Has Santa Fe seen its last Entrada?
It may well have, with the recent passage of a resolution by the All Pueblo Council of Governors, which also has the support of Archbishop John Wester and Mayor Javier Gonzales.
The pueblo governors and the mayor want a replacement event focusing on the coexistence of cultures in the Santa Fe area.
Wester and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, meanwhile, are ready to issue an apology for the sins of colonists in New Mexico, part of an effort at reconciliation after Native American protests have grown in intensity during the Entrada over the past three years. The pageant is a religious, costumed re-enactment of the reoccupation of Santa Fe by the Spanish 12 years after they were forced out during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
Still at least somewhat on the fence, though, are the Entrada’s organizers, who say they are ready to make changes, but still want their event to be staged on the city’s historic Plaza as part of the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe.
Since September’s Entrada, the pueblo governors, city government and the archdiocese have been working behind the scenes to resolve the racial tensions surrounding the re-enactment.
While event organizers say the Entrada is meant to commemorate a day in 1692 when the Spanish and Native American people agreed to live together in peace, many Native people see it as something much different. They say the Entrada is revisionist history, and a celebration of the Spanish conquest and repression of indigenous culture and religion.
With close to 180 police officers on hand and nearly as many protesters, eight people were arrested during the 2017 Entrada, though all charges were later dropped.
The pueblo governor’s proclamation, approved on a 12-0 vote and signed Dec. 14 by council chairman E. Paul Torres, states that the Entrada “fails to accurately recognize the truth” of what actually happened in the 17th and 18th centuries, and has “added static and harmful depictions of history and indigenous people.”
“As leaders,” one section of the resolution says, “we must come to terms in addressing these issues or run the risk that these matters could escalate into regrettable circumstances, in which innocent people are victimized and traumatized, as recently reflected in the over-reaction of law enforcement using a full militaristic response to protestors, and reopening wounds that have taken many generations to heal.”
Not a city decision
Regis Pecos, a former governor of Cochiti Pueblo and current co-director of the Leadership Institute on the campus of Santa Fe Indian School, served as facilitator of the discussions that have been taking place between the pueblos, the city and the church. Fiesta representatives have not been included.
Pecos notes that the resolution culminates in what he called “five principles necessary to reach an ultimate reconciliation.” One calls for the parties to collectively “redefine a commemorative event that captures the true spirit of coexistence and honor our principles of mutual respect to be shared by all.”
Asked if that would mean the end of Entrada, Pecos said, “I think at this stage of discussions, I don’t want to be premature, but I think we’re well on that track. At the very heart of the principled dialogue that has taken place is redefining that, hopefully in profound ways that cause all of us to be proud to be part of a whole new celebration.”
Mayor Gonzales – whose family has been deeply ingrained in the Entrada and who himself played the lead role of Spanish General Don Diego de Vargas during the 1989 performance – concurred that Santa Fe may never see another Entrada, at least not in its current form. He spoke about how the event reopens old wounds.
“The Entrada as it exists today is serving more as a divisive event for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “The fact that for many generations families have intermixed and shared in each other’s cultures, it’s critically important that we move past the portrayal that has been so hurtful and has worked to divide our community.”
And changes have to happen soon, before next September, he said.
“I believe if we don’t settle this in a short period of time, the event as we know it today will continue to divide us and create a perception about our community that is very wrong,” he said.
He, too, said he envisions an event that highlighted “the sense of unity of cultures and coexistence that has always been in place, and something that we all can be proud of.”
And while he has just a little more than two months left as mayor, he said the groundwork has been laid for whoever becomes his successor after the March 6 elections to help see it through. “Regardless of who the next mayor may be, the pathway forward now exists,” he said.
The city holds a lot of leverage over the Fiesta and the Entrada. It issues the permit to the Fiesta Council each year for use of the Plaza and provides about $50,000 to advertise the Fiesta.
But the mayor maintained the decision about whether another Entrada will be held likely won’t come from city government. “So much of the way I’ve tried to approach this is to make sure the resolution, and the solution, is largely driven by the church, the archdiocese, and tribal leaders,” he said.
Circle of reconciliation
Archbishop Wester attended an Indigenous People’s Day event on the Plaza in October, about a month after this year’s protested Entrada. He said then that the Entrada re-enactment had to change.
“It is the archbishop’s hope that it becomes a celebration for all people,” said Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, who has been involved in the discussions with the city and pueblo leadership. “But before there can be celebration, there has to be reconciliation.”
Sanchez said to expect a formal apology by Wester for the cruelty and harm that was inflicted when the colonists imposed their religion upon the native people to be issued some time early in the new year.
“This is in line with what Pope Francis has already done,” he said.
In July, while visiting Bolivia, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the “many grave sins” committed against indigenous people in Latin America during colonial times.
In Santa Fe, such history is complicated. The Fiesta includes a religious procession to the Cross of the Martyrs overlooking downtown, which commemorates 21 Franciscan priests killed during the Pueblo Revolt.
The “conceptual framework” delineated in the pueblo governors’ resolution calls for apologies from both the church and the city “to heal the wounds and trauma caused by conflicts of the past, and through mutual forgiveness a new era guided by our core values for our shared cultures and histories be established.”
“We ask for forgiveness not only for the cruelty that was caused, but for the silence,” Sanchez said. “You have to take responsibility not only for the cruelty, but for the silence if you were witness to it.”
While not part of the governors’ proclamation, Pecos said pueblo people have a responsibility to accept the apology in order to complete the circle of reconciliation. He said it’s also important for the pueblo people to acknowledge that their ancestors had to some degree forgiven the Spanish for their actions.
