After months of closed-door, invitation-only meetings, representatives of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council, City of Santa Fe, local Catholic church and Native leaders emerged with a big announcement: The public Entrada pageant on the Plaza would not be a part of the 2018 Fiestas and would be replaced by a new event. Statements from those who participated in the process were full of words like "reconciliation" and "harmony." Although designated group spokesman Regis Pecos declined to interview with SFR as the news broke, his canned message on Aug. 29 included the sentence, "We listened to one another, we learned from one another." What follows are commentaries from other members of the community.
In March 2015, a drunken white man named Christian Englander threw a banana onstage at a concert by the popular black comedian, Dave Chapelle. The feelings aroused by the incident inspired “Unpeeling Racism” a ground-breaking public forum at Warehouse 21. I numbered among the panelists.
Later that year, local activists (some who attended “Unpeeling Racism”) launched renewed protests against the Entrada reenactment at the annual Fiesta.
The Warehouse 21 panel discussion wasn’t limited to a single incident involving a comedian, a banana, and an unfunny racist stereotype. It was an attempt to “break the ice” unraveling the long, long history of silence and cultural intolerance in Santa Fe.
A portion of my commentary was paraphrased in the Santa Fe New Mexican: “Wellington said that he is surprised that old traditions such as Fiesta de Santa Fe haven’t become more inclusive to all cultures. “
But perhaps the belated and overdue sea-change has finally begun to happen.
Initially, when I critiqued the Fiesta at the “Unpeeling Racism” panel event, I felt intimidated doing it because I was arguably “an outsider” I moved to Santa Fe six years ago, relocating from South Carolina where I had cut my teeth confronting Southern racism. However, I knew this. The Entrada at the Fiesta de Santa Fe was a hopelessly discouraging anachronism. Its historical bias, its facile pageantry, its disingenuousness, and its insult ( to all citizens, but to Native Americans in particular) could be the rough equivalent of continuing to call “Gone with the Wind” an accurate reenactment of slavery and Civil War history.
Before speaking up, I had been advised “don’t open that can of worms” or heard intransigent defenses of the Entrada (sometimes stated in very un-politically correct language) often enough to know that there was more division inside the tri-cultural community (which by the way includes other cultures) than was openly admitted. I also knew that numberless Native Americans, Anglos, and, yes, Hispanics agreed with me. The problem wasn’t that sufficient numbers of Santa Feans weren’t “woke” enough. The problem was that the much-regaled “Tri-cultural” community was entrenched in three-way silences.
My (probably timid) deconstruction of the Entrada was well-received. I recall that Mayor Javier Gonzales tweeted his support for reforming the Fiesta. The primary credit for ending the egregious Entrada reenactment belongs to the demonstrators who turned out in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
I would also like to congratulate the Fiesta Council, the Pueblo Govenors, and all those who have helped bring us to this moment at a crossroads.
The 2018 Entrada will be replaced by a community prayer gathering followed by a month-long series of events that “invite the people of Santa Fe to join in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue.”
The future, I suspect — as traditional Santa Fe belatedly enters the 21st century — will be characterized by conflicts between voices that want to restrict the transformational dialogue to celebrations of tri-cultural unity, as opposed to voices that encourage deeper investigations of the history of social, political, and economic injustice in New Mexico, the stories of the powerful and the powerless.
The voices calling to broaden, and deepen the discussion will usually be right.
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet, critic and activist in Santa Fe.
When Jason Jaime Lucero, the Fiesta Council's 2013 Don Diego De Vargas, played the Fiesta Song at a recent School Board meeting my heart leapt in my chest, as it always does, and seemed to beat in time with the clapping. Soon I was smiling and tapping my feet to the music. That's what happens whenever I hear the Fiesta Song. Images flood in – dancing feet, swirling dresses, friendly faces, fireworks, food booths, the Plaza Bandstand, light-up toys, and the concrete gym at EJ Martinez… the time, in fourth grade, when a handsome conquistador asked me to dance in the Fiesta Court assembly. That was 1984.
