A favorite time of year is here! The clement autumn weather is perfect, and the local festivities remind us of how rich and grounded the City Different is in its fascinating history and culture.

One of the oldest capitals in the United States, this colonial city originated with a settlement at San Gabriel founded by Don Juan de Onate in 1598, then was moved to the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1610 and formally named La Villa Real de Santa Fe. In 1680, a Pueblo Indian revolt drove the Spanish colonists on a long march back to Guadalupe del Paso, now Juarez, Mexico. The Spanish survivors managed to rescue the wood carved statue of La Conquistadora, brought to Santa Fe in 1625 and still ensconced in our Cathedral.

La Conquistadora in her Cathedral Home

Twelve years later, the King of Spain appointed Don Diego De Vargas to lead the exiles in Guadalupe del Paso on a campaign up north to reclaim and resettle Santa Fe. The endeavor was managed without bloodshed on September 4, 1692, although the Indians again put up resistance when De Vargas returned from a re-provisioning trip down south. On his return, he camped outside the city near the present site of the Rosario Chapel. He prayed to La Conquistadora for her help to re-enter the town, triumphing before year’s end in December 1693. Don Diego pledged to restore her to her throne in the parish church , but he died in 1704 without achieving this goal.

In 1712, city officials drafted a proclamation for an annual celebration to commemorate the peaceful 1692 resettlement. Fiesta de Santa Fe then became a civic reality, with specifications for a mass, vespers, and a sermon. For the last 300 years, La Conquistadora and Don De Vargas, her new-world conquistador, have inspired a unique and enduring hometown celebration.

This week shows off a panoply of Fiesta events, although on the local level the celebration began months ago, when the Fiesta Queen, La Reina, and her court, the Quadrilla, were selected.  Having visited schools, churches and senior centers over the course of the year, the court is ready to appear in full regalia.

The 2012 Fiesta Quadrilla

The Concierto de Mariachi takes place on Wednesday, September 5, with two performances, at 10am and 2pm at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. On Wednesday evening at 6pm, State Historian Rick Hendricks examines the complex political landscape of 17th Century New Mexico in a fascinating lecture at the New Mexico History Museum.

On Thursday, September 6, a dour phantasm comes to life for one brief evening, as we burn the 50-ft puppet, Zozobra, familiarly known as Old Man Gloom, repository of the year’s disappointments. Taking place at Fort Marcy Park, entertainment on the field begins at 3pm, but the conflagration does not occur until dark. NOT an event for agoraphobics, the faint of heart or young children.

Zozobra! Photo courtesy of Tobias Roybal, all rights reserved

The official opening of Fiesta takes place on Friday, September 7 at 6am, with the Pregón de la Fiesta. The faithful of Santa Fe gather at Rosario Chapel, where the presiding Mayor of Santa Fe issues the formal proclamation declaring the start of the annual festivity.

From Friday, September 7 through Sunday, September 9, there’ll be food, music and dance all day on the Santa Fe Plaza, with officials from the city, state and county co-celebrating the party commencing at 12noon. And on Friday the 7th, at 2pm on the Plaza, you can witness a re-enactment of the entry of General Don Diego de Vargas and his Cuadrilla in September 1692.

The Desfile de Los Ninos, the annual Pet Parade, takes place on Saturday, September 8 at 9am. This is truly one of the most amusing events of Fiesta, at which you can laugh at a lizard dressed in tiny little conquistador outfit or admire two adorable young ladies dolled up as Fiesta Barbies. The parade route begins across the street from the Inn in the parking lot of the New Mexico School for the Arts and winds down Palace Avenue to Grant Avenue, up to Marcy Street and down to the Plaza where the winners are announced.

Desfile de Los Ninos

La Sociedad Folklorica sponsors a Fiesta Fashion Show on Saturday, September 8 at 3pm at the James A. Little Theatre. La Merienda features vintage clothing from the society’s collection of traditional and antique dresses, and members of the society, along with their daughters and granddaughters, will be modeling the unique fashions.  And fashion will be at the forefront at the Gran Baile de la Fiesta, a beloved tradition for over a century. Held in honor of the Fiesta royalty, the Gran Baile takes place at 7:30pm at the Convention Center, and attire will run the gamut from a queen’s robes to those of a monk and everything in between.

The last day of Fiesta, Sunday, September 9th, begins with a walk in the footsteps of New Mexico’s ancestors as they process with La Conquistadora from the Palace of the Governors to the historic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.  Arrival at the Cathedral is followed by a 10am pontifical mass officiated by the Archbishop of Santa Fe, an inspiring celebration with traditional music, a Native American dance prayer, mariachis and the full Fiesta Court.

The French Tower of Bishop Lamy

Sunday’s showcase event is the Desfile de La Gente, beginning at 12:30pm, a popular parade with high school  bands, mariachis, sports teams, queens, floats, and politicians of every color, all of whom eventually end up on the Plaza. Known colloquially as the Historical/Hysterical Parade, this is always a lively local anything-goes event.

The official closing ceremonies of Fiesta take place at 5:15pm on the Plaza, and are followed by a solemn procession to the Cross of the Martyrs on the Paseo de Peralta beginning with mass at 7pm at the Cathedral. Participants wend their candle-lit way through the historic downtown, up the hill to the cross where the small vigil bonfires known as luminarias will be seen flickering in the dark.

The Cross of the Martyrs

Come join us for the fun – VIVAN LAS FIESTAS DE SANTA FE!