Fiesta discontinuing devisive Entrada pageant

The pageant depicting the re-entry of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas into Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, seen in 2014, will no longer be part of Fiesta de Santa Fe. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican file photo

The Entrada is making an exit.

After months of closed-door discussions about how to resolve the growing discord over the Entrada — a historical pageant of Spanish conquistadors reclaiming Santa Fe from the Indians in 1692 — key players involved in the culturally sensitive negotiations have agreed to discontinue the dramatization, a spokesman for the group said Tuesday.

The event, which was performed each autumn on the Santa Fe Plaza during the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe, had become a symbol of colonialism for some Native Americans, as well as a painful reminder of New Mexico’s bloody past.

The pageant depicted the re-entry of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas into Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Reenacting it exacerbated lingering racial tensions in the region between Natives and non-Indians.

It also ignited angry protests and a large police presence at a community celebration that is supposed to be about harmony and faith.

“The Entrada as we have known it will no longer be part of the fiesta for all of the obvious reasons of what it causes in continuing that representation of the past,” Regis Pecos, who has been designated to speak on behalf of the various groups, said in an exclusive sit-down interview with The New Mexican.

Pecos said various stakeholders, including the Santa Fe Fiesta Council and the Caballeros de Vargas, a fraternal organization that put on the reenactment, agreed to return to the original intent of a proclamation signed in 1712. It calls for an annual celebration “with Vespers, Mass, Sermon and Procession through the Main Plaza.”

“It’s huge to agree that [the Entrada] will no longer be part of the fiesta, but that the original intent of celebrating the shared faith will be the heart and the center,” he said.

Though the details are still being ironed out, Pecos, a former governor of Cochiti Pueblo, said there are plans for a series of events immediately before the official kickoff of fiestas “to commemorate the negotiations of reconciliation.”

Thomas Baca-Gutierrez, president of the Caballeros de Vargas, did not return messages seeking comment. But in the past, he has said that the group designated Pecos to act as spokesman. Melissa Mascarenas, president of the group whose volunteers organize and oversee the Fiesta de Santa Fe, also did not return a message seeking comment.

Representatives for Mayor Alan Webber and Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester also have referred inquiries to Pecos.

“By agreement of everyone participating in the conversations around the Entrada this year, we are referring questions to Regis Pecos, who will speak for the group,” city spokesman Matt Ross said.

In the past, Entrada organizers had maintained that the historical pageant celebrated a moment of peace when de Vargas returned to Santa Fe 12 years after Spanish colonists were driven out of Northern New Mexico during the Pueblo Revolt. The dramatization portrayed what has been described as a bloodless and peaceful encounter with the Natives.

But historians have said the reenactment lacked context. Others called it revisionist history. The dramatization, for example, never mentioned the threat of force that de Vargas used to reconquer Santa Fe or the years of bloodshed and brutality that followed.

Opposition to the Entrada dates to at least 1977, when the All Indian Pueblo Council formally expressed its disapproval of the Fiesta de Santa Fe “for its offensive display depicted by the reenactment.”

An Episcopal minister invented the Entrada in 1911, driven partly by a desire to increase tourism.

In more recent times, calls to abolish the Entrada have intensified, leading to raucous protests the past two years. Police beefed up their presence at the event last year before a crowd of protesters arrived. Eight protesters were arrested.

Jennifer Marley, who was among those arrested on charges that were later dropped, said Tuesday she was “super happy” that the Entrada was ending.

“I’m happy that it’s finally getting laid to rest,” said Marley, a student at the University of New Mexico who is from San Ildefonso Pueblo.

“This is definitely a victory, and it’s one that I think belongs to the protesters and the people on the ground, people who put their bodies on the ground.”

After last year’s protest, the All Pueblo Council of Governors called for a meeting with the mayor and the archbishop “to engage in a respectful and principled deliberative dialogue … to define a process for genuine reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past and celebrate the beauty of our respective cultures, traditions and peoples.”

“As Pueblo leaders, we must come to terms in addressing these issues or run the risk that these matters escalate into a regrettable set of circumstances that innocent people are victimized and traumatized as recently reflected in the overreaction of law enforcement with a full militaristic response to reopen the wounds that have taken many generations to heal,” the council of governors wrote in a resolution adopted last September.

Earlier this month, the council adopted another resolution stating, among other things, that the key players had agreed to a five-point plan that included discontinuing “the reenactment of the Entrada and associated script with pseudo Pueblo representatives” and establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “to plan and redesign a more inclusive and celebratory commemoration.”

Pecos said the agreement among the various stakeholders could serve as an example to other communities.

“The issues surrounding the Entrada are really not unlike other events around the country that have been subject of much controversy, that really peels the scab and reopens the wounds of a very tumultuous history of conflict, whether it is with the Confederates in one part of the country, whether it is the Holocaust in other parts of the country, whether it’s slavery in other parts of the country,” said Pecos, a co-director of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School.

“These are drawn from the doctrines of discovery and the principles drawn from Manifest Destiny that all have to do with the way in which indigenous peoples and other peoples were subjected to some very cruel and inhumane policies and sometimes even laws that have to do with a racial hierarchy, and we’re not immune from that here,” he added.

Elena Ortiz, a member of the Ohkay Owingeh pueblo north of Española who has helped organize protests, said she is happy if what Pecos reports to be the agreement among the key stakeholders is correct.

“It’s an act of restoration by the Pueblo people for the Pueblo people,” Ortiz said via Facebook. “And make no mistake, the Pueblo leadership, in this instance, followed our lead. They followed the women and the youth into this fight. They supported and defended us. And they acted on our behalf to restore justice and dignity to what is supposed to be a community celebration. I am grateful and humbled.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacon on Twitter @danieljchacon.