Que Viva La Espanola: Why the Santa Fe Fiestas aren’t just for the People of Santa Fe
by Steven Eric Lovato
Each year in September, the City of Santa Fe celebrates their Annual Fiestas, in honor of the re-conquest of the city by Conquistador Don Diego de Vargas and the re-entrance of “La Conquistadora”. The festivities are held on the historic plaza, the site of the infamous Pueblo Revolt of 1680. And even though this even is held in Santa Fe, it’s important to understand the connection between us here in the valley and the events that lead to this annual celebration.
It all started in 1625, when “Our Lady of the Rosary” arrived in Santa Fe from Spain in the care of a Franciscan missionary, Fray Alonso da Venevides. She was housed in the original mission at La Parroquia (now the site of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi). During that time, the colonists suffered numerous attacks from raiding natives and the Puebloans under control by the Spanish. Our Lady was a beacon for prayer as the colonists (many from the surround area including here in the Valley) south the Madonna for safe keeping and prosperity.
Our Lady would remain in the city of Santa Fe as the most important religious figure for the Spanish colonists and their catholic faith for the next fifty five years until the events of 1680. During the Pueblo Revolt the native Puebloans destroyed and burned buildings in the city of Santa Fe in an attempt to rid the land of the Spanish. One of those building burnt down was La Parroquia, which housed Our Lady of the Rosary. Fortunately she was rescued from the blazing remains of the Church by the Franciscan priests and joined the refugees in their flight to safety to El Paso. She along with the Spanish would remain out of the city of Santa Fe for the next twelve years.
The time for her re-entrance would arrive in 1692 when Don Diego de Vargas made his entry into the city of Santa Fe, under the banner of Our Lady. His Patron saint. He and his company (along with Our Lady) would hold the city under siege until an agreement by the native Puebloans and the Spanish was made. In a procession, De Vargas, his company and Our Lady would make their entrance into the Plaza. This would signify the re-conquest of Santa Fe and assure power to the Spanish empire once more. This would prompt De Vargas to eventually give Our Lady her new and final title of “La Conquistadora” for her credit in the “bloodless” conquest.
De Vargas would eventually make his way north, to the failed settlement of San Gabriel. Changing the Capital of Nueva España from “San Juan de Los Caballeros” to Santa Fe. He would establish a settlement in the area for the influx of colonists making their way up El Camino Real and the soldiers left to keep the Spanish empire intact. He would name that settlement “Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de los Españoles Mejicanos del Rey Nuestro Señor Carlos Segundo” (The New Villa of Santa Cruz of Mexican Spaniards under the King Our Lord Carlos II) or as we now know it as “Santa Cruz de la Cañada”. In doing so would create a gateway for many Spanish colonist seeking to settle in the new land, including the ancestors of many people who still reside in Santa Fe and here in the Española Valley today.