and finished—regardless of the historical interpretation of Onate.

  • J. Rutherford

    FOREIGNID: 16671
    I’m sorry in the extreme that the sculptor, John Hauser, is at risk of serious visual problems or even blindness, having received a diagnosis of glaucoma. At the same time, I am also sorry this project was ever undertaken, and I wonder if Mr. Hauser doesn’t feel somewhat the same way. I can see absolutely no justification for the statue. (Though I can, as one resident of the El Paso barrio commented, see justification for spending that million dollars on improvements to the city.)
    I felt ashamed of the supporters of the project. May they see the light one day, though in this still-racist society that prospect seems unlikely.

  • Bonnie Ritt

    FOREIGNID: 16672
    Houser, a brilliant and sensitive artist, had no idea of the reaction his magnificent scupture would cause. However, the WEALTHY residents of the community apparently did. They showed utter insensitivity. Their elitist attitudes are what causes wars and evil in societies.
    Unfortunately, ART in a society where there is poverty, NEEDS TO WAIT.
    Why should a sculpture take precidence, when children need playgrounds, impoverished need food and clothing. As a white easterner, my heart goes out to the slighted natives. I, too, take offense. Societies NEED to become sensitive to others backgrounds and ethnicities. The fortunate need to stop feeding their egos at the cost of the less fortunate. The fact that their were people rejoicing while others were in pain, is abusive. These must be the same people who flaunt conspicuous consumption.at the cost of others feelings. Their actions are not forgiveable.

  • Jeffery Antkowiak

    FOREIGNID: 16673
    It always struck me as odd that the peoples of Central and South America ended up embracing a culture that was foisted on them at the point of a gun. Their native languages were suppressed in favor of a European tongue. Their native gods were replaced by the god of the Europeans. What part of their Spanish legacy do they take pride in?

  • Raymond Dotson

    FOREIGNID: 16674
    As I watched the film, my first thought was, “why not erect a statue of Hitler outside a synagogue” which would be very offensive to the Jewish culture and civilized people. Then, as I watched the reactions of the city council and that of John Houser himself, my thought was, “typical of white people, to dismiss the arguments and concerns of the native people”, because they don’t understand, or try to understand, the centuries of pain and discrimination that Indians have endured in this country. El Paso as a whole should be ashamed to glorify someone such as Onate, which is what they have done with that statue. A note to John Houser, it IS your responsibility, and the responsibility of every artist to be keenly aware of what their art says and who it speaks to. Your actions, and dismissal of the concerns of the native people of El Paso, puts you in the same catagory with the ignorant and uncaring people of this country who look at us and see the Hollywood version of Indians, shame on you, you should know better.


    FOREIGNID: 16675

  • Nancy

    FOREIGNID: 16676
    This statue is so wrong on so many levels. It is truly the dark side of humanity that can erect such a statue in the perception of greatness and the goal to attract tourist dollars. Humans continue to sacrafice heart and soul for fame and fortune When will we stand united with the moral thing to dol? Thank you for this film to once again open our eyes, for our awareness and hopefully another opportunity to do good.

  • J.Alexander

    FOREIGNID: 16677
    The producers of the film likely intended to portray the events as typical of a racist American society. The effect it had on me was to reinforce how racism persists in all groups including the “Hispanic” and “Native American” groups.
    I think they could have used the statue to teach what apparently many people did not realize about the history of the Southwest. Instead they chose to disrupt and force their opinion. This is how the film spoke to me. I know a number of indigenous Mexicans who have come here to North Carolina.
    Many are bilingual in Spanish and either Tepehua or Otomi, and they are from Tlachichilco, Veracruz. Despite what Mexican society has done to them, they do not seem to be bitter. I often tell them that I am glad that they came here to North Carolina without stopping long in the border states where this kind of resentment is endemic.

  • mitchell loncorich

    FOREIGNID: 16678
    I felt that the film was very moving and actually makes me upset how the school systems teach from only one point of view because i had no idea about the conflict. I felt they should have modified the sculpture in a skewed or broken fashion to still be artistic but in a truthfull way.

  • BKE

    FOREIGNID: 16679
    As a Jewish Euro-American, I found the attitude of the statue’s supporters appalling, and the artist’s participation disgusting. He is quoted in the film as saying that the controversy impressed upon him that art really affects people. What kind of an artist doesn’t already know that? It says to me that this sculptor is no artist, but a good craftsman. There’s a difference. In answer to those who want to commemorate the Spanish contribution to the U.S.: Surely there are better ways to honor Spanish culture and heritage than this glorification of genocide. My heart aches for the continuing tragedy of the original peoples of this land. Take the statue down, melt it, and create something in which all the members of the El Paso community can take pride.

  • K.Lentz

    FOREIGNID: 16680
    It is a pitiful thing that a person guilty of attempted genecide can be honored for his deeds of barbarism 300 years after the fact. It is even more pitiful that after centuries of time Onate is still creating unrest in the Acoma Pueblo population. We all have obstacles in life we have to overcome even if it means finding something within ourselves that is bigger and greater than any statue could ever represent.

  • Daniel Polowetzky

    FOREIGNID: 16681
    It appears that the artist takes no responsibility for accepting the conflict generated by his work. One cannot hide behind one’s artistic passion and ignore the subject matter of one’s art. Would he sculpt a bust of Hitler and then argue that he is not condoning Nazism, but rather celebrating the German spirit?
    Why not create a statue of George Wallace blocking the entrance to the Univerity of Alabama? Maybe Bull Connor? What conviction these men had! “Oh, I’m not condoning their actions. I’m only sculpting history. I’m an artist!”.
    The best I can say for Houser is that I am embarrassed for him. His viiew of his role as ARTIST is pathetic!
    The work itself is rather unimpressive. The equestrian motif is rather dated, unimaginative, and common. It is usually reserved for long dead forgotton public figures nobody cares about any more.
    As a public works project, the sculpture is simply a waste of money, not likely to attract many tourists.
    The check writing fund raisers appear particulary provincial in their excitement in purchasing a replica of the larger sculpture. Mavbe they should get to a museum once in a while!!

  • Laura Beaufford Lopez

    FOREIGNID: 16682
    I’m a native Texan and I’m embarrassed for the state yet again. I am shocked at the lack of historical knowledge on a major piece of art. What were the affluent people of El Paso thinking? They had the deep pockets… why wasn’t their thinking just as deep before the approval? The city should remove the eyesore and allow it to be an expensive lesson learned. Melt it down to be used on a piece that inspires everyone, not just a few.

  • Martin Ben-Ari

    FOREIGNID: 16683
    The film made its point very effectively.
    How insensitive cansome white people be!
    If it were only public knowledge that Columbus came to this continent in search of fame and gold and how many atrocities he committed, we would understand how native Americans feel about his “discovery”and might finally decide to abolish that meaningless holiday.

  • Fray Bartolome de las Casas

    FOREIGNID: 16684
    Thank You, for The continous Distortion of history to the filnmakers. And for their contribution with this big grain to the mountain of racism against every person who speak spanish or has spanish heritage . Very interesting documentary , but I missed some mention about Onate’s wife who was a native american in fact She was a Moctezuma’s relative. Observations like that would have been very controversial . However Onate was a cruel man, he just was as cruel as others but of course It is easier to continue liying about spaniards forgetting the real native american sittuation.In addition I want to mention that slavery among the native americans in the 15 century was prohibited by Isabel The Catholic and her heirs. The native american historical sittuation in the spanish empire was in general pretty different than what was reallly a genocide.The real genocide occured almost 200 years later when US began .Please do not make bigger the mountain of racism against everything Hispanic.
    To conclude ,Congratulation for the docummentary and please the next one be more precise.-
    Fray Bartolome de las Casas Obispo de Chiapas Mexico

  • Gary Brown

    FOREIGNID: 16685
    There is still an opportunity to construct a bridge between these communities and cultures. However, it is such a sad commnetary that even throughout this process of enlightening people as to the true significance of such a tragic, historical figure and the known nature of his war crimes (and conviction) that those so doggedly insisting on spending already limited public funds on this debacle have not come forward and offered not only a profoundly convincing public apology, but an offer to construct an educational memorial that reveals the truth (accompanied by a sculpture garden of “real” commemoration) and also mounted an aggressive effort and commitment to privately raise funds to reimburse the public coffers. Where are these people now? What have they done to mitigate the damages their actions have caused in their community and beyond? What are the respective churches of these groups doing to reach out to each other? Do they even care? Are those so (justly) offended willing to acknowledge such an apology (backed by actions) if it is offered?

