The 300th anniversary of the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico has set off an uproar among Hispanics and Pueblo Indians over how that event should be remembered and portrayed.
The quarrel centers around the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, which mixes religion with secular celebrations and a pageant portraying the Spanish return to the area in 1692.At the urging of Indian leaders and Roberto Sanchez, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Santa Fe, the fiesta's militaristic aspects have been toned down for this year's edition, which begins Sept. 11.
In July, Sanchez renamed the patroness of Santa Fe, a small statue of the Virgin Mary that the Spanish brought here in 1693, "Our Lady of Peace." It had been called "La Conquistadora," literally "Lady Conqueror."
The Spanish platoon this year will enter the city plaza on foot rather than horseback and will not wear heavy armor or sabers. And the conquistadors will be greeted by a company of Pueblo dancers.
"1992 has been the year for such changes to take place because it's happening all over the country. We're trying to correct history," said Joe Savilla, director of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe's Office of Indian Ministry.
The changes were prompted by controversy over a documentary, filmed during the 1990 Fiesta and released this year, that showed Pueblo participants reacting angrily as Pueblos were portrayed by non-Indians wearing costumes of Plains Indians. The costumes have since been changed.
But the review of tradition has prompted some controversy of its own.
Many Hispanics objected to renaming the saint, saying the name La Conquistadora was never used in a militaristic way, but to signify the conquest and unification of hearts.
"I've talked to a lot of Spanish people," said Johnny Valdes, who portrayed Spanish leader Gen. Don Diego de Vargas in the 1943 pageant. "They say they will call her the Lady of Peace, or whatever, but it will always be La Conquistadora."
Meanwhile, Pueblo Indians from the Rio Grande Valley say the changes didn't go far enough to erase the pageant's traditional portrayal of them as less-than-human savages.
"If Fiesta is going to continue, it needs to be historically correct," said Herman Agoyo, governor of San Juan Pueblo and past chairman of the All Indian Pueblo Council. "If Fiesta is a celebration of the reconquest of Santa Fe and the Pueblo people, I think of it in totally different terms."
The Spanish first settled what is now New Mexico in the late 1500s, and established their capital at Santa Fe in 1610. The settlers tried to quash native religions and treated the Pueblos like serfs.
The Indians rebelled in 1680, killing many Spaniards and sending the rest fleeing to what is now El Paso, Texas.
In 1692, de Vargas approached Santa Fe, hoping to persuade the Pueblos to let the settlers return peacefully. Thinking a deal had been struck, he returned the next year with 70 families, only to find hostile Pueblos had not vacated the city.
More than 20 Spanish settlers died that cold winter before de Vargas finally attacked Santa Fe. After a bloody battle, de Vargas hanged dozens of Indians.