SANTA FE – While actors sang a hymn and knelt to pray to the Virgin Mary on a stage Friday afternoon on the Santa Fe Plaza, protesters about 30 feet away chanted, “The Entrada is racist.”
The Entrada – an annual re-enactment of the Spanish re-occupation of Santa Fe 12 years after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and part of the city’s Fiestas – attracted about 50 protesters who also chanted a “16-80” in a call-and-response cadence and cheered Po’pay, the leader of the Native revolt, throughout the heavily religious pageant.
They sometimes drowned out the words of the costumed players portraying Don Diego de Vargas and his entourage and the pueblo people who met the Spanish governor when he arrived from El Paso in 1692.
Although the protest was an annoyance to some people who came to watch the performance – and who countered with applause for the Entrada and shouts of “Que viva!” and “Viva la fiesta! – the half-hour Entrada went on without interruption. There was tension but no violence.
“Everything was beautiful,” said Dean Milligan, president of the Fiesta Council. “We went on with our script. There was no pause in it. It didn’t bother us at all.”
The protesters, who had announced their plans to march beforehand, were also happy with the result.
“It went perfectly,” said Melanie Yazzie, one of the organizers with Red Nation. “We were loud. We got our message across. It was nonviolent. It was just what we wanted.”
While some people were heard shouting at the protesters to go away, a Santa Fe police spokesman said the demonstration never got out of hand and no arrests were made.
“They just wanted to be vocal and be heard, and that’s their right to do,” SFPD spokesman Greg Gurule said.
Last year, fewer than 20 people took part in a silent protest during the Entrada. They wore T-shirts with “1680” printed across the front, had black tape over their mouths to represent the Native voice being silenced, and held signs with messages such as “Don Diego Executed 70 Warriors and Enslaved Hundreds of Women and Children.”
Members of this year’s group were far from silent, and they called for Santa Fe city government, which contributes $50,000 each year to the Fiestas, to abolish the Entrada. They also want the Fiesta Court, which visits local businesses and schools in costume with music and dancing, to be kept out of the public schools.
“It’s a racist history and leaves no room for Nation people,” Yazzie said.
City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who once played the part of de Vargas during the Entrada, said he agrees there needs to be more community discussion about the issue. Most of the demonstrators were with American Indian rights groups Red Nation and the Spirit of Po’Pay, the latter based in Ohkay Owingeh, home of Po’pay, the medicine man who organized the uprising that drove the Spanish out of northern New Mexico.
The Entrada has become a controversial event in Santa Fe, Native people saying that what is presented is a revisionist history that doesn’t tell the whole story. De Vargas’ arrival is portrayed as a peaceful, bloodless re-occupation in which the Spanish are welcomed back into the city. In actuality, de Vargas used intimidation to reclaim the city, and, in the years that followed, plenty of blood was spilled on both sides.
Some of the controversy could be heard among those gathered on the Plaza on Friday. One man near the stage said, “Everybody was killing everybody back then.” As the chanting protesters entered the Plaza, another said he might stop going to Indian casinos. When the crowd began dispersing after the Entrada, a man wearing a University of California cap told his companion, “Still some bad blood there, eh?”
Dominick Sherwood, 21, of Nambé Pueblo, on Friday played the part of the Indian cacique that meets de Vargas and his troops. Sherwood said he didn’t understand what the controversy was about before. He does now, he said, but declined to talk about it.
He did say that he loves the blend of cultures New Mexico has to offer.”There are so many unique, beautiful cultures here, and they are all amazing in their own unique ways,” he said.