More than a dozen demonstrators stood in silent and peaceful protest Friday during a ceremonial re-enactment of Don Diego de Vargas’ arrival, hoping to raise awareness that there’s a darker side to the Spanish reconquest of Santa Fe.

The Entrada is a traditional part of the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe, which celebrates the return of Spanish colonists to Northern New Mexico following the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Often called the oldest continuous community celebration in the country, the Fiesta marks the arrival of de Vargas to reclaim the city in 1692.

The Spanish reconquest was called “peaceful” several times during Friday’s Entrada, in which de Vargas, portrayed this year by Dominic Gonzales, and members of his cuadrilla rode to the Plaza on horseback. But in reality, it was anything but peaceful, said James Rivera, a cuadrilla member who played the part of Cacique Domingo, the Tesuque Pueblo governor who negotiated with de Vargas for the resettlement of Santa Fe.

“There was a lot of cruelty,” said Rivera, a Pojoaque Pueblo member.

Jessica Eva Montoya, one of the organizers of the protest around the Plaza, said the group was seeking a “movement toward a more inclusive Fiesta.”

“We’re asking for more than one side of the story to be told, so in the future it will include a broader history,” she said.

The demonstrators, some with black tape over their mouths and most wearing black T-shirts with “1680” in the front, the year of the Pueblo uprising, held signs with various messages: “In 1693, Don Diego executed 70 warriors and enslaved hundreds of women and children” and “Don Diego came in the dark of night.”

The group’s demonstration was met with mixed reactions from onlookers, ranging from obscenities to words of sympathy.

“I wish I could stand up there and apologize to the Indians for what my people did,” said Fiesta-goer Mark Trujillo, “but you have to understand the times at that time.”

Others were less forgiving.

“You guys can’t show your faces?” an unidentified man wearing a Santa Fe Fiesta Council shirt asked demonstrator Israel Muterperl, who wore a modified mask of Guy Fawkes, the English 17th-century Roman Catholic terrorist whose grinning visage has become a symbol of post-modern protest.

A passer-by, Adam Garcia, said he didn’t know what the group was protesting.

“But they’re messing up our traditions,” he said.

Fiesta Council President David Ortiz could not be reached for comment after the event, but during the demonstration, he stood stone-faced.

Rivera, who said he gave a lot of thought to the issue before agreeing to serve in the cuadrilla, said “it was a tough blow to the Pueblo people” under the Spanish rule. ‘There was no mercy,” he said. “There was no rule for the Spaniards but only rules for the tribes to live under the Spaniards’ rule, so when the pueblos revolted, that made a statement. They were tired of it. ‘We’ve had enough. Go back to where you came from if you cannot live in harmony, in peace with us. We’ve tried, but you’re not trying.’ ”

Rivera said he decided to join the cuadrilla because he and Gonzales’ late father grew up as best friends.

“I really took a hard look at what I was going to be doing,” he said. “I knew I’d get questioned by some of my closest family members. But I did it because the Pueblo people are a vibrant part of this community. We need to be and continue to be recognized as that.”

He also said that Gonzales “grew up like a little brother. It’s hard to tell a little brother, ‘no.’ ”

Gonzales declined to comment.

Montoya, who competed for the role of Fiesta queen in 2008 but served as a princessa, said she hoped the demonstration would initiate a conversation in the community.

“We just want to give a different perspective, offer a different narrative, not cancel anybody’s out,” she said. “I, too, am born and raised here in Santa Fe. I want to honor and pay homage and respect to those who came before me as well.”

Her partner, Anastacio Trujillo, led Friday’s Entrada with a prayer. He asked “every single person” in the audience to put themselves in a “place of peace, humility and, above all, love.”

Trujillo started his remarks with a prayer written by Elizabeth Christine, which he said was “written to the Tewa community and, more importantly, to the indigenous community.”

“I fully understand that the way in which my culture has flourished has come only through immeasurable hardship and loss to you who lived here prior to our coming,” Trujillo said, quoting Christine’s prayer.

