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Why not celebrate all of NM’s cultures?

SANTA FE, N.M. — With Archbishop John C. Wester weighing in, the time may be right to resolve the issues raised by Santa Fe’s annual Entrada re-enactment of the Spanish re-occupation in 1692.

As Pueblo leaders this week called for dialogue on the Entrada – and decried a “militaristic” police response and the arrests of protesters at this year’s version of the pageant in September – Wester agreed that it’s time for a change.

The bishop says he wants an Entrada that “celebrates all peoples” and “something that’s grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed reconciliation and peace and forgiveness.” The All Pueblo Council of Governors, in a recent resolution, says it wants a process “for genuine reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past and celebrate the beauty of our respective cultures.”

Those words from different cultural perspectives are certainly are a good start.

But finding common ground on holding a public commemoration of Don Diego de Vargas’ re-entry of Santa Fe 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt won’t be easy.

The group that stages the Entrada on the Plaza as part of the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe – the Caballeros de Vargas – insists that the heavily religious pageant is not about violent reconquest or subjugation of Pueblo people. It celebrates a moment of peace in an era of warfare, they say.

They note that the Entrada script has been changed so that the Indian cacique who meets de Vargas is not servile and insists on respect for Pueblo religions, even as the Entrada celebrates the Marian statue that, to this day, is called La Conquistadora by the Entrada players depicting de Vargas’ re-occupation party. There is certainly room for dialogue here. It’s wrong when some critics compare the Entrada re-enactors to, for instance, German Nazis or racists who erected statues to Confederate leaders as emblems of Jim Crow white supremacy in the South. The event is not about trying to reinforce European hegemony in northern New Mexico today, even though the Entrada celebrates the moment it was re-established by Spaniards four centuries ago, as a moment of religious and cultural significance.

The hard issue is that Entrada, per se, is in fact about reconquest, as the name of La Conquistadora makes clear. Is there another major community celebration in the U.S. that commemorates conquest of other Americans? There’s not a major holiday to note the demise of the Confederacy at the end of the Civil War.

As we’ve said before, the Entrada as it is performed today should be moved off the Plaza, preferably to a non-public space. Its supporters call it a religious event, after all, which raises questions about the city’s support of the pageant (including with taxpayer dollars used for the police presence that this year moved protesters into “free speech zones”). The city also collaborated with Fiesta organizers to move the Entrada’s start up by two hours in September as a trick to try to keep protesters away and which, in the end, failed miserably.

Perhaps the best outcome of any talks over the Entrada would be a new or hybrid event that can in fact celebrate “the beauty” of all of New Mexico’s traditional cultures without making an invasion, no matter how inevitable over the course of history, a focal point.

If Santa Fe can pull that off, everyone in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico certainly would have something to be proud of.