Amidst all the changes to events over the last year, the Santa Fe Fiesta Council made a quiet, yet significant, amendment to the requirements for those applying for the role of La Reina—Don Diego De Vargas’ Fiesta Court counterpart in the festivities that begin Friday with the early-morning mass at Rosario Chapel and move to the Plaza for food, music and dancing.
In years past, La Reina could not be married or have children, Aaron Garcia, president of the Fiesta Council, tells SFR. “With it being the 309th Fiesta de Santa Fe, our council has come together to evolve with what’s going on currently,” Garcia tells SFR. “We changed our policy and bylaws in the application process,” expanding who could qualify.
Though the application still has some restrictions, candidates must be between the ages of 21 and 35 and “be of Spanish descent and have a Spanish surname,” the Fiesta website says.
The council announced Christina Isabel Lovato Perea, 35, as this year’s La Reina. SFR spoke with La Reina Perea, and the other members of the Fiesta court to learn about what makes this year unique.
SFR: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, Christina?
Christina Isabel Lovato Perea: I was born here in Santa Fe; I was raised in Glorieta, New Mexico. I’m the outreach bureau chief for [Public Employees Retirement Association]. I’ve been there for almost three years and in state government for close to 10 years. I’m a very proud mother. That’s one thing that’s definitely different about this year, in this role in that I am the first mother and married Reina. And so that’s something I’m very proud of. I have three beautiful daughters. And I’m married to my husband, who’s a City of Santa Fe firefighter.
Why is it important for you to represent mothers?
It’s a huge commitment, being La Reina, and I think in the past, they were worried that it would take away time with children or families. The great thing about now, I think that’s the modern woman these days—she can do everything. And she doesn’t let anybody underestimate a woman. You could be a full-time mom, you could be a full-time employee, you could still pursue your passions without having to take time away from your family...I have a lot of support. I have my husband, I have my mother, my in-laws. So it’s a family affair.
I’m a New Mexico Spanish artist, a music artist. We’ve already been used to being on the road as a family going to perform at different events. So that’s the great thing is that I’ve been able to include my family in all of this, and they get to know more about our history and our traditions.
I’m so thankful that they have changed the rules. And honestly, this was the last year I could do it. And so I made it a priority, once they changed the rules before COVID.
Growing up in Santa Fe and being part of this tradition, what does it mean to be at the center of the Fiestas?
It really is a dream come true. My parents definitely raised us in Fiestas, and just being able to experience all of it in a different light, as opposed to seeing it from the outside. Having my daughters with me to experience it firsthand, it’s just amazing. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. And I’m lucky that I get to do it for two terms, so now I get to experience just a little taste of it now, and then be able to experience everything at the beginning of next year is even more of a dream.
Usually it starts earlier in the year, but because of COVID things were a little bit delayed, and so they didn’t want to take away some time for the current Reina and Don Diego. That’s why they gave them two terms.
I think what makes it even more special is that I got to really dig deep into the history behind it, and really just come out with more of an appreciation for our Lady of Peace, also known as La Conquistadora. I think it’s just even more special for me now being a mother, that I have embraced who she is, and it’s really helped me be a better mother and a stronger woman.
Do you think the Santa Fe community has an accurate understanding of Fiestas?
I think for the most part people, if they really have been involved in Fiestas for years, they do know that it’s really because of ‘A promise made and a promise kept.’ It really just honors the peaceful union La Conquistadora helped with. I think that’s where Doug [Nava, Don Diego De Vargas] and myself this year and next year really have the opportunity, as well as [Desiree Roybal, the Native Princess], to go out there and educate everybody that it really is about that peaceful union that happened in 1692.
SFR publishes a Q & A with Desiree Roybal tomorrow.