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Pojoaque schools welcome Santa Fe Fiesta Court

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Fiesta Court will be welcomed to Pojoaque Public Schools again this year.

“It’s good music and an opportunity for kids to see some of our state’s tradition and culture,” Jon Paul Romero, Pojoaque school board president, said in a phone interview Friday.

The Fiesta Court, which includes a characters depicting conquistador Don Diego de Vargas, his cuadrilla, la Reina (the Fiesta queen) and princesses dressed in period clothing, accompanied by a mariachi band, have long visited area schools to promote the annual Santa Fe Fiesta celebration held during the first week of September.

But earlier this month, Santa Fe’s school board voted to limit the visits to just the fourth, seventh and ninth grades when students study New Mexico history. Its decision came a week after it was announced the Entrada — a reenanctment of the de Vargas-led Spanish resettlement of northern New Mexico in 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 — would be discontinued as part of Fiesta celebration following three years protests by Native American groups who view de Vargas as a ruthless killer.

Romero had asked for the Fiesta Court’s visit to be placed on the agenda as a discussion item for Wednesday’s school board meeting. No one at the meeting spoke out against the visit and the board took no action, leaving the matter up to Superintendent Melville Morgan.

“At the end of the day, we felt we shouldn’t get involved in the day-to-day operations. That’s the job of the superintendent,” Romero said.

Morgan, who oversees a school district on about 2,000 students, about 76 percent of them identifying as Hispanic and 18 percent as Native American, said he and his staff saw no reason to change what’s been done in the past. Parents can still choose to have their children opt-out of the Fiesta Court’s visit on Aug. 30 when it will spend about 20 minutes each at assemblies with elementary, middle, and high school students.

“We have people who don’t agree with it,” he said of the Fiesta Court’s visit. “They are entitled to their opinion.”

The opinion of Elena Ortiz, a Ohkay Owingeh tribal member now living in Santa Fe and one of the organizers of the Entrada protests, hasn’t wavered.

“The idea that students can opt out, to me, that’s a type of segregation,” she said. “If we’re going to embrace and celebrate reconciliation and community, that needs to go away.”