Of­fended by En­trada, ac­tivists to protest

Or­ga­nizer says com­mu­nity needs to be in­volved in con­ver­sa­tion about Fi­esta

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Daniel J. Chacón

As an­tic­i­pa­tion builds for the an­nual Fi­esta de Santa Fe, a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion that has be­come one of the city’s big­gest cel­e­bra­tions, a cloud of con­tro­versy is once again hang­ing over the fes­tiv­i­ties.

A protest last year that rocked the Fi­esta, ex­pos­ing the city’s com­pli­cated and some­times bloody his­tory, could resur­face as Na­tive Amer­i­can ac­tivists work to stage an­other demon­stra­tion next month.

“Join The Red Na­tion to de­mand an end to the cel­e­bra­tion of the con­tin­ued Geno­cide of Pue­blo peo­ple and all Na­tive peo­ple of New Mex­ico,” a coali­tion of Amer­i­can In­dian ac­tivists and their al­lies posted on the group’s Face­book page. “The Re­con­quista of Santa Fe was not ‘blood­less’ and this mis­con­cep­tion fur­ther erases Na­tive peo­ple and Na­tive re­sis­tance ef­forts. Tell Mayor [Javier] Gon­za­les to abol­ish the fi­es­tas.”

Last year’s demon­stra­tion did not go un­no­ticed. Mayor Javier Gon­za­les called for a “more truth­ful” nar­ra­tive of the city’s his­tory, and two city coun­cilors in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for a sym­po­sium. But the mea­sures drew lit­tle sup­port, and the event was never or­ga­nized.

At the heart of the de­bate is Don Diego de Var­gas, the con­quis­ta­dor who re­claimed the city for the Span­ish crown

af­ter the Pue­blo Re­volt of 1680, and how the Santa Fe Fi­esta Coun­cil and the non­profit Ca­balleros De Var­gas por­tray de Var­gas’ Septem­ber 1692 re­oc­cu­pa­tion of the city dur­ing a re-en­act­ment on the Plaza.

Dur­ing the drama­ti­za­tion, a man por­tray­ing de Var­gas rides onto the Plaza on horse­back ac­com­pa­nied by his cuadrilla, some car­ry­ing the Mar­ian statue La Con­quis­ta­dora, which sur­vived the re­volt and re­turned to the city with de Var­gas. De Var­gas is greeted and wel­comed by a man dressed in Na­tive at­tire who plays the part of Cacique Domingo, the Te­suque Pue­blo gov­er­nor who ne­go­ti­ated for the re­set­tle­ment of Santa Fe.

De­bate over the accuracy of the drama­ti­za­tion — which de­picts a peace­ful event — is not new.

But dur­ing last year’s Fi­esta re-en­act­ment, called the En­trada de Don Diego de Var­gas, a small group of demon­stra­tors am­pli­fied the con­ver­sa­tion when they stood in peace­ful protest and stole the show.

Many of the demon­stra­tors wore black tape over their mouths and black T-shirts with “1680” em­bla­zoned on the front, the year of the Pue­blo Re­volt. They also held home­made signs with mes­sages that in­cluded “In 1693, Don Diego ex­e­cuted 70 war­riors and en­slaved hun­dreds of women and chil­dren” and “Don Diego came in the dark of night.”

They were re­fer­ring to de Var­gas’ re­turn to Santa Fe in De­cem­ber 1693, with a group of sol­diers and set­tlers plan­ning to oc­cupy the city. This time, the Span­ish had to fight to gain con­trol of the city, and af­ter the bat­tle, they pun­ished the Pue­blo peo­ple.

The coun­cil res­o­lu­tion to hold a sym­po­sium be­tween In­dian Mar­ket and the Fi­esta de Santa Fe to of­fer a broader nar­ra­tive of the city’s found­ing faded away af­ter the City Coun­cil’s Fi­nance Com­mit­tee post­poned it Nov. 30. The com­mit­tee voted to take the mat­ter up again in Jan­uary, but that never hap­pened.

“I do not know why it did not come back,” said Coun­cilor Carmichael Dominguez, who chairs the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee. He said he guessed it was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the res­o­lu­tion’s spon­sors to make sure the com­mit­tee re­con­sid­ered it. At the time, coun­cilors on the com­mit­tee were not en­thu­si­as­tic about the pro­posal.

