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Santa Fe ends contentious Entrada pageant

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The Entrada pageant, a Hispanic and Roman Catholic tradition that dates back to the early 20th century, has been discontinued after growing protests by Native Americans, according to a spokesman for groups that have been negotiating since last year over the future of the event.

Regis Pecos, a former Cochiti Pueblo governor and co-director of the Leadership Institute at Santa Fe Indian School, said discussions over the last 10 months with representatives from the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the Santa Fe Mayor’s Office, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Fiesta Council and the Caballeros De Vargas – the group that organizes the Entrada – have recently culminated in a decision to end the “divisive” performance.

Pecos called the agreement a “profoundly significant event in the history of New Mexico.”

“I think it’s unequivocally the consensus that for the health and benefit of the public, that it’s an event that is best that we let go of because of the controversy that it continues to create,” he said.

The Entrada, a re-enactment of the 1692 Spanish reoccupation of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt, began in 1911 as part of the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe.

Danny Diaz, left, portraying Don Diego de Vargas, leads members of the Santa Fe Fiesta Court onto the Plaza during the 2016 Entrada pageant

Danny Diaz, left, portraying Don Diego de Vargas, leads members of the Santa Fe Fiesta Court onto the Plaza during the 2016 Entrada pageant. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The public event on Santa Fe’s historic Plaza has long been met with pushback from Native Americans, but the protests have grown over the past three years. This year’s Fiesta de Santa Fe will be Sept. 7-9.

Protesters say the performance, which portrays a peaceful meeting between de Vargas and pueblo leaders, is revisionist history that ignores the conquest and threat of violence, and celebrates the oppression of indigenous people.

Script changes in recent years were intended to show the Indian characters as being less submissive and supporting their own religion even as the Entrada’s Hispanic characters honored and sang hymns before an image of the Virgin Mary that de Vargas carried with him.

Last September, about 150 protesters shouted phases like “Entrada is racist” during the performance, even after the starting time was moved up unannounced in an effort to keep them away.

Eight demonstrators were arrested, though the charges were later dropped. Police had forced the protesters into what were called “free speech zones” to keep them away from other people who attended the Entrada or who went to the Plaza for the fiesta.

Fiesta and Caballeros leaders say the Entrada was intended to celebrate a peaceful moment in history and the origins of northern New Mexico’s cultural mix.

Pecos said the fiesta will revert to its original intent “centered on a shared faith of people” through ongoing events such as the annual Mass and a religious procession to the Cross of the Martyrs, which stands above downtown Santa Fe in memory of Franciscan friars killed during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.

“I hope that 100 years from now, 200 years from now, 300 years from now, generations of that time will reflect upon this time and give thanks that individuals with wisdom and vision could resolve themselves to overcome something as controversial as this that has eluded other cities and people across the country,” Pecos said.

Caballeros De Vargas President Thomas Baca-Gutiérrez and Fiesta Council President Melissa Mascarenas did not respond to messages Wednesday afternoon. Allen Sanchez of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops referred questions to Pecos. A city spokesperson did not provide a comment.

Elena Ortiz, an activist and Ohkay Owingeh tribal member who has helped organize the public protests of the Entrada since 2014, told the Journal she was “thrilled” by the news that the Entrada is ending.

“This is a battle that was started by women and youth, students, college students who saw an injustice, who saw a celebration of the genocide of their culture and decided to step up and fight for change,” she said. “Our tribal leaders, our governors, our elders, supported us and defended us. And this is the result of it.”

Pecos said that in a forthcoming public announcement, the various groups that have been negotiating will be able to speak collectively about the process that led to the decision.

He also mentioned interest in creating a “newly defined event” that would be more inclusive.

He said that before the start of this year’s fiesta, there will be a public event that will include the unveiling of a city proclamation that will address reconciliation as well as Santa Fe’s past, present and future.

“This planned event is really just the beginning of looking at something more broad in creating opportunities for people to engage and deepen their understanding and appreciation of the diversity that we’re all a part of and makes this place such a special place.”

A 1712 Santa Fe proclamation called for an annual religious commemoration “with vespers, masses, sermon and procession” on the Plaza as the Fiesta de Santa Fe. A former state historian has said the Entrada was created in 1911 as a tourist attraction and was the brainchild of an Episcopal minster and the founder of the Museum of New Mexico.

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