SANTA FE – A surprise early start for the Entrada – the annual re-enactment here of the Spanish reoccupation of Santa Fe in 1692, 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt – didn’t stop protests led by Native American groups.
For the second year in a row, the pageant that depicts an encounter between conquistador Don Diego de Vargas and an Indian cacique was besieged by chants of “Abolish the Entrada” and “No pride in genocide,” this time from about 30 people.
Supporters of the event shouted back and cheered de Vargas and the Entrada, but there was no violence.
After the Entrada concluded, more protesters showed up – a total of about 150 – and some were arrested in and near the historic downtown Plaza.
Santa Fe Police Department spokesman Greg Gurule said it was unclear how many people were taken into custody, but he’d heard an estimate of “about a dozen.” The Santa Fe County jail website showed eight people charged with criminal trespass. One also faced a disorderly conduct charge.
The Entrada, held annually on the Friday of the Fiesta de Santa Fe weekend, was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Instead – with groups like Red Nation and Spirit of Po’Pay promising to build on last year’s protests – the pageant was started at noon.
Matt Ross, a spokesman for Santa Fe city government, said moving up the start was for safety reasons.
“It was a mutual decision made by public safety officials at the city, the Fiesta and (Entrada organizers) Caballeros de Vargas and in the interest of maintaining as much safety
as possible,” Ross said.
The surprise starting time created a striking scene as the Entrada was introduced and the Fiesta court and other re-enactors began the pageant, which has a strong religious theme and includes display of a banner depicting La Conquistadora, the Marian statue that de Vargas brought to Santa Fe after the reconquest.
A single protester who later said he just happened to learn of the early starting time positioned himself directly in front of the stage. Lee Moquino was wearing a feathered headdress and carrying an eagle talon staff.
Moquino, of Santa Clara and Zia Pueblo descent, said he had planned to protest, but none of his fellow protesters were around. “I knew I had to take action,” he said.
He leaned over the barrier in front of the stage, whooped and screamed and shouted phrases like “This is a false narrative” and “This is sacrilegious” as the Entrada played out. Others in the crowd eventually tried to drown him out with “Que Viva” chants. Moquino kept up his loud solo protest for at least 15 minutes before other protesters started to show up. They carried signs that said, “Celebrate Resistance, Not Conquest.”
The Entrada script is altered from year to year, with a Native American playing the part of the cacique who meets de Vargas. This year, the script had Tesuque cacique Domingo saying that while the Spanish have their religion, the Native people have theirs. “This is our religion and you must respect it,” he said, turning to the crowd and saying the line with emphasis.
The introduction to the pageant said the Spanish who returned 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt “no longer considered themselves conquerors or overlords.”
The pageant ended with the Fiesta troupe shouting “Que viva Santa Fe” and “Que viva La Conquistadora” from the stage. Some in the crowd in front of the Palace of the Governors shouted back the same phrases while the protesters continued to chant their anti-Entrada slogans.
“They have no idea what it’s all about,” said Patsy Sisneros Walters, referring to the protesters. “It’s totally peaceful. It’s the promise that Don Diego made to the Blessed Mother. There wasn’t any bloodshed … And these guys are over here are trying to make war instead of peace.”
Next to her were protestors shouting “Genocide is not a celebration.”
When police began moving protesters to the northeast corner of the Plaza, a group of about 10 initially sat down and refused to move, then followed orders toward what police called a “designated free-speech area.” The about 150 demonstrators who eventually arrived moved to different locations around the downtown area and carried on the protest for at least another two hours.
Protest organizer Elena Ortiz of Ohkay Owingeh called those who changed the starting time “cowards and liars, like their ancestors.”
Patsy Montoya, a fourth-generation Santa Fean, yelled back at protesters who were shouting over the Entrada performance. She told the Journal that Fiesta celebrates Santa Fe, and it’s time for Native American community to forgive the actions of the Spanish reconquest. The resettlers “did do wrong, but that’s the past. It’s time to forgive,” she said.
Richard Polese, who walked into the middle of the protesters with a poster saying “De Vargas Protected Pueblo Kiva Faith. Viva La Fiesta,” was screamed at and angrily confronted.
Police separated him from the protesters. Polese, a 50-year resident, told the Journal, “From the day he (de Vargas) arrived, he respected Pueblo religious practices.”
Justina Martinez, a Santa Fean of Taos and Acoma Pueblo descent, likened celebrating the Entrada to celebrating the Holocaust, and remembered being forced to celebrate the Fiestas. “Imagine being seven, getting up to dance and having to say ‘Que Viva,’ said Martinez, now 35.
In a tweet after the Entrada, Mayor Javier Gonzales thanked “the overwhelming majority of protesters and participants in today’s Entrada who engaged in peace and dignity.”
“Today you were part of a very difficult conversation taking place in Santa Fe and all over the country, in which we face our challenging relationship with history, race and memory head on. The conversation didn’t start today or end today, but it did move forward.”