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Devils return to Santa Fe’s Las Posadas

Roger Atkins as one of the Las Posadas devils in 2010. The New Mexico History Museum ditched the demons last year, but they will return to harangue Mary and Joseph for the 2018 procession on Dec. 9 on the downtown Plaza. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe is making a deal with the devil once again.

After removing demons from last year’s Las Posadas celebration for what the New Mexico History Museum described as an “experiment,” a Department of Cultural Affairs spokesperson confirmed this week that it will be devil characters – not innkeepers – turning away Mary and Joseph as they look for lodgings on Dec. 9.

The Christmas pageant, a centuries-old Hispanic tradition, reenacts the story of Mary and Joseph being denied shelter before Mary gives birth to baby Jesus in a stable. Santa Fe’s version is held annually on the downtown Plaza.

For decades, the devils were a popular staple of Santa Fe’s Las Posadas, dating back to when it was a neighborhood event and before the History Museum took over organizing Las Posadas in the 1980s.

During the procession, the devils would stand on rooftops around the Plaza sending away the Holy Family, always eliciting hearty boos from the crowd.

James Rivera, as a devil, stands on the rooftop of the Palace of the Governors during Santa Fe’s Las Posadas in 2009. The devils will return to the festivities this year. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Last year, the horned bad guys were replaced with innkeepers, the traditional characters used in similar processions across the U.S. and Latin America. In 2016, the performance had included both innkeepers and devils.

Museum director Andy Wulf told the Journal last year the devils were being dismissed with hopes of making Santa Fe’s event more historically accurate and in line with Las Posadas processions elsewhere. Fans of the devils said the City Different had developed its own version with a long history of its own. Wulf did say the museum would work with the Department of Cultural Affairs to determine how to proceed in future years.

This week, Wulf referred the Journal to DCA for comment.

Loie Fecteau, executive director of New Mexico Arts and DCA spokesperson, provided this statement: “After a year’s assessment and considering the long-standing local tradition of Los Posadas at the Palace of the Governors, the ‘devils’ will return to the festivities this year.

“While the inclusion of devils as portrayed in the Las Posadas at the Palace is unique, we at the Department of Cultural Affairs feel it important to honor this established local folk art performance, which originated in a small Santa Fe neighborhood and was subsequently adopted by the Palace many years ago.”

Las Posadas is 5:30-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, on the Plaza. The event is free and open to the public.