The Foot of Don Juan de Oñate

The man who cut off the foot of the Don Juan de Oñate statue in Alcade, New Mexico 20 years ago has come forth with the booty ( pun intended).

Today the New York Times is reporting that the man it calls the “foot abductor” approached filmmaker Cris Eyre in Santa Fe with a note. Eyre arranged for the Times reporter to meet the man the Times call “the thief.”

Here is a photo of the separated foot and its spur (itself cut away from the boot).


I’m obsessed with the idea of standing that the severed foot represents. A couple of years ago I was in Berlin standing in front of this painting by Botticelli.


When I found myself bent over the bottom of the painting, ignoring the beautiful woman to look at the feet,


trying to see where the weight was placed, how the foot related to the stone base, how the knees were bent or not bent, how the second toes were longer than the first ones, how the arch revealed a shadow below a slight hump reaching from the ankle, how the big toe of the right foot was bent from the pressure of standing – I knew I was obsessed.

Standing, what does it mean to stand? Most simply, as Hans Blumenberg writes,

“Standing is not falling down.”

Schopenhauer doubles down on this when he compares standing to living and sees both as an ongoing battle against entropy or against inevitably increasing disorder:

“. . . just as we know our walking to be only a constantly prevented falling, so is the life of our body only a constantly prevented dying, an ever-deferred death.”

Preventing falling, deferring death is more difficult if you are living in the Acoma Pueblo in 1680 and Don Juan de Oñate kills 800 of you, sends dozens of Acoma girls to convents in Mexico City, sentences adolescents to decades of servitude, and cuts one foot of of each of 24 Acoma men.

Cutting off the foot of the Don Juan de Oñate statue 4 centuries later feels like a good act to me, a symbolic pedestrian political statement. And these days it has the context of the NFL and other players who kneel rather than stand for the National Anthem that represents, for them and for me, a country in which black men are routinely killed by police. I’ll add that were I in a place where I could kneel for the National Anthem, I would also kneel in protest of the present income inequality that faces a substantial new boost with the Trumpista Republicans’ proposed tax relief for the rich.

You stand in protest unless standing is the required norm and then you kneel in protest.

About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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