Trujillo ended his remarks by quoting Pope Francis, who apologized to Native people during his visit to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in July.

“I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the Native peoples of America in the name of God,” Trujillo said, quoting the Argentine-born pope. “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the Native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(34) comments

Steve Salazar

Thee must have been a point in time, after the reconquest, when the fighting stopped. Who led the Spanish during this time, the Native Americans. I'm sure this was about the time that the Franciscans stopped trying to keep the Native Americans from their cultural dances and traditions.

Portray these people, coming into the Plaza together, as neighbors, maybe even as friends.

Whatever proclamations occur in Rosario Chapel can continue, the Entrada needs to change, with different players.

Sheila Burns

I would love to see Anastacio Trujillo's prayer in print in The SFNM as well as any other commentary he made before or after the prayer from the stage.

Elizabeth Pettus

The 1712 Fiesta proclamation makes the city responsible for paying for a Mass, vespers, beeswax, a sermon and a procession. The re-enactment part was brought in in the twenties by a varied group of community members who wanted to attract viewers. The first "La Reina" was a married woman with children, I think in the thirties.
This is an excellent opportunity for the community to come together in truth and reconciliation, and move into a new era of understanding and sensitivity, there are several books and documentaries on the event, and its repercussions that are worth reading. Let's educate ourselves about our shared past, good and bad, apologize, make amends, and move on to heal.

Joseph Sanchez

I totally agree with Jessica Eva Montoya! I used to attend the Fiestas years ago from ZoZobra to the Candlelight procession until I read the history of the Santa Fe Fiestas, I was appalled to read what Don Diego DeVargas did to the Indians in New Mexico. The persecution and execution of countless men, women and children thought-out the decades and it happen in the Plaza and in their pueblos during that period and if that wasn’t enough the Blue Franciscans force Indians to become Catholics under severe penalty, even death. On the hill there is the ‘Cross of the Martyrs’. The Franciscans punished or sent their people to be hanged for refusing to convert; they call those priests martyrs? I don’t think so, they deserve what they had coming! Don Diego credits Our Lady of La Conquistadora for the victory [reconquering] of New Mexico! There is no way the Mother of God would condone such a horrific events in history! I’ve never known any miracles by the Lady under that title! Archbishop Sanchez even knew she wouldn’t condone it and change her title to ‘Our Lady of Peace’!

Lawrence Montoya

Well it's about time someone protested the half truths that are the Santa Fe Fiesta. A previous poster was looking for suggestions for this group of silent protestors, well I have one. Get rid of the De Vargas representation. Why on earth this city decided to parade around a murderer as some kind of ambassador to our city has always blown my mind. I love that so little candidates now go out for the roles of La Reina and De Vargas as they are representing a lie. I wish that Espanola would get rid of their Onate figure as well as he was too a murderer. The real fiestas is celebrated in June with the Novena Masses and Processions in honor of Our Lady of Peace. There is no reason for a drunken bash in September except for what it is, a drunken bash. If the city insist on living a lie for the sake of a party then fine. But get rid of the De Vargas representative and his Cuadrilla. We are better than to parade around a murderer to rub in the faces of the ancestors of those he persecuted.

Thom Allena

We can reasonably assume that the story of Fiestas, as with most narratives involving conquest (and reconquest) the narrative of colonization is constructed and told from the point of view of the victors.

Perhaps the next step might an open community conversation not simply about these historical events, but their residual impacts today. Namely as in this instance, the celebration of one culture can serve to a rewound another. In the psychology biz there is a term, "cultural complex" that suggests that what violations are not addressed and healed, they are passed to the next generation and on and on to deal with. They don't disappear because no one talks about them and how history trends to repeat itself.

I have had the opportunity to be part of a cross-cultural group of that has been meeting for several years to discuss and understand how the legacies of violence across Northern New Mexico manifest today in the forms of continued violence, substance abuse, land disputes, cultural conflicts, etc.

