Sunday, July 13, 2008

"The Last Conquistador." This week's P.O.V. on PBS, Tuesday, July 15th.

As I've blogged about on a previous occasion or two here on Dada's, this week's PBS topic on P.O.V. was seven years in the making. It's about El Paso's equestrian statue billed as "the world's tallest." Conceived by artist John Houser, it was embroiled in controversy throughout nearly all of its creation process.

Sculptor John Houser stands near a part of the Don Juan de Oate statue chronicled
in "The Last Conquistador," which airs Tuesday on PBS. (Photos courtesy of "P.O.V.")

Originally conceived as a tribute to Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate, it turns out Oñate isn't quite the hero many considered him to be. Some Native American descendants, particularly those from the Acoma pueblo in New Mexico, vehemently opposed any tribute to Oñate's brutality.

Footage of the 2003 ElPaso City Council meeting where members of New Mexico's
Acoma Tribe protested the Oñate
O statue is included in "The Last Conquistador."

I look forward to this program on a topic that has been extremely polarizing for El Pasoans as it unfolded over many years.

As co-director John L. Valadez of "The Last Conquistador" said of the statue, "It's pretty clear the statue opened up deep and painful wounds and deepened divides [in El Paso]. One would hope public art expands (a community). Here, it was the opposite."

Some facts from the "Equestrian":
  • Equestrian's original name: "Don Juan de Oñate"
  • Final name: "The Conquistador"
  • Length of time to complete: 10 years (it came in seven years late and $1.5 million over budget)
  • Height: 36 feet tall (billed as world's tallest equestrian statue)
  • Weight: 18 tons of bronze
Attributes: photos and their captions courtesy of The El Paso Times and P.O.V.


D.K. Raed said...

I will set the DVR -- thanks for the heads up! We spent an afternoon at that Acoma NM mesa-top in the 1980's. I remember the thick adobe walls of the pueblos and the blue-blue sky & some of the very old women sitting in the shade on some benches fanning themselves & looking askance at my tourist outfit of shorts, tanktop & sandals, while they rested in long billowy dresses. As we left & I saw the beginnings of a 2nd degree sunburn, I realized their wisdom.

eProf2 said...

Thanks for the heads-up. It looks like I'm going to have to use the DVR to record all future POV programs as they've had some good documentaries lately. I'll add it to my "permanent" recodings of Firing Line, Bill Moyers, and Charlie Rose, from PBS.

D.K. Raed said...

Good idea, EProf! Hey, will we get to find out more about those provocative signs saying Onate-My Foot!?! I recall your photos of the statue, Dada, so I *think* I have an idea what that foot is...

D.K. Raed said...

A good doc, Dada, thanks for the recommend! I had a total misimpression of what The Foot referred to. I guess everyone there knows what it means, so they don't need to elaborate.

It said a lot to me that in an era known for cruelty, of which the conquistadors were the pinnacle of cruel, that Oñate's treatment of Native Americans led him to be recalled by his superiors, convicted for cruelty, and banished from the area. I want to say he must've been some piece of work, but feel that would be disrespectful, especially since he HAS been made into a piece of work in El Paso.

A Ball of Light said...

i saw those folk holding up their Onate? My foot! signs and had myself quite a chuckle. before i get tarred with the unsensitivity brush, i do realize that these people and their many large, extended and intertwined families of relatives have legitimate and long standing grievances. such that a 38 foot tall reminder of the perpetrator of atrocities and abusive and coercive treatments of the earlier immigrants that, in my opinion, have not entirely stopped would cause anyone with a heart to be angry.

in 1998, shortly after we moved to the Espanola valley in NM just north of Santa Fe, there was an occurence that i thought made a brilliant and poignant illustration of those grievances. north of Espanola, near the San Juan Pueblo and the small town of Hernandez stands the Oñate Monument Resource and Visitors Center. on the grounds of that place stands a 12 foot horse-mounted Onate statue. on the night prior to the 400th aniversary of his establishment of the first spanish settlement in this part of the new world, some group took the right foot off the statue. I thought it deliciously funny. you may have had to have been there tho...

dada said...

d.k. - I enjoyed this documentary also and have many mixed emotions, not the least of which is empathy for the artist and whose art project created a lot of controversy as well as educating many previously unaware of their own history (like the city councilman, Cobos).

