Desiree Roybal, San Ildefonso Pueblo, isn’t the first in her family to serve as the Native Princess. And she hopes she won’t be the last.
The 31-year-old took on the job of representing the Indigenous community on the Fiesta Court at a time when many in the city continue to debate conflicting interpretations of Santa Fe’s history. In an interview with SFR, Roybal says she doesn’t want to get hung up on the past—when the title was “Indian Princess”—preferring instead to look toward a more unified and brighter future.
Ahead of the weekend of festivities, which begin early tomorrow with food, markets and music, SFR sat down with the other members of the Fiesta Court, Doug Nava, Don Diego De Vargas, and Christina Isabel Lovato Perea, La Reina. This interview has been edited for clarity and length
SFR: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I have a 3-year-old daughter. I have an older sister who was Indian Princess, back in 2004. I stay home with my parents and take care of them, as well as my daughter; we go back and forth with her dad. I work as a 12- to 24-month-old teacher. I’ve been working in early childhood education for about seven years now. I love working with kids. It’s a lot of work with a daycare center, taking care of five, six kids by yourself. It’s amazing just to see their faces smiling and laughing, especially the infants, when I work with them, reaching their milestones.
What does it mean to you to serve in this role?
I’m very traditional and into my culture and everything as well. I participate in San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblo as well, and Nambé and Hopi...I participate where all my family’s from...We’re just wanting to bring this all together, from the year , what happened then, those were our ancestors, we’ve moved on from that. We’re just trying to show that we can all work together, be together and be civil with each other.
The Fiestas have been a big part of your family. What is it like to be involved in the ceremonies now, being older?
I was 14 at the time when my sister was the Indian Princess...And that’s how I met Doug, he was part of the court and my sister was there. So I got to know him and we’ve been friends with him since then. We’ve all kept in touch with each other and he asked me, ‘If I do come out as Don Diego, would you please want to do this?’ I have the time now so might as well experience this, and hopefully, you know, my daughter will, down the line, do it as well.
I know some people who had been Indian Princesses in Fiestas where I’m from, so it’s like, oh cool I didn’t know they [participated].
How have Fiestas changed since when your sister was serving as the Native Princess?
I mean, the whole pandemic thing kind of changed everything. The only thing that I’ve noticed is we can’t have all our family there. Everybody’s still the same, everybody still welcomes us in, they protect us, they watch over us and everything like that. We’re all family with the Fiesta and that’s really nice.
What are some of the things you hope the larger Santa Fe community can also get out of Fiestas?
It’s all about celebrating both the Fiestas and Don Diego...and then our people. I hope everybody gets to see that we can all get along with each other and reunite as a whole town, as Santa Fe, because Santa Fe is surrounded by a lot of pueblos and Native communities...We’re doing this together, we’re a family. Anybody else from the surrounding pueblos can do what I’m doing as well and experience this fun, great experience.
What is important for people to know about your role specifically as the Native Princess?
I want everybody to know they’re not excluding us from anything...The past is the past, we’re trying to move on from it, this is the future. Now, with the new generation, we’re just trying to bring everybody together as a whole.
I think we kind of have similarities with Spanish culture. They try to keep their traditions, their language alive, as well as Natives—we’re trying to keep our traditions alive as well as dances...songs and everything like that. So we have a lot in common with them, more than some people think.