  • S. Nelson

    FOREIGNID: 16686
    I understand the feelings of both sides. However I wish we could all start to move past the” Past”, the “Future” needs our attention. What really got to me was the $$$$$$ amount of this project. Could have built alot of community things that both sides could benifit from.

  • http://www.davesmithphoto.com David

    FOREIGNID: 16687
    It is interesting how many people compare the idea of this statue to having a statue of Hitler. That was also one of my thoughts. That should be a clue to the people that approved this project. The artist appears to use the theory “if you can’t make it creative make it big” As I watched the show I thought the city council would see how offensive this statue is to some and scrap this project. Maybe this film will bring some national attention and disgust shaming the EL Paso City government into removing it. The City shouldn’t be surprised to see the statue vandalized and covered with graffiti Am glad I live in Pittsburgh and not El Paso

  • http://HTML Metlactli calli

    FOREIGNID: 16688
    The film did not mention that before Onate came into what is now the U.S. Southwest, him and his family had enslaved thousands of Indigenous people in the Zacatecas area. The Onates butchered hundreds of Indios during the Mixton Wars. Indian people in the Americas are still suffering at the hands of Europeans. Indigenous cultures are our salvation.

  • Mary Elsener

    FOREIGNID: 16689
    “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” John Houser says he did historical research on Onate before creating the sculpture. What part of “Conquistador” did he not understand? The word “Conquerer” requires no translation into the English. He claims to empathize with those who protest against his building a gigantic memorial to this savage. Yet he christens the statue and still pockets his fee. He disingenuously says he is surprised by the power of the emotional reaction that art can provoke–why else does he think he was paid such a large fee? And he’s certainly old enough to remember the power of the swastika. The symbolism here is tragic: Thanks to Houser, this barbarian now physically towers again above the taxpayers whose ancestors he conquered. And Houser’s physical blindness will soon reflect his psychological blindness.

  • Gary Brown

    FOREIGNID: 16690
    It just occurred to me…
    Why has no one recalled that quote from Pizarro (the first of the string of Conquistadors who went on what became an 8 million person genocidal spree) when he saw the Incas finally revolting after 4 years of bloody oppression. On August 10, 1536, as he suddenly became aware of his city being surrounded by an approaching army of infuriated, persecuted Incas he said, “God save us from the fury of the Indians.”, an appropriate comment considering the extreme, unwarranted and unprecedented devastation he had caused.
    In a more civil time, the tragedy is still dealt out among us, albeit more politely issued. Hopefully, we as an American population can correct this type of ignorant behavior in a passionate but more genuinely effective manner.
    Sincere, intelligent people can still make a difference here.

  • viewer from texas

    FOREIGNID: 16691
    This film was eye-opening, though I must say that i didn’t find the content surprising, given the way that native americans have been treated throughout American history.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuHwhC_ncmU claude montes

    FOREIGNID: 16692
    My opinion would be based on what I have seen or heard.
    I was the only sculptor present when the Twelve Traveler project was approved by the city council and mayor Tilney. People came and went with their agendas. Staying long enough to sate their individual cases without paying much attention to each other’s cases or concerns. Houser’s case was presented at the very last because he did not know exactly when he and his pro bono lawyer would be called. So the three of us were the only ones left when the council deliberated and the meeting was adjourned. With a short break for lunch, we stayed in the city hall the entire day. I wanted to be part of this historical project that promised to build a foundry and hire local artists to take part and be involved. I introduced myself to Mr. Houser and offered my services. He gave me his address and I brought as he requested that very afternoon, my portfolio. He congratulated me on my sculptural abilities and promised to get in touch with me once the project gets rolling. Going back to that 24 November 1992 day, the Oñate figure was never on the original list of twelve.
    Unfortunately, the project has taken a different direction, both in scope and geographical locations. The list of twelve has changed at the discretion of the artist, and the venue for the production has shifted to distant places and did not create the local jobs , the building of a local foundry and the employ of local artists as presented in the original plan of 1992.
    I would like to see the 90-minute version of this documentary; I would like to see more of the process in creating such a large monument; and I would like a convincing explanation as to why it could not have been accomplished locally.
    Putting aside all controversies, my response is focused on the sculptural aspects.
    This is not the only Oñate statue. Let us remember that the El Paso Times published a story on Sunday 29 December 1991: Artist Sculpts new Life into Oñate. That statue was created at a foundry right across the border from El Paso in Juarez Mexico by sculptor Reynaldo Rivera. That statue traveled through this city toward its final destination of Alcalde, New Mexico where it graces the Oñate Monument Center. That Oñate is only 12 feet tall and costs only $108,000.
    claude montes, stone sclptor of El Paso

  • http://www.pbs.org/pov/blog/2008/07/whats_your_pov_about_the_last.html doug lutz

    FOREIGNID: 16693
    I was sorry to see El Paso portrayed singularly as Segundo Barrio. Councilman Cabos should have campaigned door to door in his district where people actually vote.
    Racism is such an easy word to throw around today. Anthropology says there is only one race, the human race. Not one culture can stand alone and say they are not responsible for the brutality of others. Life feeds on life, sad but it’s reality.
    The Acoma and Pueblo people practiced slavery and were no strangers to War.
    It is interesting to me to understand how the Conquistador and Missionaries brutalized Native Americans, but as i drive north along the Rio Bravo, reservation after reservation and pueblo after pueblo, a Christhan church spire tower over the “subjugated and oppressed.” The Spanish came and took what they thought was rightfully theirs, after all they had God on their side remember.
    The Onate sculpture as controversial as it is and as embroiled in misunderstanding and misinformation can perhaps serve as a catalyst for discussion, debate, and the search for a accurate interpretation of history where finally both sides can tell a story and both sides won’t be afraid of the truth.

  • Maria Morales

    FOREIGNID: 16694
    Last night watching the program of the Statue of the Conquistadors Onate shock and sadden me. That this should be happening in this modern age! That there shoiuld exist such a lack of regard and knowledge of American History, especially of Native American History.
    I am an artist, Spanish, painter and sculpture, and cannot believe Mr.John Houser did not have any knowledge of the subject matter he was sculpting.
    Shame on you Mr. Houser, you should had know better!
    It seems John Houser got so involved in himself, leaving a landmark of his art and name that he lost sense of the feelings of other, ESPECIALLY the Native American History and the violence committed.
    It saddens me that the Native American voices are the last one to be heard and respected, in this modern age.
    Mr. Houser did not have to do, what he did , in the matter that he did it. He is a “CREATIVE ARTIST’ he could and should had presented the project in a different way. He only “Created” divisions.
    John Houser said he wanted to create the largest equesterian sculpture ,
    looking back at Art History, he was trying to follow in the footsteps of another famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci who created the largest “Horse” bronze statue that ever was erected in honor of an Italian City.
    Mr. Houser you are not Leonardo Da Vinci!
    And to the Native American I wish to say, how sorry I feel that this should be happening to you.

  • Acoma Pueblo Woman

    FOREIGNID: 16695
    This is no other word for the Onate statue but disgusting. The people of El Paso should feel betrayed by their city officials for chosing to waste money on this monstrosity.
    Mr. Houser’s eye condition is without a doubt a result of his ignorance in sculpting such a tactless figure.

