Diego de Vargas

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Diego de Vargas Zapata y Luján Ponce de León y Contreras
Oil on canvas portrait of Diego de Vargas by Julio Barrera, date unknown, from the collection of the Palace of the Governors
30 and 32nd Spanish Governor of New Mexico
In office
1691 – 1697 (as effective) (titular 1688–91)
Preceded byDomingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate
Succeeded byPedro Rodríguez Cubero
In office
Preceded byPedro Rodríguez Cubero
Succeeded byJuan Páez Hurtado
Personal details
Madrid, Spain
Bernalillo, Nuevo México (New Mexico)
ProfessionPolitical and military
SignatureSignature of Diego de Vargas

Diego de Vargas Zapata y Luján Ponce de León y Contreras (1643–1704), commonly known as Don Diego de Vargas, was a Spanish Governor of the New Spain territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, to the US states of New Mexico and Arizona, titular 1690–1695, effective 1692–1696 and 1703–1704.[clarification needed] He is known for leading the reconquest of the territory in 1692 following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. This reconquest is commemorated annually during the Fiestas de Santa Fe in the city of Santa Fe.

Pueblo revolt and reconquest[edit]

On 10 August 1680, Pueblo people from various pueblos in northern New Mexico staged an uprising against Spanish colonists.[1] They laid siege to the city of Santa Fe, forcing the colonists to retreat on 20 August. The Spanish colonists fled south to El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), where they remained in exile for the next 16 years.[2]

In 1688, Capitan General y Governador Don Diego de Vargas was appointed Spanish Governor of New Mexico, though he did not arrive to assume his duties until 22 February 1691.[3] He was assigned with the task of reconquering and pacifying the New Mexico territory for Spain. In July 1692, de Vargas and a small contingent of soldiers returned to Santa Fe. They surrounded the city and called on the Pueblo people to surrender, promising clemency if they would swear allegiance to the King of Spain and return to the Christian faith. After meeting with de Vargas, the Pueblo leaders agreed to surrender, and on 12 September 1692 de Vargas proclaimed a formal act of repossession. De Vargas’ repossession of New Mexico is often called a bloodless reconquest, since the territory was initially retaken without any use of force.

De Vargas had prayed to the Virgin Mary, under her title La Conquistadora (Our Lady of Conquering Love), for the peaceful re-entry. Believing that she heard his prayer, he celebrated a feast in her honor. Today, this feast continues to be celebrated annually in Santa Fe as the Fiestas de Santa Fe. Part of those annual fiestas is a novena of masses in thanksgiving. Those masses are also done with processions from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to the Rosario Chapel. The actual statue of La Conquistadora is taken in the processions. After the novena is completed she is taken back to the Basilica. This event includes participation by local tribes as well as Latino descendants that reside in the area. In the second decade of the 21st century, members of Native American tribes and pueblos protested the pageant, recalling the subsequent retaking of Santa Fe.

The focus of these protests was The Entrada—a reenactment of de Vargas's re-entry into Santa Fe that has long been seen as inaccurate by historians and culturally offensive by Native Americans. The most recent round of protests against The Entrada started in 2015. That year, silent protestors raised placards citing historical facts at odds with the narrative present when the re-enactors reached Santa Fe's historic Plaza to portray the retaking of the city. Protests in 2017 resulted in 8 arrests; though the charges were later dismissed.[4][5][6] Following the protests and months of negotiation the Entrada was removed from The Santa Fe Fiesta celebration.[7]


On June 18, 2020 the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico removed a Statue of Diego de Vargas that had been erected 150 years earlier.[8] The statue was one of several removed as wider efforts to remove controversial statues across the United States.

Notable soldiers who traveled with Vargas[edit]

  • Ignacio Roibal (Roybal) – Owner of the now-historic Sena Plaza in Santa Fe.
  • Alonso Rael de Aguilar – Secretary of Government and War for de Vargas[9]
  • Juan de Ulibarrí – soldier and explorer of the Great Plains
  • Captain Don Fernando Durán y Chaves (b. 1651, d. Bet. 1712 - 1716) [For more detailed treatment see "El Palacio", Vol. 55, No. 4, pp. 103-121.Some emendations in this present work -"Origins of New Mexico Families" are the result of more data found.]



  1. ^ Warren A. Beck, New Mexico; a History of Four Centuries, University of Oklahoma Press, 1962
  2. ^ Warren A. Beck, New Mexico; a History of Four Centuries, University of Oklahoma Press, 1962
  3. ^ Warren A. Beck, New Mexico; a History of Four Centuries, University of Oklahoma Press, 1962
  4. ^ Chacón, Daniel J.; Oxford, Andrew (8 September 2017). "At least eight arrested during Entrada clash at Fiesta de Santa Fe". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  5. ^ Chacón, Daniel J. "Offended by Entrada, activists to protest". Press Reader.com. Retrieved 21 July 2018 – via PressReader.
  6. ^ Balwit, Natasha (15 September 2016). "In Santa Fe, Tradition and Identity Clash Over an Annual Festival". The Atlantic Monthly. City Lab. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  7. ^ Bennett, Megan. "Santa Fe ends contentious Entrada pageant". Albuquerque Journal. Hearst. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  8. ^ Chacón, Daniel (18 June 2020). "DeVargas statue removed from Cathedral Park". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  9. ^ Chávez, Fray Angélico; Origins of New Mexico families: a genealogy of the Spanish colonial period. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1992. ISBN 0-89013-239-9


See also[edit]