“I think this is an over­re­ac­tion, and I think we’re un­nec­es­sar­ily in­fring­ing on the Santa Fe Fi­esta Coun­cil,” City Coun­cilor Joseph Maes­tas said back then, ac­cord­ing to min­utes of the meet­ing. “They have been do­ing this a long time, and most of the Fi­es­tas have been in­ci­dent-free. … I don’t know what a sym­po­sium would do and what would be the ben­e­fit.”

Coun­cilor Peter Ives, one of the spon­sors, said last week that his mea­sure “ba­si­cally didn’t find much pur­chase at that mo­ment,” but that he’s asked the city’s leg­isla­tive li­ai­son to “dust off the mea­sure,” which he said is more timely to re­con­sider now with the Fi­esta ap­proach­ing. He also said it may be mod­i­fied fol­low­ing a lun­cheon be­tween the mayor and tribal lead­ers last week.

Gon­za­les an­nounced Tuesday af­ter the closed-door and in­vi­ta­tion-only meet­ing that he had bro­kered face-to-face talks be­tween mem­bers of Te­suque Pue­blo, the Fi­esta Coun­cil and Ca­balleros De Var­gas “to be­gin a long over­due con­ver­sa­tion about the Santa Fe Fi­es­tas and the chal­lenges we are fac­ing go­ing for­ward.”

Te­suque Pue­blo Gov. Fredrick Vigil did not re­turn a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment.

Jes­sica Eva Mon­toya, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of last year’s protest, said the com­mu­nity needs to be in­volved in the con­ver­sa­tion. “We’re hav­ing these meetings be­hind closed doors, when that’s ex­actly how these treaties were signed. That’s ex­actly how Na­tive Amer­i­can peo­ple were taken ad­van­tage of, be­hind closed doors,” she said.

“If we had this pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion with the en­tire com­mu­nity present, maybe peo­ple wouldn’t feel so an­gry any­more,” added Mon­toya, who com­peted for the role of Fi­esta queen in 2008 but served as a princessa.

Her in­ten­tion in or­ches­trat­ing last year’s protest was to peace­fully draw at­ten­tion to the in­jus­tices in the Fi­esta cel­e­bra­tion, she said: “I wanted it to be­come more in­clu­sive. I wanted to en­hance it.”

But now the op­po­si­tion is out of her hands, Mon­toya said. “I don’t have any more con­trol over it. There’s peo­ple who are way more en­raged than I am. … I fu­eled the fire that, unfortunately, prob­a­bly will not be able to be put out this year or next year or even the year af­ter that. This is go­ing to be a con­tin­u­ous con­ver­sa­tion for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

In a tele­phone in­ter­view with The New Mex­i­can, Gon­za­les said he didn’t push for a meet­ing be­tween Fi­esta or­ga­niz­ers and tribal lead­ers sooner be­cause he didn’t want to im­pose an in­vi­ta­tion “that would be viewed as some­thing that nei­ther side was ready for in terms of the di­a­logue.”

Gon­za­les said Te­suque tribal mem­bers only re­cently ex­pressed a de­sire to meet with the Fi­esta Coun­cil and Ca­balleros De Var­gas. The tribe’s is­sues with the Fi­esta are “driven by many years of feel­ing that the whole story hasn’t nec­es­sar­ily been told,” he said.

“I have ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion that there will be a very open and will­ing ef­fort on both sides to lis­ten to one an­other and to ex­plore where we can find res­o­lu­tion,” added Gon­za­les, who at the age of 21 por­trayed de Var­gas.

Dr. Matthew Martinez, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of Pue­blo In­dian Stud­ies at North­ern New Mex­ico Col­lege in Es­pañola, said hon­esty will be key to a Fi­esta cel­e­bra­tion in Santa Fe that doesn’t of­fend Amer­i­can In­di­ans.

“The way the cur­rent En­trada is con­ducted is of­fen­sive, not only to Amer­i­can In­di­ans, but a bla­tant lie to all peo­ple and cul­tures in­volved,” said Martinez, who was born and raised in Ohkay Owingeh, a pue­blo north of Es­pañola. “The pre­dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive of a blood­less re­con­quest erases our an­ces­tors — His­pano and Pue­blo — who fought to pro­tect the in­tegrity and their way of life.”

New Mex­ico has a vi­o­lent past that in­cludes re­li­gious per­se­cu­tions and an ex­ten­sive slave trade, he said. “It is pos­si­ble to con­duct a Fi­esta cel­e­bra­tion that is truth­ful to all sides that does not buy into a false ro­man­tic past that never ex­isted.”

