Burglars make off with Española Valley Fiesta queen’s decades-old crown

Angelina Vigil is shown wearing the fiesta crown that has since been stolen. Courtesy photo

The Española Valley Fiesta queen is without her crown, but not her jewels.

Angelina Vigil, crowned La Reina de la Fiesta, also lost her cool in an angry Facebook post — which drew a bitter backlash — after burglars this week broke through a back door and ransacked the Española home she shares with her mother. It was just another theft in a town troubled by high rates of drug-related crimes and burglaries, but this one captured the public’s interest and stirred emotions.

The thieves made off with a silver scepter and a silver and turquoise crown that has adorned the styled heads of Fiesta queens since 1969. They also stole a couple of flat-screen televisions, a Blu-ray player, an Xbox system and games.

But underneath the crown, which was sitting on a dresser in Vigil’s room, was an exquisite necklace and matching earrings that the queen says the thieves did not take.

“I can’t figure out why those weren’t stolen,” Vigil, 24, said Wednesday in a phone interview. “My guess as to why this happened is because I was crowned and I represent the valley.”

She said she was still reeling from watching her mother break into tears when they found the house in disarray — every cabinet opened, clothes spilled on the floors and important papers scattered.

The crown has 45 years of the Española Valley Fiesta history behind it. State Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, wore it when she was La Reina.

“This is about more than something with a price tag,” said Vigil, who graduated in 2008 from Española Valley High School, works as an administrative assistant for the Boys & Girls Clubs and studies nursing.

Bernadette Jaramillo, president of the Española Valley Fiesta Council, agreed.

“The crown is very spiritual. It is blessed every year by the father at one of the churches,” she said. “We just want the crown and scepter returned, even if they drop it off at the entrance of City Hall.”

News of the stolen crown spread Tuesday night via the Fiesta Council’s Facebook page. By Wednesday, the council had launched a “#FindtheCrown” campaign on Twitter.

The faithful quickly asked for divine intervention.

“O blessed St. Anthony, the grace of God has made you a powerful advocate in all our needs and the patron for the restoring of things lost or stolen,” Dominic Gonzales, the 2015 Fiesta de Santa Fe’s Don Diego de Vargas, posted in a plea to the patron saint of lost things.

Wearing the crown and representing a town she loves is an honor, Vigil said. But having the crown stolen is symbolic of Española’s deep problems with crime and addiction. Based on statistics from this year and last, Española has more than double the rate of burglaries as Santa Fe, according to New Mexico State Police.

“I don’t come from a perfect family. I have lost family members to drugs and to cirrhosis of the liver. I’m not anyone to judge,” Vigil said.

Still, the theft of the crown that is supposed to represent something positive disappoints her, she said.

Some of the other items that were stolen belonged to her 6-year-old adopted brother. He has been in and out of the hospital for medical problems linked to his birth mother’s use of opiates, Vigil said.

“Who would steal from a little boy who has already been through so much?” she asked, starting to cry.

Vigil’s frustration and disappointment reached their peak, and she took to the internet with an incendiary comment for which she was roundly criticized.

“I seriously hate coming to this effn town,” Vigil posted on her Facebook page, before describing the theft at her mother’s house. She took the comment down soon after she was rebuked by others.

“The post was blown out of context, but I understand why,” Vigil said later. “I meant I hate what goes on here, not that I hate all the people in Española.”

Some people accused Vigil of not currently living in the town of about 10,000. Jaramillo says that’s not true. “She lives in Española, not Santa Fe or Albuquerque,” Jaramillo said.

Jaramillo also defended Vigil, saying everyone faced with a crisis may say or write things they don’t mean.

But Marie Martinez, one of those who criticized Vigil on Facebook, said Vigil shouldn’t represent Española. “She acted inappropriate,” Martinez said.

The stolen sterling silver crown was restored just last year, and the turquoise was replaced, Jaramillo said. “It cost us quite a bit of money,” she said.

But she doesn’t think the street value is all that much compared to the crown’s historic importance to the Fiesta.

The first Española Valley Fiesta was celebrated in 1933 to commemorate the arrival of Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate to the valley more than three centuries ago. While the annual event continues — this year it is scheduled for July 9 to 12 — Jaramillo, in her first year as Fiesta Council president, fears its significance may be fading.

“The tradition is dying. We’re trying to keep it alive,” she said. “Our youth really are not aware of the history and why we have the fiesta.” She said it is increasingly difficult to find young men and women who want to participate in the royal court.

Vigil and Jaramillo said only one other contestant signed up to run for the Fiesta queen title, but that woman dropped out before the competition began.

Jaramillo said Vigil will have to wear a smaller tiara until a new crown can be made. She estimated its cost at about $2,000.

“I’m not going to give up,” Vigil said. “I’m going to find that crown.”

By Wednesday evening, Española police said they were looking for three suspects, described as two men and a woman in their mid-30s. They were driving a blue 1977 or ‘78 Chevy truck missing a tailgate and with larger tires in the back than the front. The truck smokes from the exhaust, said Detective Daniel Espinoza.

Anyone with information can call the Fiesta Council office at 901-4840 or the Española Police Department at 753-5555 anonymously with information about the burglary or the crown and scepter.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Dominic Gonzales' role in the 2015 Fiesta de Santa Fe court.

(11) comments

Stephanie Vigil

Ms. Vigil & her family were violated surely one can understand why she expressed her anger via social media. I see no difference between her comment & the people who continue to bash & pass judgement on her. While Ms. Vigil gets stripped of her crown the thieves, if captured will probably only get a slap on the hand as do DWI offenders. I appreciate & accept her apology & I'm sure she'll learn from her mistake. After all she is human.

Boy are you right Julian !!!!!!!! between school boards,City council and city gov

Julian Grace

Well, maybe it's inappropriate, but anyone not understanding where Ms. Vigil is coming from just doesn't get it. The thieves are responsible for Espanola's reputation and she was pointing it out in the only way they would recognize themselves if they even know how to read or get online to see these comments. She was mild compared to what a lot of us really want to say. Lowlifes!

Stephanie Vigil

Thank You Julian!

Michael Grimler

Espanola and surrounding areas are being hit VERY hard this spring so far.

Stay frosty...

Pierce Knolls

Stay classy, Española.

Mark Ortiz

There are really good people in Espanola too Knolls.

Pierce Knolls

Well, I'm sure there are. Angelina Vigil and her mother sound like two of them.

I was just paraphrasing a Ron Burgundy quote. The intended targets of my post were the druggies and scumbag thieves in Española, not the good Española residents that those scumbags prey upon.

Mark Ortiz

I understand and don't mean to be argumentative. More than likely though, it is the good people of Espanola that will read this story and comments. Truth is, coping dope is a full time occupation and I seriously doubt the demographic you are targeting reads the SFNM/comment forum, much less reads at all.

Staci Benni

Typical of the disrespect shown to the "culture" of northern NM...Just like at Fiestas where the streets in town are trashed afterwards. But is a crown "spiritual"?

Carolyn DM

Just low-life, local loser sewer scum trash stealing other people's stuff for drug money. Same as in Santa Fe. They're all the same.

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