  • http://www.mozilla.org ANNIE LINN

    FOREIGNID: 16696
    In our family, reflecting on the conquest and its aftermath is difficult. I come from a native american heritage, with 500 years of shame and anger. My husband is German/Irish. He saw the show and said, ” I can’t understand women, much less Indians.” He is sensitive to native concerns, but completely doesn’t get native anger and angst concerning the conquest. The show aptly and graphically displayed the chasm that still exists between the descendents of the conquered and the conquerers. It is a cautionary tale for those nations who subjugate and murder others for profit, resources, land or glory. The pain of the people who’ve lost their lives and country doesn’t stop at their death, but remains with the land, just as their bones remain in the earth.

  • http://1.HTML lenny

    FOREIGNID: 16697
    Hi….This is a test….I am not getting through last nite….Lenny

  • James Raymer

    FOREIGNID: 16698
    My wife and I both enjoyed this documentary, which caused a lot of thought and dialogue between us. The statue was a beautiful work of art, but shame on the artist for knowing the atrocities committed by this conquistador–and still naming/honoring this individual with a statue!!! What an idiot. He could have just titled his work “Spanish Conquistador,” and left any specific name out of the title. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the artist has a great deal of talent. His work is quite extraordinary–he just lacked enough sensitivity to the native people of the region to make things right. At the very least, his next statue should represent the native people–and be on as grand a scale as the conquistador statue. Just a thought.

  • http://1.HTML lenny

    FOREIGNID: 16699
    How about putting G.W.Bush on a bronze Aircraft Carrier saying ‘Mission Accomplished’ right next to Onate…It’s ironic that Houser is going blind…Great job on the film…Lenny

  • Pedro

    FOREIGNID: 16700
    This is a sensitive issue and I agree with the sense of glorification of oppression the statue conjurs although it is important to respect the artist of the statue. His statement recognizing how powerful and emotive art pieces can be is amazing. The artist developed quite a strong understanding of his subject and showed an appreciative growth of the reactions. I appreciate the critical thinking skills people are using in this day and age when recounting the realities of the American birth. The film brougth tears to my eyes in how we are recognizing the atrocities of the white man past.

  • lv

    FOREIGNID: 16701
    I am appalled at the lack of sensitivity displayed by the artist and his supporters.
    As Americans, we are so conceited and arrogant We are the first to condemn human rights violations in every part of the world (just keep those WalMart shelves overflowing).
    However, we are oblivious to the prejudices and inequalities that exist right here. What a bunch of hypocrites.
    None of us can change history, but it is about time that we accept some responsibility for the violence that is part of our history and acknowledge the horror that was perpetrated on native Americans and blacks.
    That’s how we can prevent history from repeating itself.
    As the descendants and beneficiaries of the perpetrators, we have the responsibility to help heal the souls of the survivors. We should not stoop to the level of rubbing salt to a wound.
    El Paso should take down the statue. Indifference and callousness are not the qualities that define an artist.Art should heal and not hurt the soul.
    Peace. lv

  • la fronteriza

    FOREIGNID: 16702
    John Houser should be ashamed of himself for his grotesque lack of consideration of the sense of pain, shame and outrage Acoma and other indigenous people feel for the atrocities committed in the name of conquest, wealth and glory. But it is not only native American people who find this statue disgusting. As an American of Irish, Scot, and Welsh descent, I was ashamed and humiliated by the callous comments and revolting laughter of the wealthy denizens of El Paso enjoying their drinks and their privilege. How can they or the purported historian from New Mexico be so indifferent to history as to downplay the reality of Onate’s atrocities. For heaven’s sake, the Spanish government found him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and recalled him from the colonies to stand trial, and this during a period where the heinous treatment of colonized people was fairly common–that’s how evil Onate was. He thought native Americans were not fully human. Apparently my white paisanos continue to feel this way. Their willful disregard of both history and human dignity is shameful. There are none so blind as they who will not see. These rich, white supporters, and their representatives on the El Paso city council, are more blind than Houser will be, and he is totally in the dark, with our without glaucoma. Someone said Houser is not an evil man. However, the wilful refusal to repudiate the inhuman treatment of others, whether now or 300 years ago, is repellant, and is the very vehicle for all atrocities perpetrated in our world. The people running the Nazi death camps were just following orders, they didn’t mean to be evil. And yet evil occurred at their hands, and nothing will ever erase that shame. Shame on John Houser for using his artisan work to perpetuate the memory of a butcher. More shame on him and his rich partisans for their cold, condescending attitudes to not only Acoma people but all people who repudiate barbarity. Whether the Spanish people have also contributed value to our society is beside the question; I mean the Nazi’s gave us good cars and rocket scientists–does that vitiate their great crime?

  • Judy

    FOREIGNID: 16703
    I viewed the film and am ashamed of this statue. This man and all he accomplished should never be glamorized or given any notice whatsoever. It’s the murderous actions such as this man committed that bring shame on us as a country. Murder is against God’s peace, love and harmony among human beings.

  • Giesela

    FOREIGNID: 16704
    I have seen the documentary “The Last Conquistatdor”. I am very disappointed in John Houser, putting his talents into sculpting this three story high war criminal statue.
    I have heard some people say “I feel bad for what happened to the Native Americans in the past, how we treated them, but enough is enough – we need to move on and they need to get over it!” How untrue this statement is. Bringing up Hitler as other bloggers have before me is necessary as the circumstances as so similar. Who in their right mind would put up a statue of Hilter? How can any human being not understand what Onate did was wrong wrong wrong! Its as simple as black and white, he butchered and murdered men, woman and children. Even his own people punished him for his actions. No healing can begin until ALL people know this truth.

  • B. Kintrob

    FOREIGNID: 16705
    What has not been pointed out is that the whole issue is pitched outside of recognition of the class divided society that was current then and has morphed into what we live in now – still class divided. Meanwhile, PBS slips by with being politically correct and casting Mr. Houser as a pathetic figure. His patrons, the bourgeois of El Paso, would not have looked kindly upon a cruel and oppressive Onate. They would not have taken kindly to a depiction of a prostrate Indian below the hoofs of the horse. That might have jeopradized the potential tourist trade.
    Even though Onate had a native wife related to Montezuma, he was tried. The deprevations visited upon native peoples was horrible. However, they too regularly engaged in extreme cruelty to their own people and the Aztecs tyrannized other tribal peoples around them until the Spaniards allied with other oppressed tribes ultimately overcame the so-called Aztec empire. Cruelty and barbarous acts were the in-thing in those days and unfortunately linger on.
    The whole controversy is pitched outside of the class forces that existed then and today continue hence it is incomprehensible. What was clear in the film was the divisions that still exist with the wealthy counterposed against the impoverished of El Paso. Yes, why not some playgrounds for the kids? Because playgrounds won’t bring revenue to the city, and the capitalists run the city. So John’s efforts were cynically employed as an adjunct to prospective tourism.
    Incidentally, the giant Onate does not look like your kindly, friendly and benevolent conquistador posed in a terrifying stance about to pounce upon his victims.

