On the Ground at the Santa Fe Fiesta

by  Alexandra Pecci | Sep 14, 2016

While Massachusetts Puritans spent the year 1692 hysterically accusing each other of witchcraft, Santa Fe was making history of its own when Don Diego de Vargas, the Spanish governor of colonial New Mexico, led the retaking of the city of Santa Fe from the Pueblo Indians. Since 1712, the city has celebrated that event with the Santa Fe Fiesta, one of the country’s oldest civic celebrations, which took place last weekend.

Here's a photo tour of the weekend's festivities.

The celebration takes place on the Santa Fe Plaza, the city’s main square, and mashes up Spanish, Mexican, Puebloan, and modern New Mexican cultures with parades, pageants, performances, religious services, mariachi music, arts and crafts, and even the Burning Man-esque Burning of Zozobra, all amidst cries of “Viva la Fiesta!” As his name suggests, the giant marionette embodies gloom; by burning him, people destroy the worries and troubles of the previous year in the flames.

Desfile de Los Niños (Pet Parade) is an annual tradition that started in the 1920s. About 2,000 children dress up in costumes and march in a parade, with thousands of locals and tourists cheering and looking on. The event culminates with an awards ceremony on the historic Plaza de Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Fiesta 2015 / H.-L. LOVATO

Santa Fe Fiesta 2015 / H.-L. LOVATO

If Santa Fe’s unofficial color palette is made up of Georgia O’Keeffe’s rusty, high desert pinks, then its unofficial taste and smell is that of roasted chile peppers in the fall. During Fiesta Weekend, food booths circle the Santa Fe Plaza, bringing the city’s love affair with chiles and fried foods to a delicious zenith.

Green chili cheeseburger / Facebook

Get a taste of New Mexican history with local favorites, including roasted pork chop with green chile on a tortilla; Indian Tacos, a southwestern riff that substitutes the typical corn tortilla for fried Indian bread; Frito pie, which combines chili and cheese with the eponymous corn chips (stop in at the Five & Dime General Store on Santa Fe Plaza, which serves its pie right in the Frito bag); and the green chile cheese burger -- the bright, spicy bite of green chile is a perfect foil to the meaty, salty richness of cheeseburgers.

Wash all that salty, spicy, fried stuff down with a refreshing agua fresca, a cold, sweet blend of water, pureed fruit, and sugar. Try flavors like strawberry, mango, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

For more information on Santa Fe food and culture, and for dates for next year's festival, check out santafefiesta.org and santafe.org.

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