At a School Board meeting last month, community members spoke for several hours about the idea of limiting Fiesta Court visits to schools. My vivid happy memories were one part of the evening. So were the calls from Native Americans to end the painful reminders of conquest. Plus, I felt battered by the anger and shouting, and by hearing 'Go back to where you came from,' when people who were not born here spoke. There were also frequent reminders about 'a promise made and a promise kept.' There were speeches about the importance of culture and about fears of losing it.
In the end, I voted for the recommendations of the Equity and Diversity Task Force, a group of diverse people brought together by the Santa Fe Public Schools. I trusted that their work to develop recommendations on Fiesta Court school visits was good, certainly better than what could be devised over a few emotional hours in a School Board meeting. I believe that their consideration of many facts and many options, over a process lasting six months, had created a good proposal.
Since then, I learned about the ceremony which will replace the Entrada, the result of months of discussion and process. Again, it is the work of diverse and thoughtful people. Maybe it could be better, everything always can be, but I trust in the work of these community members who did their best and worked together. It's not perfect, but it's probably progress.
History and tradition are living things, evolving at every moment in time. We need to actively and thoughtfully shape them with clear intent for a better community, for greater inclusion, and for constant progress. We need to continue to ask how we can heal the wounds of the past, and even those of the present. We must continue to listen and be thoughtful. So, let's talk with each other, get ideas from the kids, learn from the elders, talk about how we can continue to improve our community celebration of fiesta, saving the best of what went before, and finding new ways to be a strong community.
Kate Noble is a native Santa Fean and member of the school board.
It has been widely disseminated that this September, during the Fiestas de Santa Fe, the Entrada will not be performed on the Plaza. That bastion of a bygone racist era and tribute to rapists, murderers and thieves will finally be put to rest. That pageant, created by white men to promote tourism, but widely held as a “Hispanic tradition” is ending. And yet, the Fiesta Court, led by Don Diego and his Queen have been parading around Santa Fe for the last several weeks, spreading their message of conquest and Spanish supremacy. And they are still in our schools.
This mythologizing of a non-existent Eurocentric ideal; this Spanish identity seemingly devoid of 300 years of cultural exchange, intermarriage and immigration is still alive and well. Absent truth and acceptance, nothing has changed. What have we learned and where do we go from here?
For the past three years, indigenous activists and our allies had gathered to protest this genocide parade. After the protest of 2017, after numerous civil rights violations, eight arrests and the largest militarized police presence ever seen in downtown Santa Fe (aside from the Secret Service), various leaders and stakeholders gathered to determine what to do about the Entrada. This well-meaning group gathered in secret throughout the year, to decide the fate of this celebration of settler colonialism. Since the meetings were closed, we have only the media reports of who was present. Based on those reports, the gathering was 99 percent male. None of the activists who fought so hard for this change were included. None of the students or parents who suffered the presence of the Fiesta Court in SFPS were included. None of the indigenous women who put their bodies on the line in 2017 were included. Our voices were silenced.
Last month, the SFPS Board voted in favor of only allowing the Fiesta Court to visit grades 4, 7, and 9, student that are studying New Mexico History. They fail to recognize however, that many of these students are too young to understand the reason behind the Fiesta Court visits, and thus, conditioning them to believe the lies that are being celebrated.
The City of Santa Fe, Los Caballeros de Vargas and the Fiesta Council attempted to silence us on September 8, 2017. We were not silent. We will never be silent again. Our demands were not met by this current resolution. The celebration of conquest must end. Any vestige of the conquistadors must be removed from SFPS.
For the last few months, we have been attacked on social media and called out in public places as “outsiders”; as not being “from Santa Fe.” As indigenous people, all of this land is our homeland. Our ancestors have been here for millennia. How can we be outsiders on our own land?
We do not need to celebrate the past; we carry the past with us. Our lives are rooted in the land where our ancestors emerged. What we do, we do for the love of our people, the love of our land and our desire for peace.
Elena Oritz-Junes grew up in Santa Fe and is a member of Okhay Owingeh Pueblo.