  • Edie

    FOREIGNID: 16706
    I saw the program last evening (7/15) and was astonished at the lack of knowledge of New Mexican History. As a descendant of those first colonists under Don Juan de Onate, I feel it necessary to remind Mr. Chino that he is a little late in wanting to avenge the atrocity of Acoma. Acoma was avenged by all the tribes of New Mexico in August of 1680 when they fought back and took New Mexico as it was then, back. They left bodies of men, women, children, grandparents, etc., strewn all the way South from Taos, NM to Guadalupe del Paso (as it was known then). This was under the leadership of the Indian, Pope. The atrocity numbered in the thousands not in the hundreds – four generations of Spanish settlers! We shall never know the exact number who perished. Some of my ancestors perished that day.
    Twelve years later another Conquistador took New Mexico back and re-established the people in their homes. That man was Diego de Vargas.
    Should we now recall and relive over and over again the pain and anger of that atrocity?
    Juan de Onate was doing that which he was obligated to do under the two majesties, the Crown and the Church of Spain. He was punished for his wrong doing, but he didn’t do it alone. Yes, he led his soldiers, that was what he was supposed to do as their leader.Using this example as a mind-set, let us remember that generations from now people will be expecting us to pay the Japanese people for the lives they lost due to our atomic bombs!
    The Iraqui people may want to be remunerated for the lives of their elders, their children and their grandchildren, their sons and daughters lost due to our ” Shock and Awe”! We could go on and on with this kind of wrong thinking.
    Yes our Native Americans have endured and continue to endure to this day, but whose fault is that? We have been under American rule since 1846.
    It is now time to move on. We cannot change what has been. But we can and we must change our attitudes toward others if we expect to ever live in peace and harmony with each other.
    When the Anglo-Saxon came into New Mexico in 1846 the majority of the colonists chose not to fight. They had no weapons to fight with. Under Mexican rule they had had to turn their weapons in to the Mexican governor who took over for the country of Mexico. Nueva Espana (New Spain) no longer existed. They realized they could not fight an artillery with bows and arrows which was all they had.
    We are the only ones who can change what and how we think and do. There is no such thing as “the superior race”. We may be more fortunate than others but that does not make any one better than another. We can and we must stop this insanity of self-pity and hatred and the need to dominate. We can and we should help others less fortunate than ourselves by teaching them how to learn and grow into the person our Creator fashioned us to be.
    I leave you with the lines of this poem:
    Every day is a fresh beginning,
    Listen, my soul to the glad refrain,
    And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
    And puzzles forecasted, and possible pain,
    Take heart with the day and begin again.
    All the past things are past and over,
    The tasks are done and the tears are shed.
    Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover;
    Yesterday’s wounds, which smarted and bled,
    Are healed with the healing which night has shed.
    Let them go, since we cannot relive them,
    Cannot undo and cannot atone.
    God in his mercy receive, forgive them !
    Only the new days are our own.
    Today is ours, and today alone.

  • Laura Epps

    FOREIGNID: 16707
    I have just viewed the program about the statue of Onate in El Paso. I am a native Texan, and I was sickened to see the hurt and outrage of the Native Americans. I can completely understand and agree with their feelings of distress. A war criminal is paid homage in an area where he committed savage crimes against humanity.
    I applaud PBS for having the venue to air programs like this, so viewers can see different perspectives and come to conclusions other than the mainstream consensus. I am a teacher, and I fell that until we tell students the WHOLE story of our human histories, we will revert to the narrow-minded, one-dimensional version that has been accepted for so long.
    Mr. Houser has a tremendous talent. I am sorry that his gift was used depicting a figure so unworthy of praise and recognition.

  • deborah pearson

    FOREIGNID: 16708
    The utter insensitivity of Ms. Lucero and those like her only proves a point already well known. History is written by the conquerors, not the one conquered. No one is asking that you not be proud of YOUR history, but you have no right to DENY other people theirs’ as if it never happened. Own up to what your ancestors did to the native population, which was kill them and enslave them. Ms. Lucero demonstrates her elitist, and yes racist attitude when she urges that the Acoma people ‘. .get over it’ Get over what? Get over the deliberate attempt to exterminate them? Get over having children taken away and sold into slavery? What was done to the Native American population by both the conquistadors and later Europeans was nothing short of genocide. Why not say to Jews. . ‘get over the Holocaust’. . . .or better yet say to African-Americans. . ‘get over 400 years of slavery’. . .It was impossible not to see that the majority of those in favor of the statue were descendants of both the conquistadors and white Europeans. Nothing survives like racisim

  • Stacy

    FOREIGNID: 16709
    The ‘past’ is our history. And, it is history. So, you might be difficult to get past the ‘Past’.

  • Camille and Jaime

    FOREIGNID: 16710
    What a powerful film…Kudos to the film crew. It goes to the heart of the singularity of purpose that many adhere to in their work without taking into account the impact on others. While history is typically written by the victors, collective memory is not easily erased. Will recommend it highly to my educator friends.

  • James

    FOREIGNID: 16711
    I’m not sure if this artist was in a “self-indulgence mode” when he built this, but I think the responsible thing that he and the New Mexico committee should have done is set up a poll with local residents of what the subject of the statue should be of. There are other alternatives to build a tourist attraction like a large theme park, casino, and a nature preserve if some of the local US Native American Indians in the area like the Acoma nation doesn’t like this statue. That way there would be no fuss. A good subject for the local US Native American Indians of the Acoma nation would be several statues dedicated to their grandfathers, fathers, and uncles who served in the US military during World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Many US Native American Indians have served and fought in the US military like the Navajo code talkers in the US Marine Corps. These US veterans should be worthy subjects for the local people.

  • Floristguy

    FOREIGNID: 16712
    A brilliant documentary that enraged and moved me. I felt the documentary was more than fair to all points of view and did an incredible job of presenting the facts and allowing the viewers to form their own opinions.
    I was sympathetic to the artist but ultimately he knew from the very beginning that this could deeply offend Native Americans and proceeded anyhow.
    This made this story even sadder that such a great talent would know from the outset how hurtful this piece of art would be and yet continue with the project.
    What I found interesting was my reaction to the work itself, as extraordinary as it was I felt the sculpture was cold as a headstone in a cemetery.
    I wonder if that was a reflection of the artist, his subconscious guilt or both.

  • Martin

    FOREIGNID: 16713
    it should be torn down like the Columbus’ statue in Venezuela, oh yeah as well as should the Columbus statue at union station in DC.

  • vaago

    FOREIGNID: 16714
    i am a sculptor from germany, i worked with chicano artists from SA-Texas,
    i worked with jewish artists from israel….i just think about how it will be, if a sculptor would build a hitler sculpture next to the border of Israel…maybe it will happen in 500 or 600 years…omg, please help!!!!!!!
    i send all my helping and supporting energy to the people of this resitance!!!

  • Patrick Byrne

    FOREIGNID: 16715
    I am always moved and informed by your wonderful films and points of view.
    I must say that with this latest example, the controversy surrounding the equestrian bronze by Mr. Hauser, I was very disturbed. The idea that a city with the social and economic inequalities of El Paso could spend a fortune erecting a gargantuan, vulgar monument to another spanish butcher speaks very ill for a portion of our population. Those people who were the fundraisers for this insult came across just as I would imagine, narrow, foolish, and really unattractive, both in their mental and physical aspects.
    In addition, I might add that the artist seems obsessed with the size of his work—a good thing considering how really banal and generic his technique is. I have been around the artist community most of my life and have several close friends who are sculpters. They all agree that this man would never had any signifigant entre into the art world had it not been for his father. Perhaps his impending blindness is a retribution for the symbol of evil he has foisted on the indigenous peoples of that community.

  • Smiling Moon

    FOREIGNID: 16716
    It sounds ignorant to claim genocide when there are many living people of the tribe. The most likely truth is that these people are of mixed decent. It seems that so many “minorities” only acknowledge and pay homage to the part of their heritage that gives them the most attention, sympathy or benefits. Because of reverse discrimination, so many deny their entire heritage and the fact that we all have good and bad in our family past. There are no perfect people and no one’s lineage that is without crime against another. It is ashame that so many “American Indians” only claim their Indian tribal heritage and ignore the other races of ancesters. Some tribes do not admit into their midst their African American brothers and sisters. Many are denied tribal membership if they have African American heritage. However, someone of the same mix of other races can be admitted. The American Indian culture is creating an ugly name for itself, in general, by reverse discrimination and the demanding of rights and privileges for “their” people. But, we should see ourselves as one people. They have special rights and privileges like the ability to own a Casino when no one else in the state can own one; special police protection, by tribal police to supervise the local law enforcement, head rights ($6,000 per month for some), all just because they were born to a particular set of parents). Some of the basis for the American Revolution was to end and prevent this type of class rights. The U.S. is likley to have the same problems as Israel and Palestine, if the Indians don’t quit trying to pull away and take “their lands” and if races don’t quit claiming special privileges because they are “down trodden”, etc. Everyone in this country needs to consider him/herself an American and drop the chips on the shoulders and the anger and attitudes of revenge. It’s dividing the country. Divided we can not stand. If we quit focusing on the race issue that divides us, maybe we can make better progress of love a!nd respect to each person as an individual and not see him/her through race colored glasses.

