Santa Fe, N.M.
Annual school visits by Spanish conquistador re-enactors in Santa Fe are being limited under new rules amid criticism their visits whitewashed the violent history of the Spanish conquest of Native Americans in New Mexico.
The Santa Fe school board voted last year to shrink the presence of re-enactors in schools as views of their visit drew more attention, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
The visits had been part of an annual September celebration marking the Spanish re-entry into the city a dozen years after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, when Native American pueblos revolted and expelled Spanish settlers for more than a decade.
But the celebration of the re-enactment of the Spanish retaking Santa Fe has been forced into a major revamp after protest from Native American activists. Under the new rules, conquistador re-enactors can visit New Mexico history students but not all students in schools.
The Fiesta Court group of people who re-enact the event feature colonial Spanish figures including Don Diego de Vargas, La Reina de la Fiesta and others. They have visited schools and danced with children for years. It is a group of people selected to play the re-enactors.
Fiesta Court members dressed in period clothing introduce themselves as historical figures from the entourage of de Vargas, a Spanish conquistador that led the re-conquest of Santa Fe, said Melissa Mascarenas, president of the Fiesta Council that puts on the annual celebration.
“We play a few mariachi songs, do the chicken dance, invite them to Fiesta, and then we leave and move onto the next school,” Mascarenas said. “It’s over pretty fast.”
In the Santa Fe school district, students get New Mexico history lessons throughout the 4th and 7th grades and half of 9th grade.
“Absolutely there is accurate treatment of what happened in New Mexico once the Spanish arrived. That’s critical context for students to understand the Pueblo Revolt and everything after,” said Erica Wheeler, Santa Fe Public Schools social studies coordinator.
She added: “However, these facts are presented in very broad strokes depending on the grade. And when teaching history, certainly for 4th and 7th grade, teaching the skills to be a successful student of history are as important as the content.”
In recent years, the annual visits and re-enactments drew protests and criticism from Native Americans who said the events excluded the pain that indigenous people experienced during colonial Spanish rule.
Organizers of the annual re-enactment of a 17th-century conquistador reclaiming Santa Fe after a Native American revolt they would hold a new ceremony that seeks to include different members of the city’s diverse history.