Fi­esta de Santa Fe: A more in­clu­sive event

Santa Fe New Mexican - - OUR VIEW -

The no­tion that Fi­esta de Santa Fe’s La Reina no longer has to be a young, un­mar­ried woman ap­pears at first glance to be a de­par­ture from tra­di­tion.

Ac­tu­ally, the change in rules about who might be el­i­gi­ble to act as La Reina is a re­turn to the role’s ori­gins — the first La Reina was Amelia Sena Sanchez, a well­re­spected, mar­ried woman of Santa Fe. Ac­cord­ing to news re­ports, her crown­ing in 1927 took place on the roof of the Santa Fe Rail­way of­fice across from La Fonda — by the gover­nor, no less.

Af­ter Gov. Richard Dil­lon fin­ished plac­ing the crown on her head, Queen Amelia — wear­ing her mother’s wedding dress — led the grand march around the Plaza, gover­nor in tow.

Ev­i­dently, se­lect­ing a La Reina to rule over fes­tiv­i­ties along­side the star of the show, Don Diego de Var­gas, did not catch on im­me­di­ately. The sec­ond queen did not come along un­til 1933, news re­ports state. That’s when the role of La Reina de Fi­esta de Santa Fe be­came as much a part of the tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties as the se­lec­tion of Don Diego.

For decades, the queen was re­quired to be un­mar­ried — and never mar­ried — with no chil­dren.

No more. The Santa Fe Fi­esta Coun­cil an­nounced last week that it has de­cided to ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties for young women who might want to wear the crown. In the fu­ture, women vy­ing for the role of La Reina can be sin­gle, mar­ried or di­vorced. They still will be fairly young, with the max­i­mum age for La Reina set at 35.

Men who hope to be Don Diego, though, can be as old as 50. That’s the next rule that needs to change, to bring even more eq­uity into com­pe­ti­tions.

We think the Fi­esta Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to change the rules opens up pos­si­bil­i­ties both for the Fi­esta and for women who might en­joy con­tin­u­ing this tra­di­tion.

Adapt­ing to chang­ing times is one way to keep the tra­di­tion alive. Af­ter all, much of what many mod­ern santafesinos hold dear about the ac­tiv­i­ties around Fi­esta — in­clud­ing the pa­rades, the burn­ing of Zo­zo­bra, Don Diego de Var­gas or La Reina and the nowdis­carded En­trada his­tory pageant — are rel­a­tively new ad­di­tions. They did not come along un­til the last 100 years or so.

This Septem­ber, Fi­esta de Santa Fe will be mark­ing its 307th in­car­na­tion.

Wear­ing the crown of La Reina is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity, with the com­peti­tors re­quired to speak Span­ish and English and have a thor­ough un­der­stand­ing of Fi­esta and the his­tory of the Span­ish set­tle­ment of New Mex­ico. There’s much more to the role than sim­ply smil­ing and wav­ing.

In early sum­mer, par­tic­i­pants in both Don Diego’s cuadrilla of men and La Reina’s court take part in a series of pro­ces­sions and Masses over nine days. They visit area churches and the fi­es­tas of other towns in North­ern New Mex­ico through­out the sum­mer months. Then there are vis­its to lo­cal schools, busi­nesses and se­nior cen­ters, bring­ing the joy of Fi­esta along with them.

The Fi­esta, a com­mem­o­ra­tion of the re­turn of colo­nial set­tlers to New Mex­ico af­ter the Pue­blo Re­volt of 1680, be­gan as a trib­ute to the Vir­gin Mary — it was through her in­ter­ces­sion that set­tlers be­lieved they were able to re­turn.

Over the years, the num­ber of peo­ple will­ing to com­pete for the roles of Don Diego or La Reina has de­clined. Mod­ern life is busy, and not all work­places will let peo­ple take time off their jobs to par­tic­i­pate. Mak­ing it pos­si­ble for more peo­ple to be able to take part ex­pands the pool of po­ten­tial can­di­dates. That’s a smart move. Good for the Fi­esta Coun­cil for con­tin­u­ing to make this long-stand­ing tra­di­tion more wel­com­ing.

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