  • Marcos Torres

    FOREIGNID: 16717
    Sadly, this is again another example of a few politically well connected people taking over a million dollars from all taxpayers for a project that while physically beautiful, casts a horrible shadow. A shadow of so many deaths that were perpetrated by Onate who was later tried and found guilty or murdering and causing great emotional and psychological pain to so many of this lands indigenous people, and all in the name of our Lord and God.
    I do hope that this serves as an important lesson to all those involved in bringing this giant terrorist to the southwest. A lesson that any time any group of people arrive at a decision to honor any individual through art using public funds, information should be disseminated to the general public before any monies are actually spent or contracts are signed. In addition, the group should thoroughly research the subject to determine if there are any skeletons in the closet that may cause dissension. The Spanish Catholic church and its conquistadors literally had millions!
    Houser too has to carry some responsibility for this very bad mistake. He seemed so caught up and excited about this project that he failed to really look at the impact it would have.

  • Edith Ordonez Anderson

    FOREIGNID: 16718
    I just finished watching “the last conquistador” and I was greatly affected.
    You see I love art , I live for art, but I am left feeling so ashamed. Would I enjoy a sculpture of Hitler? I WOULD NOT.
    Would I stand in front of a sculpture of Osama bin Laden and be enraptured by the great art work.??I WOULD NOT
    I if I was Mr. Hauser, with such magnificent gift, would I want my LEGACY to be the last conquistador??? NO I WOULD NOT!!!!
    Could this crime against the local people not be remediated by attaching additional peices to this statute of maybe a group of ACOMA IS POEPLE SUFFERING AT THE FOOT OF HIS HORSE?
    As a side note, i should mention that I am not only an artist but I am also of direct Spanish descent. I wish Ii could have been there to speak. Please forward my concerns to the appropriate subgroup or director himself. My ideal hope would be that Mr. Hauser read this.

  • Sandy Watson

    FOREIGNID: 16719
    My heart was broken upon seeing the piece entitled “The Last Conquistador.” This is truly the irony of the dark side of human nature…that years after horrific genocide, some would dare to idolize one of the perpetrators. What’s even worse is that there seems to be no national outrage because, after all, they are only Indians. If the same were directed towards African Americans– there would be riots. How sad that the descendents of Spanish settlers felt it so necessary to take the hard earned dollars of taxpaying Indian citizens. How disgusting to take money dutifully paid to the local government and erect a statue that is so offensive the very individuals whose taxes paid for the monument. The local government in El Paso should be ashamed of themselves! I hope this film is seen all over the country so that the shame of Spanish descendants in El Paso will become a permanent part of history. I hope they reap from what they’ve sown!

  • Jeff

    FOREIGNID: 16720
    There was no aspect of the behavior of the white community that didn’t leave me sickened and appalled. I was particularly offended by Ms. Lucero, who demanded, petulantly, that the Native Americans “get over it”. I was pleased that Mr. Houser eventually came to understand, somewhat, the pain he had caused (and commend him for being the only white person involved who was willing to listen to the Native Americans), but I agreed with him that he “should have been able to anticipate it”. Learning, subsequently, that his father had worked for Borglum on Mt. Rushmore (I’d missed that part the first time I around), it was placed in perspective – Mt. Rushmore is carved into the side of the Black Hills, the most sacred site for the Northern Plains tribes, analogous to the place Jerusalem holds for adherents to the Abrahamic faiths. I assume that Houser grew up in a climate characterized by a lack of sensitivity to and understanding of Native American beliefs.
    I was also disgusted by the waste of funds both public and private on this project, when there are obviously much better uses to which they could have been placed.
    I sincerely hope that the people of El Paso read these comments and are made to feel at least a bit ashamed, but I know they almost certainly won’t. As I type this, the film is playing again in the background, and I am listening to the scene in which the white citizens are shouting down the Native Americans at the town meeting, refusing to allow them to speak. Typical arrogance, from the people who gave us George W. Bush. Thanks, Texas.

  • Kathleen D. Hunt

    FOREIGNID: 16721

  • Rossana Ascencio

    FOREIGNID: 16722
    The last conquistador??? How could they think it was a good idea to commemorate the existence of a criminal with no respect for other human beings, just because they were different? I was not surprised that people of non-native or not Mexican descent were glad to “welcome” the statue!!! There ancestors were not massacred unjustly.
    I wonder if we could decide to erect a statue of Sadam Hussein or maybe Kim Jon Il? they are part of history too….
    To me, it is a reminder, an “in your face” reminder that oppression continues and it remains a constant issue for native people across the world. Sad.

  • Jeanne Trupiano

    FOREIGNID: 16723
    The message of this movie is critical and should be shared across the nation. I wish high school teachers would use films like this one to educate our children based on truth and completeness.
    I hope someday that the Onate statue is toppled and apologies made by those in the El Paso community who just do not seem to comprehend the truth.

  • Kathleen D. Hunt

    FOREIGNID: 16724
    This was another opportunity for the victors to erase and ignore the needs of a people of color. As is done in our history books about America’s indigenous peoples, they are either depicted as savages or completly historically absent. It is so sad that Europeans feel that their slant and their versions, whether genocide or not, is the only credible account of the truth. When the wealthy members are the ones that set the cadance, the continued message is played that certain members of the human family don’t even matter. White America continues to fail to make the shifts necessary to be the great nation that is possible when one point of view, is all tht is considered; and evil arises out of that. For we cannot change, what we fail to acknowledge. Celebrating the holocausts of others is a filthy business and claiming ignorance is not an excuse. 1 million dollars of public funds that wasn’t even considered to be shared with the people who’s land was stolen, peoples slaughtered and history ignored, and there was no shame by either the artist or the supporters. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • nmercy

    FOREIGNID: 16725
    Perhaps a compromise might be found to make the Onate statue more acceptable to all. If perhaps the statue were altered to include severed feet beneath the feet of the horse and plaques inscribed with a full history of what this man did to the inhabitants of this area and set around the statue. This would bring attention to the tragedy that far too few have knowledge of and make this a memorial and not a glorification of genocide.

  • joan

    FOREIGNID: 16726
    Very glad the film was shown. I live in New Mexico and I thought the sculpture project was ended due to the history but I was completely surprised to find that it
    was installed. But at least not in the El Paso International Airport as was
    originally proposed.
    In any case, I have taken my history and cultural views from the Pueblo Indians, in part, because they have a still excellent oral history tradition. Onate is a perfect example of the European disregard for the passivist and highly developed cultures
    here. The Catholic Pope asked for forgiveness from the indigeneous peoples for the conquest.
    “Get Over It”? Untill the invaders take responcibility for their privilage and
    wealth gained from subjugation of the Indians, oral history will be my refuge.
    Also, traditional Pueblo art and modern responces such as the clay foot (recalling the decapitation of human beings) always, always refers to relationship and
    responcibility rather than grandiose glorification. Those values of place in nature
    were and still are ingrained in my responce to the “manifest destiny” of the
    conquistadors north and south of the border, then and when the United States followed suit.
    Thanks to a small group of “rememberers” for this story.