Mike Mil­li­gan, pres­i­dent of the Fi­esta Coun­cil, said the group “has noth­ing to do with the En­trada.”

“It’s all up to the Ca­balleros,” he said. “We just give them an hour of time to put it on at the stage, and that’s the only thing that we have to do with that.”

But Mil­li­gan de­fended the accuracy of the En­trada, say­ing it re­flects a mo­ment of peace be­tween the Spa­niards and Na­tive peo­ple. “We are not cel­e­brat­ing 400 years,” he said. “We are cel­e­brat­ing that one day in 1692.”

Joe Mier, pres­i­dent of the Ca­balleros De Var­gas, did not re­turn mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

Manuel Gar­cia, chair­man of the Ca­balleros’ En­trada com­mit­tee, said in an email Satur­day, “Mayor Javier Gon­za­les has in­vited the Ca­balleros De Var­gas to meet with the Pue­blo Lead­ers. The Ca­balleros De Var­gas gra­ciously ac­cepted this in­vi­ta­tion as we look for­ward to the dis­cus­sions and work­ing with the Pue­blo Lead­ers. To the best of our knowl­edge the time and place for the meet­ing has yet to be set.”

While his­to­ri­ans agree that de Var­gas re­claimed the city in 1692 with­out any blood­shed, he did so, as former state his­to­rian Robert J. Tor­rez wrote, “uti­liz­ing a mas­ter­ful mix of diplo­macy and a not so sub­tle threat of a siege.”

When de Var­gas re­turned a year later, the en­counter with the In­di­ans was any­thing but peace­ful. On Dec. 29, 1693, a bat­tle for the city be­gan. The next morn­ing, de Var­gas and his In­dian al­lies emerged tri­umphant. In reprisal, de Var­gas or­dered ev­ery war­rior who had fought against the Spa­niards — 70 in all — ex­e­cuted by fir­ing squad. The 400 who had sur­ren­dered vol­un­tar­ily, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, were di­vided up among the colonists and sen­tenced to 10 years of servi­tude.

Mil­li­gan said “there’s no doubt” there was vi­o­lence and blood­shed.

“But when de Var­gas came in and made his prom­ise, it was peace­ful that day,” he said. “What hap­pened be­fore and what hap­pened af­ter was hor­ri­ble, as far as his­tory has it. I mean, it’s hor­ri­ble what’s hap­pen­ing in our coun­try to­day, but his­tory is his­tory, and the En­trada is that one point, that one time pe­riod, and the prom­ise de Var­gas made to Our Lady [La Con­quis­ta­dora].”

La Con­quis­ta­dora — the early 1600s wooden Span­ish Madonna that de Var­gas vowed to re­turn to the city — is cen­tral to the Fi­esta cel­e­bra­tion. De Var­gas had prayed the novena to the Mar­ian statue, of­ten deemed the old­est in the na­tion, ask­ing for a peace­ful re­set­tle­ment. He promised an an­nual cel­e­bra­tion in her honor. This is why the early morn­ing and early evening nove­nas are still prayed to­day dur­ing the Fi­esta.

Alexis Brown, who par­tic­i­pated in last year’s protest, said the group wanted to “re­spect­fully raise aware­ness around the false nar­ra­tive” re­peated at the En­trada ev­ery year.

“They be­lieve in­clud­ing a few Na­tive peo­ples [in the Fi­esta court] is ad­e­quate, but we be­lieve the en­tire story needs to be ad­justed to re­flect more of what truly hap­pened and the long­stand­ing im­pact the con­quest has had on the peo­ple in this state,” she wrote in a state­ment.

Brown, a Santa Fe na­tive who is Scot­tish and Choctaw, said the nar­ra­tive “needs to be his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate.”

“Un­less the Fi­esta Coun­cil and Ca­balleros do some­thing, they can ex­pect that actions will hap­pen again, and they will be­come more overt and in their face,” she said.

Con­tact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dcha­con@ sfnewmex­i­can.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @danieljcha­con.

CLYDE MUELLER NEW MEX­I­CAN FILE PHOTO

Jes­sica Eva Mon­toya protests on the Plaza dur­ing the 2015 Fi­esta de Santa Fe. The pro­test­ers are plan­ning to hold a sim­i­lar demon­stra­tion next month.

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