Mrs. Dada had some difficulty with the Anglos shown in a couple of scenes like the rich folk at a fund raiser for the statue IN SANTA FE, or that nice white guy IN ALBUQUERQUE reminding us how the Native Americans killed us and raped our women. (Yeh, who were the frickin' invaders here?)

dada said...

D.K. Oh, and "p.s." When we visited Acoma pueblo in the 90's, my nephew (and lifelong childhood friend) and I decided we would forgo the bus ride back down the mesa. A simple walk/climb ALL DOWNHILL, right?

Holy hell, Batman! The next day we were both experiencing some of the sorest muscles in our histories! (It must have had to have been a pueblo curse or something.)

dada said...

B.O.L. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoyed your San Juan pueblo anecdote of Don Onate's missing right foot. Reminded me of the "El Brazo Onofre" in the movie "Milagro Beanfield War" (that missing arm blamed for some of the mysterious and mischievous unexplainable events that occur in and around Milagro).

Some think the reason the Oñate statue grew in stature (height) here in El Paso was to make his feet more difficult to "access."

I love the pueblo people. Visiting with a couple who reside in the Taos pueblo a couple of years ago, I learned they abandon their home there in the winter. And where do they go for winter, for warmer climes? THE JEMEZ PUEBLO (!) is their wintering place.

I'm not that familiar with true winter in Jemez, but that struck me like someone from Milwaukee boarding up their home and moving to Chicago for the winter. (grin)

A Ball of Light said...

i can see how that might not sound like much of a change... kinda like jumping, sluggishly, from the deep freezer to the ice tray, but again, you hadda been there...

Taos pueblo lives on the flanks of Mt Wheeler, which at ~13,161 ft is NM's highest point and it isn't unusual to see snow through June on the mountain. (planting time in our neighborhood is "When the snow is off the Thunderbird - an outcropping of tbird shaped left wing when viewed from a distance - typically late may)...

Jemez pueblo (around ~6250 ft) is on the downhill side of Jemez Springs and about 10-15 miles of natural mineral hotsprings that are never frozen and always a treat to bathe in... It also wouldn't surprise me if it had it's own little contrary weather pattern - where we live it can be raining or snowing all around us and the sun can be shining and shirtsleeve weather in our ~5 sq miles patch of contrary weather patterns... or vice versa.

I absolutely love the Milagro Beanfield War both book and movie... i read/saw it long before we moved to La Puebla and began to live it... the movie was filmed (15 miles from and 2000 ft higher than our house) in Truchas which we can see from our deck :) ... i learned from one of our neighbors, a longtime volunteer fireman, that when a call went out to respond to a house fire in Chimayo (between la puebla and truchas) they found some of the locals standing around with rifles and shotguns, blocking the access road and holding off the state troopers so that the house could finish burning, apparently as they had planned before being interrupted by nosy local officials...

dada said...

B.O.L. Thanks for the great links (to include the satellite pic of your house). It's been a busy weekend, but this evening I finally got a chance to look at the links included in your informative comment. Most enjoyable

Most often in recent years, when taking the high road to Taos we go past Nambe to Chimayo. I absolutely love that country.

I thought "Milagro" did a very good job of capturing the flavor, the spirit, of northern NM, as reinforced by your story of the Chimayo burning house!

In the 90's we would stop at Tafoya's Gen'l Store in Truchas and visit with he (Reuben, I believe was his name) or his wife. (Their daughter was at University in Las Cruces, eventually married and Mr. Tafoya was telling us how the land he had east, and west, of Truchas was not sufficient incentive to get his daughter and son-in-law to move back and work the store. I asked if he'd consider 'adopting' [Me! Me!])

We spent the Nineties infiltrating a small inner circle of the outer fringes of Taos and made some very interesting friends.

And because the art of Taos painter Ed Sandoval and his 'Amarante'-like character from Milagro BFWar was inspired by the film being made while he still lived there, I enjoy stopping by his studio when in Taos to visit and see what he's working on.

It'll be two years this October since being in Taos, and we must plan to return for a fix in the (near) future. October is so gorgeous there.