One direct result of this ongoing conversation occurred this week when UNM-Taos and SMU launched a seminar series on Taos History at the Harwood Museum addressing topics such as: Who writes history?, The Taos Revolt of 1847. decolonizing the arts and land grant issues. The series features local and national academics who have researched each of these areas followed by a community discussion. Perhaps it may be time for Santa Fe to begin its own community conversation about its troubled past.

Heather Nordquist

While I respect this and would absolutely love to attend this sort of discussion, it seems pointless if Natives do not participate. Mind you, we are having lots of these exact clashes in the Pojoaque Valley recently and have actively tried to engage our neighboring Pueblos, with very little success. Our organization did meet with Pueblo of Pojoaque recently, but the most tense situation is with San Ildefonso and needs some serious healing. A bunch of Caucasians sitting around discussing past harm isn't exactly what I think will bring change, but I guess its better than nothing.
I'd be interested in a link to the the group you are referring to.

Heather Nordquist

Well, wasn't zozobra designed to be a more inclusive event for precisely that reason? It didn't become a staple of this yearly lineup until later. It seems this activism would serve everyone better if the group did have some suggestions for making it better instead of doing a protest. In the end, these are the fiestas, a celebration of our Hispanic heritage. The dancing, music and food all highlight that, and I'm not sure what this group is going for, except shaming all those who are proud of this heritage. I'm open to suggestions, though. I have been reading much about the Canadian reconciliation efforts, and maybe that is what is sought? If so, maybe a time-honored celebration which has included all new Mexicans shouldn't be the target for that.

Thomas Franks

Good ideas, Ms. Nordquist. Shaming others and degrading THEIR culture does not promote any kind of healing. Knowledge can bring insight, and that can change (though it's very difficult) behavior, and hopefully promote some healing.

Heather Nordquist

From a personal viewpoint, I don't believe that I ignore or in any way avoid the complexities of the conquest. I am aware of them. From a community standpoint, if the Natives believe that this part of history has been somehow glossed over, than it is incumbent on them to suggest a way that would lead to the healing. As I said in a previous post, there have been formal efforts to complete this process in Canada. Perhaps it is time for NM to do something similar? It doesn't make sense that just banning or censoring the fiestas will accomplish what the group hopes. I would welcome more discussion on this issue.

Todd Fox

I spoke with the protestors directly.

I heard deep sadness but did not get the impression at all that their goal was to shame people who are proud of their heritage.

Heather Nordquist

Then they should propose and actual reconciliation process, if that is what is intended; because this does seem to be an exercise in public shaming.

Todd Fox

I suggest you speak with them directly.

Todd Fox

I'm not sure why you believe the protest was about public shaming.
Could you explain, please?

I believe they did propose a road to reconciliation - they asked for their story to be told.

Todd Fox

If you do seek out the protestors, perhaps the best path to understanding is to set aside what you believe the protest was about.

I suggest you ask questions instead.
Ask them to tell you their story.

Todd Fox

I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Mareid Corrigan, who is best known for her remarkable success at bringing reconciliation between people who shared a painful history in Northern Ireland. She said that both sides were in deep pain - the result of historic oppression; loss of land and liberty; extreme poverty; and the death and losses of recent battles.

How did she foster reconciliation?
With silence.

She was working with people whose lands had been conquered, whose language was outlawed and whose religious practices were outlawed. This was their history. She was working with people whose lives were diminished by poverty. Many had suffered the loss of friends, family and even children who had been blown to bits by bombs or bullets. This was their present.

For both groups the pain and sense of loss ran so deep that any attempt to open a dialogue was potentially explosive, so Corrigan did not ask them try to talk to one another. She asked them to simply sit together for a time, without speaking, in a safe and neutral place. She asked them to sit insilence thinking about their desire to live in peace.

It took quite a number of these silent meetings before people were ready to and begin a dialogue.

