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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.