As violent protesters ravage Confederate statues across the American South, little attention seems to fall on the Spanish people of Santa Fe, New Mexico, whose rich 325-year history hangs in the balance.
220 years before its statehood in 1912, New Mexico was conquered and governed by Don Diego De Vargas, a devout Spanish conquistador who reclaimed the territory in a mostly bloodless resistance. De Vargas “recognized the effectiveness of diplomacy and personal relations with the Pueblo Indian peoples,” focusing on peace rather than bloodshed in his conquests.
The yearly “Entrada De Don Diego De Vargas” is re-enacted to commemorate the peaceful resettlement of Santa Fe, but this year, attendees heard the voices of bitter “Code Red” protesters alongside the celebratory music and prayer. The self-described “liberat[ors] of Native peoples from capitalism and colonialism” is best known for running the failed campaign against the University of New Mexico’s official seal, trying to brand it a racist artifact towards Native Americans for bearing a conquistador and frontiersman. The UNM Board of Regents dismissed the baseless claim in 2016, voting unanimously to keep it affixed to the University’s diplomas.
Police arrested 12 protesters for trespassing and disorderly conduct at Friday’s Entrada reenactment. Karla Moya, a fifth-generation Santa Fean was at the reenactment, disheartened by the violence. “It’s sad for us because we always viewed Fiestas as a spiritual event and as part of our heritage,” she said. “We understood the history. It happened many years ago, and we learned from history, and we teach our kids that what it was back then is not now.”
On a different note, the unpopular left-wing Santa Fe mayor, Javier Gonzales fueled the fire, thanking the protesters via Twitter for “engag[ing] in tough [conversation],” just days after announcing he will not run for re-election.
For over 300 years, Santa Feans have celebrated the nonviolent victory of Don Diego De Vargas as the crown jewel of Spanish freedom in New Mexico. Just as tearing down Confederate monuments won’t erase the past in the South, protesting an annual celebration of an amicable leader like De Vargas won’t either.
Current political demonstrations have not only created more tension in America, but they have gashed wounds into the side of American ideals. Peaceful protesters like Martin Luther King, Jr. are a sign of the past. Malicious riots now replace noble movements, and childish prattle replaces substantive conversation.
Santa Fe, the “City of Holy Faith” still proudly honors Don Diego De Vargas with a 550-pound bronze statue in his likeness erected at the front of the Cathedral Basilica downtown. Just as his legacy stands firm, so does the memorial despite numerous vandalism attempts.