Santa Fe Fiesta opens with religious ceremonies

From left, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber, organizes copies of a new Fiesta de Santa Fe proclamation as former Gov. of Cochiti Pueblo Regis Pecos joins Paul Torres, chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, to sign one. The new document celebrates reconciliation while acknowledging “wounds older and deeper than any on this continent.” (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – There were vespers, a Mass, a sermon and a procession through the downtown Plaza here Friday to kick of the Fiesta de Santa Fe, but no Entrada.

There also were no huge protests, like those mounted by Native Americans and others in recent years against the now-defunct Entrada, a reenactment of the Spanish reoccupation of the city led by Don Diego De Vargas a dozen years after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.

This year, the Entrada’s traditional 2 p.m. time slot on the Friday of Fiesta weekend was filled by a replacement event, Celebración de la Communidad de Fe (Celebration of Community Faith), which aims to celebrate peace and reconciliation.

The event, largely made up of prayers, resulted from a collaboration among Fiesta organizers, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Los Caballeros de Vargas – a nonprofit Catholic ministry in charge of staging the Entrada for decades – the All-Pueblo Council of Governors, and the city of Santa Fe.

There were in fact a handful of protesters Friday, but this time they were protesting in favor of bringing back the Entrada.

“Somebody can have a closed door, back room deal that says they can eliminate 300 years of your history, but they can’t eliminate what’s in our community, what’s in our hearts,” said one of the demonstrators, Esther Rivera, of Albuquerque.

“My people rode here, came here, and we melded with the culture that was here and we created a beautiful thing, and we don’t need people now with political agendas dividing us.”

Her group, including Santa Fe activist Gloria Mendoza, was handing out slips of paper inviting people to donate to the “Gente de La Entrada Political Action Committee,” whose vision is to “celebrate and preserve La Entrada and foster pride in New Mexico’s cultural traditions.”

One man, former school board member Richard Polese, carried a sign that read “De Vargas Protected Pueblo Kiva Faith. ¡Viva la Fiesta!”

But the demonstration was a far cry from last year, when an army of police officers were on hand and arrested eight of the roughly 150 people protesting the Entrada. There was still a sizable police presence on the Plaza Friday, but it was not so pronounced – no armed SWAT team officers on the roofs this time.

La Conquistadora, a small Marian statue renamed Our Lady of Peace by the archbishop of Santa Fe in 1992, was the focus of the replacement event.

“That’s what it’s really about,” said Thomas Baca-Gutierrez, president of Los Caballeros de Vargas, who was in on the discussions to discontinue the Entrada.

It is said that de Vargas prayed to the 30-inch wood carving of the Madonna, originally brought to Santa Fe in 1625 by missionaries, and asked for a peaceful resettlement of the city in 1692.

The small group of protesters shouted a few cries of “¡Viva la Conquistadora!” as Native American Buffalo dancers took the gazebo stage Friday, but they soon quieted down.

Baca-Gutierrez said he couldn’t say whether the Entrada would ever be performed again.

“What I can say is what we have now is great and it’s a beginning,” he said. “And with this beginning I think it will prosper into a stronger future.”

Baca-Gutierrez said he was glad the event wasn’t marred by big demonstrations.

“The tension wasn’t there,” he said. “And Our Lady, I believe, is what helped create that, along with the dialogue that has gone on.”

“Last year could not be repeated, that’s for sure,” said Melissa Mascareñas, president of the Fiesta Council.

“This is the beginning of a new event and we’re going to continue to strive for peace, unity and harmony in our community – celebrate Fiesta the correct way,” she said.

Asked what she meant by that, Mascareñas said, “Not having protests, ugly things, and hurt feelings. There’s no need for any of that. We all need to live together in the community.”

The celebration opened with prayers from pueblo leaders, including Santa Clara Lt. Gov. James Naranjo. During the Entrada in 2013, he went off script while playing the part of an Indian cacique “welcoming” de Vargas.

Friday, he said a prayer in his native language, then told the crowd he prayed for core values of love and respect shared by all people.

Representatives of several denominations also said prayers, including a well-known local Catholic priest, the Rev. Frank Pretto. “We ask creator God that as one family, one city, one country we put aside our differences and join together and pray, ‘Let there be peace on earth, a peace that was meant to be,'” he said.

The choir from St. Michael’s High School sang songs during the event, including a Navajo peace prayer.

The annual Fiesta celebration takes place by decree of the first Santa Fe Fiesta Council in 1712, which called for a celebration “with vespers, mass, sermon, and procession through the main Plaza.”

Mayor Alan Webber admitted he felt relief that things remained calm this year. “I’m very pleased about how everyone came together in the spirit of reconciliation,” he said.

New proclamation

Earlier in the day, Webber and leaders of the other groups which negotiated replacing the Entrada signed a new Fiesta proclamation in the courtyard of the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. “We acknowledge the past and its trauma, tragedy, and sorrow; we understand its legacy in the present,” Webber read from the proclamation.

“We acknowledge wounds older and deeper than any on this continent,” the document goes on to state. “On behalf of those from the past who cannot ask forgiveness, we do so now.”

The text is separate from and does not replace the original 1712 Fiesta proclamation, Webber told the Journal.

“…We could not stand by and watch the place that we love and the place we call home and its spirit represented by the people be destroyed by the escalating conflict by the reenactment of the Entrada,” E. Paul Torres of Isleta Pueblo, chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, said from the stage. “We could not see our beloved people, all people, be torn apart by an event that reopens the wounds of the past.”

The Caballeros’ Baca-Gutierrez emphasized the importance of preserving the overall Fiesta itself for the Hispanic community, whose roots in Santa Fe go back generations, but also the need to respect all perceptions of history.

“This is a very monumental moment, and we are certainly living up to the reason for La Fiesta de Santa Fe, which is peace, unity, respect and love for all,” he said.