  • http://www.jaberlutfi.com Jaber Lutfi

    FOREIGNID: 16727
    Great television show !
    Artists and students in art schools should watch this film.
    1-Houser and his supporters see in Onate a giant man on a horse, ignoring the little petty details of everyday life, glorifying determination, overcoming chaos and becoming a historical figure and a landmark.
    That is what the sculptor needs to see and hear in order to achieve such a big task. That is how you feel when you build something big from scratch.
    The entrepreneurs who fund the project feel the same way : the figure of a great giant horseman says precisely how they feel when they build their business.
    It worked for them so they want to share this energy with the community. Therefor let’s give a statue to the town to permanently reactivate this inspiring figure. Myths are powerful tools in our achievements. Good.
    But good only in our intimate creations because we are dealing with personal myth and temporary fantasy. When art becomes public it is no longer fantasy alone. It becomes a long term political act.
    When -in reality, not in myth- you violently conquer lands, real ordinary people stop representing symbolically the petty details of everyday life. They are anguished, horrified, widowed. They have their feet cut. They suffer for generations. The historical reference in this sculpture is inappropriate.
    Yes, the artistic and technical achievement here is amazing. I agree, the details are truly beautiful, but the real big picture is…childish.
    2- The historical reference here is inappropriate but mostly useless. Did the artist really need the historical Onate to create his dreamed giant horseman? Besides, historical references should stay in museums. New public monuments create the present.
    3- Respectfully, here is a question for the supporters of the project : By funding this huge sculpture, are you saying that in your personal achievements, the figure of the Conqueror is bigger (understand more inspiring) than all others? Is it bigger than the figure of Fun? Bigger than Sophistication? Bigger than Wisdom? Bigger than Love?
    Are you a conqueror first, a citizen second?
    4-What to do now?
    I suggest, you extend the project this way : the sculpture is moved near the city limits and surrounded with a low fence. Simultaneously every house in town would exhibit a sculpture of a foot. Of course the sculpted feet do not have to be commissioned : individuals could make their own foot.
    This way, the million dollar is not wasted because tourists will still come to see a fantastic artwork (maybe you also should consider changing the title if Ognate is not your main concern in this project).
    The fence reminds us to keep the Cavalier from becoming a Conqueror -note that since the fence is low, the horse could easily run wild. The cut feet scattered all over town become the same that kicked the butcher out of the place of honor.!
    Jaber Lutfi

  • Cynthia

    FOREIGNID: 16728
    As a Native of El Paso, I was very interested in seeing this documentary. It was a fine production but I too am offended that a statue of Onate was put up close to the airport where every tourist can see it. It is an offense to all Native peoples and as usual they were screwed. As an art historian, I recognize great art and can see the benefit of discussion but this crosses the line. I am caucasian but stand with my Native brothers and sisters.

  • ajit s grewal

    FOREIGNID: 16729
    very sad documentry.art to remember should be for good and genle and caring people.because it condtions us for future.onate did for spain not for huminity or any true human values. indian peole got hit hard again and again.very bad human exprsion stil at the stage of human animal not human being.

  • Jim Wilsterman

    FOREIGNID: 16730
    As a monument to the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, The Last Conquistador is a perfect example of the philosophical dividing line between Public Art and traditional Monumental Statuary. If we are honest with ourselves, we must accept that all Monumental Art is propaganda to some degree, and such works have always served as a symbolic affirmation of the values of those that fund and facilitate these works (propaganda can symbolize either good or evil, and often will fall somewhere between these two extremes). Artists can become caught up in singular pursuit of their vision, sometimes to the exclusion of others who may have a different experience. We need to look no further then the different factions supporting and opposing the statue. Who was the Artist talking to prior to the controversy? Who’s values does the statue of Juan de Oñate symbolize?
    I am very familiar with the effects of controversy in relation to Public Art. I was the public Art Coordinator for the City of Carlsbad California when the Battle over Andrea Blum’s Split Pavilion erupted. I facilitated 14 successful Public Art Projects prior to the groundbreaking of this project. Ironically, the Artist and her work were selected long before I was hired at the city, but I was in the hot seat when the controversy developed. Despite a legal, moral, and contractual obligation to finish this work as planned; the city decided to fight the Artist due to similar community distaste for the work. To force the Artist to capitulate on this project and abandon her legal rights, the city took attrition stativity – whereas even if the city could not win their case on merit, they could (and did) force the artist to settle her case through their deep pockets. Because I felt that the city was acting in an unethical manner in their treatment of Andrea Blum, I resigned my position at the city.
    A few years later I had one my own monumental public works attacked buy a small, but well-connected group of people. I served as a public artist design team member for a local water tank and then as the artist and fabricator for a public sculpture and community project. This Site-specific environmental sculpture was commissioned by Helix and Padre Dam Municipal Water Districts, and was funded by Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments in a Five Agency artist initiated agreement. Community members and students working with me constructed the sculpture at Grossmont College. This commission consisted of a large scale environmental work attached to a new water tank constructed as part of the new Interstate 125 Freeway re-alignment. As a part of this project, the artist formed a Public/Private Partnership between the two Water Districts, the State, and the College that included 3 years of extensive community outreach and involvement. I worked with Pitts-Des Moines (fabricators of Eero Saarinen’s Saint Louis Gateway Arch) steel mill and fabrication unit and John Powell and Associates civil engineers to facilitate the design and installation of the work. The project was partially facilitated through community donations & a $92,000 grant to the College from Caltrans. This project was completed in July 1996 at a cost of $168,000.00 not including non-art related costs ($550,000.00 appraised value). The Artist’s portion of the project was completed at below cost and nearly $20,000 was refunded to the state due to community donations.
    Even though I had completed 3 years of community outreach and was in fact constructing the project in collaboration with area residents, a small group of people managed to take advantage of their press contacts to organize against the project. While the opponents of the project were well organized and highly visible, they never apparently amounted to more than 50 to 60 determined people who did not agree with the appearance of the project. In an attempt to solicit public input on the decision facing Water District Board members, the two water agencies mailed and distributed more than 80,000 fliers requesting the opinions of customers and residents surrounding the area. Included in the mailing was the community of San Carlos (some proponents of changing the tank claimed this area was not included in the original decision making process). The Water Districts received almost 4,100 responses to this request. Nearly 98 percent of respondents indicated they wished to leave the project as it is, while only about 2 percent indicated they wanted the project changed. This level of support for a public art project was both exceptional and unprecedented.
    The boards of the two water districts met in joint session to listen to the concerns of critics of the project on Monday, August 11 at the El Cajon Community center. Despite extensive Political and Media pressure, the two boards voted unanimously to keep the project as planned and intact thereby preserving San Diego County’s largest and most visible Public Artwork. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 350,000 people now view this project every day upon completion of S.R.- 52 and S.R. 125.
    The attacks on my own work and myself were extremely stressful. The work was the subject of more then 200 media segments, both broadcast and in print. I received more than 2 hours of local television coverage. You can read more at: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/1998/dec/03/public-arts-hurly-burly/ .
    I believe the reason my project survived is because I attempted to reach out to all constituents prior to approval – even those that disagreed with my proposed designs.
    While I am empathic with John Houser and the pain he experienced with his project, I am also aware of the fundamental change that has occurred with Public Monumentation and Art in Public Places over the past 30 years. Because the old model of patronage has now been largely discredited (Remember my premise that Monumental Art is propaganda that serves as an affirmation of the values of those who fund and facilitate the work), The project was doomed to suffer the fate it did because it did not reflect the values of the community. For some reason, I learned this lesson long ago, and it really has nothing to do with the competence, skill or vision of the Artist. It is, after all – their community and their history.
    In my mind – the question remains: Who’s values does the project represent? The community – or the patrons that raised money to facilitate this project. While it was deeply painful for me to watch this documentary, I am very grateful the filmmakers were able to bring the real issue into focus with such clarity. Maybe, as is usually the case, the fault here lies with the proposal and approval process.

  • ktyates

    FOREIGNID: 16731
    The documentary about the Last Conquistador was great and showed the great impact of art. I think once all the facts came to light, the artist should have removed the Conquistador and buried him in some museum. He then could have left the statue of the horse on public display. This way we could pay tribute to the horse, who certainly played an inportant role in settling the West..

