294th Santa Fe Fiesta - Like many things in Santa Fe, Fiesta represents something old, time-honored and sacred. It is also about fun, food, music and just a little weirdness. Originally begun in 1712 to commemorate the return of the Spanish to Santa Fe in 1692 after 12 years of exile following the Pueblo Revolt, Fiesta has both grown and remained true to its cultural roots. This year Fiesta will be celebrated from September 2-10 with a long calendar of activities. During the week there will be arts and craft fairs, religious processions led by the oldest Madonna in the U.S., La Conquistadora, the burning of Zozobra (a 40 foot tall paper effigy known as 'Old Man Gloom), the Children's Pet Parade, Mariachi concerts, melodrama performances, the Fiesta Ball, the Historical Hysterical parade, an audience with the Fiesta Queen, endless food and music under the Gazebo on the Plaza and general revelry throughout town. Underlying all of the festivities is a celebration of thanksgiving that the first Fiesta represented. This is the country's oldest continuously celebrated community
The cry of "Viva la Fiesta" has been reverberating through the streets of Old Santa Fe every autumn for 294 years. The sound generates a curious blend of thanksgiving, revelry and pride in the hearts of Santa Feans who celebrate Fiesta annually to commemorate Don Diego De Vargas' peaceful reoccupation of the City of Holy Faith in 1692.
The historic capital is one of the oldest in the United States. It was established by Don Juan de Oñate at San Gabriel in 1598 and moved over 30 miles south to the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where Santa Fe was founded in 1610. In 1680 the Indians revolted, burned the city and drove out the Spanish colonists, who fled to Guadalupe del Paso, now Juarez, Mexico. They rescued from the burning church the 29-inch wood carved Marian statue, La Conquistadora, originally brought to Santa Fe in 1625 by the missionary, Fray Alonso de Benavides.
Twelve years later, the King of Spain appointed Don Diego De Vargas to join the exiles in Guadalupe del Paso and organize a campaign for the resettlement of Santa Fe. He accomplished this difficult and remarkable mission without bloodshed on September 4, 1692. In December of the next year, the Indians resisted when De Vargas returned from a trip to recruit more colonists, so he set up an encampment outside the city near the present site of the Rosario Chapel. The anxious colonist placed La Conquistadora on a makeshift altar and implored her to intercede for the successful re-entry into the town. Before the end of December 1693, De Vargas led his triumphant forces back into the City of the Holy Faith where La Conquistadora was likely enshrined temporarily in the Palace chapel. Crediting the Madonna's intercession with his victory, De Vargas is said to have vowed restoration of her throne in the parish church built by Fray Benavides in 1692 and destroyed by the Indians in 1680. The General De Vargas died on April 4, 1704 without achieving this goal.
Eight years after the death of De Vargas, Lt. Governor Paez Hurtado who had been one of this Captains and a close friend, influenced city officials to draft a proclamation for an annual celebration commemorating the peaceful 1692 resettlement. The 1712 proclamation establishing the first Fiesta de Santa Fe, was signed by Governor Marquez de La Peñuela. The document specified a mass, vespers, and a sermon, thus setting the religious tone still characterizing modern fiestas. La Conquistadora is among the most venerated Marian figures in the world. She was crowned in 1954 by Cardinal Francis Spellman and again in 1960 by an apostolic representative of Pope John XXIII. Her golden crown is studded with precious stones, including a three-carat diamond. Her extensive wardrobe includes an exquisite lace mantilla from Sevilla Spain and an elaborate costume fashioned from ancient French vestments found in the old Cathedral museum. They appear to be of the secular and American periods of Bishop Lamy's clergy.
And so it is that La Conquistadora, a conqueror of hearts, and De Vargas, a conquistador of the new world, join forces to inspire our unique and enduring celebration, la Fiesta de Santa Fe, a time of prayer, rejoicing and hospitality for all.
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