Long a New Mexico icon, Spanish conquistador faces attacks

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2006, file photo, Jessica Lucero, left, dressed as the Fiesta Queen, and Jaime Dean, right, dressed as 17th Century Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas, dance and sing at Santa Fe City Hall in Santa Fe, N.M. In recent years, the conquistador and all the effigies connected to it have come under intense criticism from Native American activists who say the image glorifies indigenous genocide and needs to be removed from schools, streets and seals. (AP Photo/Jeff Geissler,File)

The Spanish conquistador, a New Mexico icon that has been celebrated in art and honored at festivals as a homage to Hispanic heritage, is under attack

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Spanish conquistador, a New Mexico icon that has long been celebrated in art and honored at festivals as a homage to Hispanic heritage, is under attack.

A new generation of Native American and Latino activists in the state is demanding that conquistador images and reenactments be removed from schools, seals and celebrations. They say the figure's connection to colonialism and indigenous genocide makes the conquistador outdated.

Elena Ortiz of the Native American advocacy group Red Nation says activists want the conquistador expunged from public spaces to revise the region's narrative about itself. She says the conquistador glorifies indigenous genocide.

Some Hispanics say, however, that any removal of the conquistador is erasing history. Hispano Round Table of New Mexico chair Ralph Arellanes calls the protesters "ridiculous and crazy."

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