  • Nancy Lorenza Green

    FOREIGNID: 16732
    Oñate tried to stand
    On his missing foot
    And collapsed
    Face down on
    The dusty road
    He finally understood
    What it felt like
    To be mutilated
    The pain reminded him
    Of the cruelty he had enjoyed
    His blood kept gushing out
    As his senses dimmed
    He finally understood
    What it was like
    To die humiliated
    Oñate woke up
    From his nightmare
    In hell
    Destined for all eternity
    To relive his past
    And to fully comprehend
    The cruelty of his actions
    But in El Paso
    They honored him
    Those pendejos who refuse
    To understand
    The inhumanity of the
    Neo-colonial mind
    They parade in front of cameras
    Like hand-held puppets
    Spitting scripts of
    Subliminal messages: drink coors, beat your woman, coke is where the action is
    In the end
    New generations
    Will destroy
    The monuments of conformity
    Purifying the land of Oñate’s blood
    Nancy L. Green

  • Mike Mango

    FOREIGNID: 16733
    I think El Paso should hang their head in disgrace to honor a barbarous murderer in art form for others to admire. I’ll be sure to pass the word to other fellow New Englanders how insensitive the upper class in El Paso was to fund the equivalent of another Adolph Hitler for them to display to the public. Is your city culture so shallow that this was your only subject matter that you could choose? If it’s horses you like just take the man off the horse and leave the horse. As a white Caucasian all I can say is shame on El Paso and as long as you display this atrocity to the public you should hang your head in disgrace.

  • http://yahoo.com A. Ramirez

    FOREIGNID: 16734
    Congratulations to the film makers for bringing this sad story to a wider audience. El Paso’s government and wealthy society exists in a small bubble and the exposure makes them appear out of touch with reality. The city”s inferiority complex makes them seek heroes and their selection of Onate was a terrible choice. It was made worse by the use of public funds that one official stated would increase tourism. In spite of Onates crimes, it’s not surprising El Paso has a statute dedicated to him. After all, the city has a large boulevard named after Profideo Dias, Mexico’s long lived tyrant. Profideo Dias was responsible for terrible crimes against his own people and in fact many of his victums reached the safety of El Paso to avoid persecution.

  • Bartolome de las Casas

    FOREIGNID: 16735
    History has been always necessary for all cultures. We need to know past times to understand our present and future. Honoring historical events and people which has contributed with their effort to develop nations or who have created them is obligated . Although History doesn’t have the same point of views for everybody, a historical event which is an honor or an enormous event for a person or a culture can be a genocide or disaster for others. The essay’s statement asks about our opinion of using public money for building historical monuments instead using this money for social purposes. Let’s analyze the subject carefully.
    In my opinion, people’s welfare and their lives conditions are more important than history. We have to improve people’s life better than honoring past events or people. In today’s life we can see a lack of many basic things in several places in this country. We should focus our effort in improving and developing new social benefits which will enrich people’s quality of life.
    There is a lack of education opportunities in many cities and villages all over the country. There is a lack of safety and efficiency in public transportation system. There is a lack of jobs opportunities and a lack of security in jobs plus a lack of stability in the public employment system. We should develop and improve a new public employment system which manages efficiently jobs’ opportunities for all people in case of unemployment’s growth. We need a new system of public subsidies for preventing unemployment’s cases too.
    Those are reasons which make me think that public money should be used in benefit for population. However culture and history are necessary knowledge for cultures, they are not as important as basic rights which must be assured by public administrators. But in Onate’s statue case I have my own point of view.
    I understand Natives Americans’ objections for Onate’s statue. I am sure Onate was cruel and brutal like Natives Americans say. But the statue is being built with private funds; there is not public money in its construction. For this reason I believe Natives Americans’ protest is inadequate .They see Onate as a criminal and I understand them. But Onate is part of US history as good and bad as others. I would say that General Custer was as cruel as Onate and probably we can admire several General Custer’s statues across the country and nobody has protested. Why do Natives Americans protest against Onate’s Statue? This Fact is really a mystery, but they have protested.
    In my opinion they should protest for their living conditions instead wasting the time protesting against a Statue. Moreover, when did they suffer the real Genocide really? I think that it wasn’t during Spanish conquest.
    Natives Americans identified Onate as the worst criminal all over the world. It is well known by everybody who was the real criminals. We just need to mention people like the colonists and their rifles which caused the buffalos’ extermination, situation which made suffer the hunger among Natives Americans. Additionally we can mention disasters as “ Wounded Creek Massacre” made by 7th Regiment of Cavalry where US soldiers shot with a machine gun to disarmed natives Americans killing 150 of native Americans , among them 72 women and children. Also we can remind to the readers those treaties made by natives Americans and US government with as a result of them Native Americans were exiled to Reservations losing the natural right of enjoying their natural land.
    However all those reasons described in the prior paragraph I strongly agree with Native Americans in their protests against any invaders? I believe, they are correct in their arguments .This is their land and all people who came from another continent were invaders.-
    Even though , in my modest opinion Natives Americans have many other important deficiencies to solve before protesting against statue ,as an Example their own situation on reservations. Reservations which lack of basic life conditions. These reservations where a government which they have defended for decades has condemned them to death into a jail as reservations represents. Mr. Juan de Onate was a criminal and for his crimes he was persecuted and convicted by the Spanish law. Were US 7th of Cavalry persecuted and convicted as Mr. Juan de Onate was? There is a big difference between Spain and this country and that Onate’s persecution in one of them. But unfortunately Mr. Onate is a piece of US history too his only problem is the same problem of many people in this sacred country, his Spanish heritage.

  • margie

    FOREIGNID: 16736
    Art is suppose to be a representation, how would the Jews feel if a statue of Hitler was made and put somewhere to be seen. People do not seem to understand we remember the good as well as the bad in history, and people who have a tie to the bad like the Native Americans cannot get over it and those who had the nerve to say that say it so easly because they do not feel the pain I am of hispanic origin and I feel their pain as a human being.

  • Al, a white folk

    FOREIGNID: 16737
    This documentary was quite unsettling to view on so many levels: The waste of money, the ignorance about history, the insensitivity to other people’s feelings, the monumental egotism – to name only a few of the things that were distressing to watch and experience.
    I don’t understand why – from the artist himself, to the city officials, to the obnoxious white folks slamming down drinks at the fund raising cocktail party – no one bothered to read about the history of Onate. It is the epitome of unconsciousness and vainglorious pride.
    We’ve become a nation of ignorant, self-absorbed, self-serving clods who want what we want when we want it and #@$% anyone else’s feelings.

  • Barbara DuBois

    FOREIGNID: 16738
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  • Barbara DuBois

    FOREIGNID: 16739
    Watching the show last night, I was sad that some history was left out: though Onate gave the order to cut feet off, there is no documentation that the order was carried out. After all, what good would a slave be with only one foot? Onate had to give the order, but then he let it go. We drove to El Paso today to see the monument, which is glorious. It is called “The Equestrian” has no name of a person. Could be Coronado..

  • Warner Ruggles

    FOREIGNID: 16740
    I’ve lived through WWII, Korean, Vietnam and the present wars, invasions
    etc. I am disgusted with the officials in El Paso and their lack of respect
    for the Native Americans. It’s all bout money anymore. The only thing that
    could possibly make that huge statue acceptable would be to add around the
    base, full sized in scale, the some native babies, children and women with
    spears, in the children and woman scalped dresses torn, to put into context
    just what the real truth about the invader is.

  • Jackie Barnett

    FOREIGNID: 16741
    I was extremely impressed and
    saddened by your program on Onate in El Paso. As an artist, I strongly
    believe that it is the artist’s responsibility to first and foremost
    research the subject of a commission before even accepting the work.
    Obviously, money was the prime incentive as well as glory. Knowing the
    horrors of the history of the Pueblo Indians, having visited several times
    and with my sister living close by, I found it incredulous that this idea of
    Onate as much larger than life hero was even thought of, let alone sculpted,
    cast for an exorbatant amount and then erected. My heart goes out to the
    Pueblo tribes. El Paso has shamed itself.