Raymond McQueen

I often wonder why the Santa Fe Fiesta must revolve around a pageant of four Catholic Masses and the "resettlement" reenactments by the Spanish after the Pueblo Revolt. Are these the most deeply held traditions of Santa Feans? As anyone verse in the rudiments of New Mexican and Native American history would know, the “resettlement” was only a minor part of the larger Spanish and European (along with their Christian missionary lackeys) genocide and ethnocide of the Native American peoples . Do we also need input from the Dine’ or the Acoma about their treatment by the Spanish Christians?
Instead of the reenactments of these horrors, might Fiesta be about celebrating our multicultural present in its arts, music, cuisine and landscapes? Can someone enlighten “the committee”?

Steve Salazar

95% of the attendees go to Fiestas to watch the parades, eat, meet up with friends, and people watch. They walk around, blissfully ignorant about the religious and historic meanings behind the Fiestas.

Heather Nordquist

It is true. I didn't grow up Catholic, and in my 20's I worked with a girl who became the Reina. I had no idea all the stuff they do.......
For a bunch of us, it ends up being a burning man event with some food and music.

Joe Martinez

Dominic, I think your Native American friend set you up!!!

Andrew Lucero

[thumbup]

Destiny Baca

I have to wonder if Muterperl really believes in all the causes that he protests for. He calls himself an activist, but the way I see it, he must just hate everything about the world around him. Very sad.

Andrew Lucero

I couldn't agree with you more Destiny... I find that most "Activists" are nothing more than self-loathing malcontents who insist on inflicting their misery and world views on everyone else....

Thomas Franks

[thumbup] I koew that's a personal attack on people rather than ideas, but if the shoe often fits...........

Steve Salazar

All told, the Natives got the better of the Spanish, killing more of them than they lost.

The bottom line is this, the Spanish, and the Priests, figured out that they couldn't stop the Natives from celebrating their own culture, so they quit trying. At this point, the Natives started to embrace the Church.

All worked out for the best.

Heather Nordquist

I am curious if the group actually wanted some change to the Fiestas or no Fiestas or what? The Indian princess and other elements of the fiesta court have acknowledged our Native residents for some time. What do they seek to change?
I know that at least a couple of Pueblos in our area have had their own celebrations of the successful revolt of the Pueblo people in 1680 (at least Jemez and Pojoaque had events this year), so I am not sure that the people of New Mexico have forgotten this piece of history. It would be interesting to me, as a local, to hear what they hoped to accomplish with this.

Lawrence Montoya

The change they should ask for is to get rid of the De Vargas representative and the Entrada. Personally I think Fiestas is a lie for the council to have a party. The real meaning of fiestas is celebrated in June with the Novena masses and Processions. Since this is a "tradition", I say get rid of De Vargas and his Cuadrilla.

Todd Fox

I learned what the protestors hoped to accomplish by going over and speaking with them.

Jennifer Bizzarro

Lots of personal pronouns, Ms. Norquist, the very kind that perpetuate the problem you are attempting to discuss.

“Our Native residents”? “ … Pueblos in OUR area”?

But the real kicker, the one line that gives your lack of understanding away is your patronizing closing sentence:

“It would be INTERESTING to me, as a LOCAL, to hear what THEY hoped to accomplish with this.”

Read the history of Europeans in the Americas. Talk to someone like Dr. Jennifer Denetdale at UNM. This moment will never be a celebration for Native Americans.

Khal Spencer

“But they’re messing up our traditions,” he said.

Same thing that Kim Davis has been saying....

karl hardy

There is a saying in the South, that the only people ho have gone to war against the United States and not benefited from loosing are the South and the American Indians.....

Heather Nordquist

Um, excuse me, but how are the Southernors not better off? Because they didn't get to keep their slaves?

Jennifer Bizzarro

The old saying refers to the fact that the Southerners lost the War Between the States and could not form their own country, the CSA. The Native Americans who populated the South eventually became sovereign Nations.

There are 19 Pueblos, all of which are located in the Southwest. Mr. Hardy is quite correct when he refers to winning against the United States government since none of this happened in New Mexico. New Mexico was not a state during the Civil War.


Heather Nordquist

You also might want to read NM history, as the Pueblos went to war, and ejected, the Spanish government......not the US government

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