Fiestas de Santa Fe

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Fiestas de Santa Fe
Official nameFiestas de Santa Fe
English translation: "Festival of Santa Fe"
Also calledSanta Fe Fiesta
Observed byNew Mexico
TypeLocal, Historical, Cultural, Religious
SignificanceFirst held on September 16, 1712, to commemorate Diego de Vargas' Bloodless reconquest of Santa Fe in Nuevo México
CelebrationsThe lighting of Zozobra, processions, parades, and New Mexico music performances (typically mariachi)

Fiestas de Santa Fe is a festival held every autumn in Santa Fe, New Mexico, usually during the second week of September.


On September 16, 1712 the first Fiesta council signed a proclamation declaring there should be a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the 1692 reconquest of New Mexico by General Don Diego de Vargas (1643–1704). The Spanish were earlier expelled from the city by neighboring Pueblo people during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and spent the next 12 years in exile in El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez, Mexico). The King of Spain appointed de Vargas to lead the exiled colonists in their reoccupation of Santa Fe by surrounding the city with cannons and threatening the Pueblo Indians residing inside with death. He re-entered the city on September 14, 1692; however the war for reoccupation of New Mexico raged on until 1694.

Fiesta was revamped in 1912 by a group led by the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and Edgar Lee Hewett. Hewett re-envisioned the Fiesta as a celebration of the history of New Mexico from prehistoric times to the annexation by the United States and rooted in the culture of the Indians, Hispanos and Anglos. During the twentieth century the event became increasingly commercialized. From 1925 to 1932 the Spanish Colonial Arts Society sold santos during the Fiesta, an event that spun off as its own celebration called Spanish Market.[1] In protest to Hewett's charging of admission to the Fiesta, a group of artists and writers decide to stage their own admission-free Fiesta called "El Pasatiempo" in 1926. "El Pasatiempo" featured a Hysterical Pageant, a parody of the Fiesta historical pageant, and the burning of Zozobra,[2] both of which later became part of the Fiesta celebration.

No celebrations were held in 1917–18, 1942–45 nor 2020.

Festival highlights[edit]

The start of Fiestas is marked by the beginning of the Novena masses, which start during the Knighting and Coronation of Don Diego de Vargas and La Reina de Santa Fe in which a procession which takes La Conquistadora from the Cathedral Basilica to the Rosario Chapel, at Rosario Cemetery in Santa Fe. From there 9 masses are held throughout the week and at the end of the week La Conquistadora is returned from Rosario Chapel to the Cathedral Basilica that following weekend. Those masses are carried out and are made as a tribute to the promise that Don Diego de Vargas made to La Conquistadora, and is carried through until September which includes the burning of Zozobra, also known as "Old Man Gloom", a 50 ft/15.2m tall marionette that symbolizes the hardships and despair of the past year. This is followed by 3 days of celebration that includes a reenactment of Don Diego de Vargas's return to the city, a children's pet parade, the Historical/Hysterical Parade, the Fiesta Ball and Roman Catholic masses of thanksgiving. During the festival, the Santa Fe Plaza is filled with arts & crafts and food booths, and mariachis play throughout the city. Fiestas concludes with mass at the St. Francis Cathedral followed by a candlelight procession to the Cross of the Martyrs.


The Fiesta has been criticized many times over the years, particularly for its portrayal—during the reenactment of de Vargas's retaking of the city—of Pueblo Indians and glorification of their defeat at the hands of the Spanish. This reenactment was called The Entrada. In 1977 the All Indian Pueblo Council and the state's Eight Northern Pueblos staged a boycott when a former Fiesta Council President sent a letter to the Pueblos requesting they not sell their wares during Fiesta.[3] The Fiesta Council responded to these criticisms by emphasizing peaceful co-existence of the indigenous and Hispanic communities and their shared Catholic faith.

The Fiesta claim that the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico was "bloodless" has also been disputed for many years. During the 1990 Fiesta, historian John Kessel told the Fiesta Court that bloodshed did occur in 1693 when de Vargas and an expedition of colonists returned to Santa Fe.[4]

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 annually given when the re-enactors reached Santa Fe's historic Plaza to portray the retaking of the city. In 2016, the protestors were quite vocal, and it became clear that The Entrada was likely headed for a serious change. In 2017, the protestors met heavy-handed police tactics resulting in 8 arrests; the charges were later dropped. Replacing the fiesta with an "Indigenous Peoples Day" was suggested by some as a solution. After months of negotiation, however, The Entrada itself was dropped from Santa Fe's Fiesta celebration.

Extensive press coverage was key to changing The Entrada aspect of the fiesta. In addition, many local screenings of the documentary film Veiled Lightning, including two screenings at Santa Fe's New Mexico History Museum—once during a Fiesta Symposium held at the Museum two days before the 2017 protests—did much to educate the public and various stakeholders about the real issues surrounding The Entrada controversy, especially from the Native American perspective.[5][6][7][8][9][10]


  1. ^ Lewthwaite, Stephanie (2015). A contested art : modernism and mestizaje in New Mexico. Norman. ISBN 9780806148649. OCLC 904715400.
  2. ^ Wilson, Chris (1997). The myth of Santa Fe : creating a modern regional tradition. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 058536737X. OCLC 47010655.
  3. ^ Horton, Sarah (Fall 2001). "Where is the "Mexican" in "New Mexican"? Enacting History, Enacting Dominance in the Santa Fe Fiesta". The Public Historian. 23 (4): 46. doi:10.1525/tph.2001.23.4.41. JSTOR 10.1525/tph.2001.23.4.41.
  4. ^ Chacón, Daniel J. (September 7, 2016). "On eve of Entrada, director doesn't see what all the fuss is about". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  5. ^ Madeson, Frances (June 3, 2017). "Pueblo Revolt of 1680 Documentary Pressures Santa Fe to Stop Annual Fiesta Entrada". Indian Country Today. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Cantu, Aaron (July 3, 2017). "Entrada Trouble". Santa Fe Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  7. ^ Bennett, Megan (October 13, 2017). "Taking back the narrative". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  8. ^ Last, T.S. (September 9, 2016). "Native rights groups plan protest march for Entrada". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  9. ^ Last, T.S. (September 1, 2017). "Protestors plan to return for Entrada". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  10. ^ Poris, Mia Rose (September 14, 2018). "Impactful film inspires 'monumental' social change". Gallup Sun. Retrieved February 2, 2019.

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