  • Cynthia Weisbord

    FOREIGNID: 16742
    We cannot
    change the history of our country. But having come through it, we can
    acknowledge its moral content. Surely now in the twentyfirst century, we
    can recognize that a mistake (perhaps an honest one) was made in the
    conception of this project to honor Onate. The question then becomes the
    means by which we can most honestly correct the mistake. Does it require
    melting down the Onate statue, despite its artistic power? Does it mean
    displaying it in a larger context which more completly represents the true
    and whole story of the genocidal nature of Onate’s role in our history?
    With sympathy for the artist’s labor and misguided intentions, surely we
    can honor the feelings of the descendants of the tribes which were decimated
    by the hideous, primitive goals and actions of this “Last Conquistador”.

  • Gregory Johnson

    FOREIGNID: 16743
    After watching the program, I allowed tears to fall from my eyes onto a t-shirt that I was wearing. As an American of African decent I felt the pain that the natives were expressing and feeling. I thought of my ancestors that were forced into slavery. My uncle that was killed by klansmen in Georgia. Watching my father cower and say “yassah” to a younger white man that was being rude towards him.
    I get frustrated when I read “get over it”. Get over it? You cannot get over being conquered and enslaved. Those of you that say “well it not my fault what happened to your people” remember this. You are the beneficiary from the conquest. You own land, wealth, and laws that were written to benefit you and you ancestors.
    I have lived in New Mexico for over 20 years and associate very closely with San felipe Pueblo people. They are still suffering from the re-conquest. Onate’ was not merciful when he came north. Tear down the statue or better yet, tell the native story right next to the statue. A three story statue will not hide the truth.

  • Seth S. Salazar

    FOREIGNID: 16744
    here again we see an ignorance to the history of the spanish in New Mexico. Most of what people have heard about Onate is false, the whole myth of the cutting off of one foot is nonsense. What it comes from is an anglo mistranslation of the old spanish trial records of teh acoma pueble. The key phrase is “las puntas del pie”. People have mistranslated this somehow to mean the cutting off of an entire foot whereas it actualy means the tips of the foot(toes). That was a common punishment in european countries at the time.Not to mention there is no historical evidence to back up the claims of native americans missing a foot, forensic or otherwise. Not to mention that the guilty were sentenced to 20 years of servitude, i wonder who in their right mind would want a one footed servant. Furthermore Onate had many political enemies at the time and none of whom ever mentioned seeing and one footed indians hoping around new mexico.
    What we are seeing here is a furthering of la leyenda negra, it is nothing more than an attempt by anglos, and anglophiles to further continue the myths of the spanish people, culture and our catholic faith. The fact of the matter is the spanish did not commit genocide against the natives of their colonies, instead they were intermarried. This intermarrige is the very reason we see such a small population of pueblo peoples compared to larger native american groups in other parts of the former english colonies. Secondly I do not recall the spanish creating reservations and forcing the native americans off of their lands. Also during the spanish colonial period the native americans of new mexico worked together with the spanish to repel the comanche invaders from the east. To top that all off when the comanche themselves were fighting for their homeland against the american invaders, guess what the ethnicity of the comanchero arms dealers were. Here is a clue, their last names were not smith or jones.
    It is very sad to see the knowledge of our hispanic culture and history is being distored to our young people by the american educational system, in its vain attempts to further the continuation of the black legend. In conclusion their is no evidence for the supposed atrocities commited by onate. The actual transcripts of the trial of acoma pueblo do not suport the notion of onate cutting off feet left and right. There is no evidence physicaly or otherwise to suport this notion either. No remains have been found anywhere in new mexico to suggest the spanish were cutting off feet. The anglophiles and indiophiles need to actualy research what happend and not sit down slothishly and obtain theire information from a biased source

  • S. Roberson

    FOREIGNID: 16745
    I find it difficult to believe that Houser had no idea how emotional people would become over this statue when, upon seeing only a portion of the unfinished piece, he found it difficult to contain his excitement.
    In the artists words, “It’s not up to me to defend him or accuse him.” What is the role and responsibility of the artist to the community when creating public art?” Maybe what he actually meant to say was that the responsibility of the artist is solely to the group who can afford to pay the most money – regardless.

  • Stacy Meier Olds

    FOREIGNID: 16746
    This film is going to stay with me. The filmmakers did an excellent job of illuminating the humanity of all people involved, even the less sympathetic characters in this real drama. Thank you so much for all your hard work and the humanity that shows through in this piece.

  • T

    FOREIGNID: 16747
    This comment has been deleted by the moderator for profanity.

  • Drew

    FOREIGNID: 16748
    After seeing this documentary, I feel bad for John Houser, who seems like a kind and well-intentioned guy and a fine sculptor, but is stuck with the legacy of having made a majestic monument to a historical figure, Oñate, who is a symbol of pain and oppression to many people. I don’t think he meant to cause anyone emotional trauma with his work; if anything, I think he is guilty of not doing enough research on Oñate before taking on this project, because if he knew the whole story, he probably would not have made the statue at all, or he would have modified his design in some way to make it less offensive. In his heart of hearts, he probably wishes he could have a do-over.
    Part of the problem is that until recently, our history books have contained (literally) whitewashed accounts that glorified the European conquerors and belittled the conquered. The reality is always more complex, and often morally disturbing, as in this case. I commend the filmmakers for giving voice to the victims of Oñate’s oppression and casting light on the less savory side of our nation’s past. Telling under-told stories is part of what PBS is all about.

  • Theresa

    FOREIGNID: 16749
    Thank you for presenting this story. It was truly enlightening. I’d never heard about this part of history. It’s amazing how one side will skew the facts to create their own heroes. I’m sure you can still find folks that believe Hitler, Sadam and the likes are “heroes”. Those who choose to honestly look at the facts can see otherwise.

  • joe

    FOREIGNID: 16750
    its like putting bin ladens sculpture up by the arab community in the united states .i think John Hauser is selfish and should not be praised for any of his works for the pain he has caused to the indian community

  • Richard

    FOREIGNID: 16751
    There is no excuse for Hauser. In his eagerness to amuse himself, he chose to ignore the perfectly obvious implications of his sculpture. Albert Speer made the same choice, and no one remembers his work now with anything but disgust.
    Some commenters point out that Native American peoples practiced slavery. Just so. We should never hide the unpleasant truths of the past. But the issue is the impact of this sculpture on the present. This statue is a studied insult to the Acoma, perpetrated by astonishingly shallow people with more money than heart.
    It does seem a bit wasteful to tear it down, though. How about erecting a Museum of Self-Gratification around the damned thing? They could have parallel exhibits showing George Bush strutting around the aircraft carrier deck in quasi-uniform, and video clips of Osama modestly calling himself a man of God. Those nice, rich folks in El Paso who wrote the big checks for Onate should certainly be eager to underwrite something equally worthy.

  • Thomas McCormack

    FOREIGNID: 16752
    Dear POV -
    As an international indigenous rights advocate, I am shocked by that fact that El Paso allowed that statue to be completed and erected!! I am calling on national and international leaders to boycott and force
    El paso city leaders to have the statue removed.
    It is like putting up a statue of Hitler in the center of Jerusalem. What were they thinking! I hope you do a follow-up story on this indigenous atrocity— showing what it took to get that statue removed…. and an official apology from the city of El Paso for funding and installing this monstrosity.
    Onate was responsible for a horrific holocaust of indigenous people…. one of the worse in history. I look forward to forging activism to bring that statue down…. and I’ll be in touch with national and international leaders to organize agaisnt The City of El Paso. How did the mayor of EL Paso respond to your investigation on this?
    Thomas McCormack
    Indigenous Rights Activist
    Substance Abuse Prevention Trainer
    Cultural Diversity Education Specialist
    Reno, Nevada


    FOREIGNID: 16753

  • Joe Benedetti

    FOREIGNID: 31716
    John Houser’s ego created The Last Conquistador!
    Someone should cut the head off of the figure so that it will better represent the mindless inhumanity of conquest.