Why New Mexico’s 1680 Pueblo Revolt Is Echoing in 2020 Protests ~ NYT

Indigenous groups in the Southwest are imbuing their activism this year with commemorations of the 340-year-old Pueblo Revolt, one of Spain’s bloodiest defeats in its colonial empire.

Credit…Adria Malcolm for The New York Times
  • ALBUQUERQUE — While protests over police violence against African-Americans spread from one city to the next in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in May, the missive scrawled in red paint on the New Mexico History Museum reached further back in time: “1680 Land Back.”

The graffiti invoked another rebellious juncture in what is now the United States: the uprising in 1680 when Pueblo Indians handed Spain one of its bloodiest defeats anywhere in its vast colonial empire. From the protests in the late spring against New Mexico’s conquistador monuments to the writing last month emblazoning the walls of Santa Fe and Taos celebrating the Pueblo Revolt, the meticulously orchestrated rebellion that exploded 340 years ago is resonating once again.

The increasingly energetic activism in New Mexico points to how the protests across the country over racial injustice and police treatment of African-Americans have fueled an even broader questioning about the racism and inequality that endure in this part of the West.

Indigenous groups are referring to the Pueblo Revolt in organizing drives over such issues as stolen lands, the Justice Department’s deployment of federal agents to Albuquerque and the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Native peoples especially hard.

“The Pueblo Revolt was the most successful Indian revolution in what is now the United States,” said Porter Swentzell, a historian from Santa Clara Pueblo, one of New Mexico’s 23 tribal nations. “Twenty twenty is energizing this upsurge of activism inspired by the revolt that was building for years.”

In recent decades, commemorations of 1680 in New Mexico and Arizona were already challenging the traditional centering of early American history on the English colonies in Plymouth or Jamestown. Now Representative Deb Haaland, a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo who is one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, is among the prominent figures raising awareness about the Pueblo Revolt.

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