New Mexico state historian target of free speech complaint

December 23, 2022 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s state historian is being sued by a Santa Fe man who claims his free speech rights were violated when his comments were deleted from the state official’s Facebook page.

Daniel Ortiz filed his civil rights complaint Dec. 16 in state district court, accusing Rob Martinez of violating free speech protections in the New Mexico Constitution. The complaint states the comments were deleted based on the point of view Ortiz expressed.

The complaint asks the court to order Martinez to stop deleting comments based on people’s viewpoints and award Ortiz an unspecified amount of damages.

“He’s been using his position to put forth a narrative that is Hispano-phobic and against Hispanic history and culture,” Ortiz told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Martinez said in an email to The Associated Press that he could not comment on the pending litigation.

The New Mexico Commission of Public Records and Archives, the state agency where Martinez works, is also named as a defendant in the complaint and did not respond to a request for comment.


Martinez writes a monthly history column for The New Mexican and at times has written sympathetically about the treatment of Native people by the Spanish and criticized Don Juan de Oñate over his massacre and enslavement of people from Acoma Pueblo more than 400 years ago.

The lawsuit says Martinez deleted Ortiz’s comments when Martinez shared a link on the Facebook page to an Oct. 1 column about the Christian Reconquista of Spain from the Moors and how institutions developed in that process — such as the Inquisition and the Spanish system of racial classification — were brought to the New World.

“While some feel a need to demonize the Spanish, and Juan Oñate specifically, it is important to ask ‘What would the alternative been if it wasn’t the Spanish who arrived first?’” Ortiz commented on the post, according to the lawsuit.

Martinez replied that the article was not demonizing anyone. Ortiz then called the article “historically inaccurate.”

Ortiz is the second plaintiff that attorney Kenneth Stalter has represented in a lawsuit over the deletion of comments from a social media page maintained by a public official.

Earlier this year, Stalter obtained a $25,000 settlement for a man who sued Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, claiming she deleted comments and blocked the man for posting comments critical of her handling of criminal cases associated with the 2020 felling of an obelisk in the Santa Fe Plaza.

Stalter said the constitution is clear that when the government sets up a public forum, it can’t pick and choose from the points of view that it likes and doesn’t like.

“That message hasn’t filtered down to all the government officials who have adopted Facebook pages,” he said.