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Concerns raised over crests on Palace beams

SANTA FE – The New Mexico History Museum has requested that the organizers of the Fiestas de Santa Fe stop hanging family crests from the Palace of the Governors, citing concerns over “cumulative damage” to the portal’s wooden beams.

The issue is now being further reviewed by Department of Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales, who the Santa Fe Fiestas Council President contacted this week about the group’s desire to preserve the decades-long custom.

“It’s our tradition,” Council President Melissa Mascarenas said of hanging the wooden coats of arms of local Hispanic families and representative symbols from the eight northern pueblos at the 400-year-old Palace. “We’ve been hanging them there. People go down to the Plaza during Fiestas and they look all through that portal to make sure their family crest is still there.”

The annual Fiestas de Santa Fe in September commemorates the 1692 Spanish re-occupation of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt. Mascarenas isn’t sure how long the crests have been hanged downtown, but estimated 40 or more years.

A July 11 letter sent to Mascarenas from Andrew Wulf, the History Museum and Palace of the Governors’ executive director, acknowledged the “historical significance” of the coats of arms, but requested “this practice be discontinued immediately to avoid further deterioration and damage to the historic woodwork of the portal.” The letter, provided to the Journal by DCA, notes the Palace was named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Wulf stated that this concern came from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. He wrote that the damage from the annual hanging of the crests is bringing the wood close to a “tipping point.”

But Mascarenas questions the amount of damage multiple coats of arms could cause to the historic structure, adding the crests are not directly nailed to the Palace’s beams. She said the group attaches a separate wooden board to the portal, which requires only about three screws on each end, and the crests are connected to that.

“We’re not drilling or screwing or nailing 100 holes into the portal,” she said.

To her knowledge, she added, the portal’s beams are not as old as the building and have been previously replaced.

Gonzales responded to Mascarenas’ email sent Wednesday, which Mascarenas said included photos she took of banners the museum has bolted to the same wooden beams, saying she would try and help resolve the issue. According to a statement sent Thursday from DCA spokesperson Loie Fecteau, Gonzales has directed the Historic Preservation Division and facilities experts to “further assess the issue.”

“The Secretary is committed to finding a solution to continue this long-time tradition of displaying the coats of arms during Santa Fe Fiesta,” the statement said. “The Palace of the Governors is about to undergo an extensive renovation, which provides an opportunity to ensure the preservation of the historic building, and at the same time find a solution to display the family crests without causing damage.”

Fecteau said DCA would not comment further at this time.