“There was a time of forgiveness that took place hundreds of years ago that resulted in pueblo leaders – despite the atrocities that they experienced and were subjected to – to pardon those actions and that led to them to embracing Catholicism and the immersion of Catholicism into the pueblo way of life,” he said, adding that pueblo people also grew to accept the Spanish secular form of government.
The pueblo council’s resolution also calls for the negotiating parties to develop “a new Proclamation acknowledging our history and the communion of cultures, and to celebrate the uniqueness of whom we have become and be inclusive of other cultures who now call the (sic) New Mexico their home.” The “new proclamation” would serve to replace, or as Pecos put it “modernize,” the 1712 city proclamation, which called for the establishment of an annual religious commemoration “with vespers, masses, sermon and procession through the Main Plaza.” That event today is celebrated as the Fiesta de Santa Fe.
All sides involved in talks agree that a proclamation of a new event wouldn’t come from solely from the city, but would be a joint proclamation by the city, the archdiocese and the All Pueblo Council of Governors.
‘Moving in the right direction’
Left out of the discussion so far have been several key parties: the Fiesta Council, the Caballeros de Vargas, a nonprofit Catholic ministry that actually stages the Entrada as part of the opening of the Fiesta, and the Native American protestors.
Pecos said: “We do not mean to exclude anyone from the process, but to initially keep the discussion at the highest level – with representatives of the pueblo governments, the city government and the church – so that we could have that discussion with the clear intent being that they would move toward building a consensus among all parties.
“Each of the groups represented would then have the responsibility to have dialogue in their own way with individuals at other levels and at the appropriate time.”
That time appears to have come now. Mayor Gonzales met last week with Melissa Mascarenas of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council and Thomas Baca, new president of Caballeros de Vargas. Baca said he also has a planned meeting with the archdiocese. “I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
While the Caballeros were left out of initial talks, Baca took it upon himself to reach out to other groups. In November, he sent letters to each of the 19 pueblos asking for one-on-one meetings with the governors to discuss what could be done to make the Entrada more inclusive and non-offensive. He also reached out to the archdiocese and the mayor.
Baca isn’t sure what will result from the meetings, but on Wednesday he said he expects the Entrada performance to continue in some form.
“There will be changes, definitely,” Baca said. “There are going to be changes, and collectively I think we can sit down and talk about what can be done so we are not offending anyone. That’s what all these meetings are for. I know (the Entrada) will not continue in the same way it has, but it will continue in a different way.”
According to Pecos, the pueblos’ leadership will be responsible for having dialogue with the protesters. It may be a tough sell. Demonstrators still say that holding anything resembling the Entrada on the city’s Plaza is unacceptable.
“We can sit down and talk, but nothing short of getting it off the Plaza and getting them out of the schools is not going to work. Not anymore. Not after last year,” said Elena Ortiz, a Santa Fean from Ohkay Owingeh who heads up In the Spirit of Po’Pay, a Native American rights group named for the leader of the Pueblo Revolt.
In addition to staging the performance on the Plaza, the Fiesta Court, which includes participants from the Entrada dressed in full regalia, visits local schools in advance of the Fiesta. This year, in response to complaints and concerns expressed about their presence in the schools, Superintendent Veronica Garcia gave students and staff an opportunity to opt out of the assembly.
“And I don’t want to hear anything about changing the script or how to make it more inclusive. It’s a celebration of genocide and conquest theater. It belongs in a theater setting, not in our schools and not in our public places,” Ortiz said.
Jennifer Marley, from San Ildefonso Pueblo, who has led the Entrada protests the past two years as a member of the Native American activist group Red Nation, is also adamant that the Entrada must be abolished. “There’s absolutely no healing as long as we’re denying the revisionist history that’s being presented. There’s no way we can heal on false premises, period,” she said.
“The very least they could do is to take it inside,” Marley said. “They claim that it’s a religious event, then they should have it in a church.”
In a joint interview earlier this month with Baca, the Caballeros president and Gilbert Romero, a past president of the Fiesta Council, both said they would be happy to engage in discussions about how to make the Entrada a more inclusive event that wouldn’t offend anyone.
Romero said modifications to the script were made over the years in order to achieve that goal. He said the Fiesta Council would prefer not to move it from the Plaza because the performance has traditionally been held there.
Baca didn’t want to see it moved from the Plaza, either. “The crowd for Fiesta is going to be downtown on the Plaza,” he said. “That’s where the food is, that’s where everyone mingles with each other. If we go somewhere else away from the Plaza, I don’t think that it would be very well attended.”
‘A new tradition’
Estevan Rael-Gálvez is the former state historian who now works as a consultant. He was invited to take part in the initial discussions between the pueblo Council of Governors, the city and the archdiocese, and was credited by others interviewed for this story for helping provide historic context.
“The Entrada as we know it today was an invention of the 20th Century,” he said. “In this case, it was invented as part of a wave of founder’s day celebrations across the nation. It was not something that was homegrown; it did not come from here. But in time, people accepted it as their tradition and that has pretty much been solidified over the last 100 years.”
Rael-Gálvez says the Entrada was invented in 1911 as the brainchild of Episcopal minister James Mythen and evolved under the leadership of Edgar Hewett, founder of the Museum of New Mexico. It was staged then as an attraction for tourists, and it skimmed over the “facts” that led up to the Pueblo Revolt and what happened after the Spanish returned in 1692.
And while the Entrada has been performed for more than a century and has become a Santa Fe tradition, it doesn’t have to remain that way, he said.
“Inevitably, there will be people who feel like something is being taken away or lost. But if we are truly committed to healing, it can’t be about us versus them. It has to be about transformation and reconciliation, and recognizing that it’s time to think about it as an opportunity for a new tradition,” he said. “I think as a community we have that responsibility and opportunity to recognize not only the harm that has been caused, but the real beauty of these cultures in our communities.”