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Wester weighs in: Entrada needs to change

October 10, 2017 GMT

Catholic Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe said Monday that changes to the Entrada must be made, recognizing the annual re-enactment of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas’ reconquest of the city in 1692 has ignited raucous protests during the religious-based Fiesta de Santa Fe two years in a row.

“From my point of view, it has to,” Wester said in an interview with The New Mexican. “Obviously, there are parts of it that are difficult for some people — for many people, I would say — and so we need to look at that.”

Wester’s comments came as the city of Santa Fe announced Monday on Indigenous Peoples Day new talks with the archdiocese and the All Pueblo Council of Governors in a bid to resolve tensions surrounding the Entrada.

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The group that actually stages the Entrada, the Caballeros de Vargas, was unaware of such a meeting.

“Nobody’s reached out,” said Thomas Baca, who took over Saturday as president of the religious fraternity.

Baca said Los Caballeros has discussed meeting with as many pueblo governors as possible before next year’s Entrada to try to make the annual pageant “better and more inclusive” and “to find out what we’re doing that’s making it so offensive.”

The planned meeting between the city, church and tribal leaders follows the passage of a resolution last month by the All Pueblo Council of Governors calling for “a respectful and principled deliberative dialogue guided by our core values to address these matters and work to define a process for genuine reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past and celebrate the beauty of our respective cultures, traditions and peoples.”

“As Pueblo leaders, we must come to terms in addressing these issues or run the risk that these matters escalate into a regrettable set of circumstances that innocent people are victimized and traumatized as recently reflected in the overreaction of law enforcement with a full militaristic response to reopen the wounds that have taken many generations to heal,” the resolution states, referring to the city of Santa Fe’s beefed-up police presence during last month’s Entrada.

Dozens of demonstrators descended on the Santa Fe Plaza this year to protest the Entrada, chanting and jeering, as some of the more than 180 police officers patrolling the event tried to corral protesters into a “free speech zone.”

Officers arrested eight people, including one of the event’s organizers, who faces felony charges for allegedly striking two officers with a sign.

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In response to the arrests and the city’s handling of the Estrada demonstration, about two dozen people marched from Cathedral Park to the Plaza during the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.

Though the crowd was sedate, arriving as dignitaries took the stage in the gazebo, the march was a challenge to what organizers viewed as an effort by the city to shut Native activists out of the Entrada.

Some marchers on Monday wore T-shirts with the slogan “Where is your free speech zone? Everywhere.”

“We shouldn’t be minimized, put into a box,” said Autumn Billie, one of the march’s organizers.

During the event, Mayor Javier Gonzales said “one day of celebration is not enough, but it’s a start.”

In an interview, Gonzales said tribal leaders’ request to meet with him and the archibishop is “a sign of recognizing that the Entrada, in its current state, is causing pain.”

“I feel very optimistic that they have spoken,” said Gonzales, who called for a “more truthful” narrative of the city’s history after a protest of the 2015 Entrada.

“This is the culmination of three years of work that I’ve wanted to try and seek out their participation on, and I’m honored and humbled that they’ve agreed to do this and to do so through a proclamation that very clearly lays out some of the concerns and some of their requests,” he said.

Wester, the archbishop, said he will push to “get rid of any of those signs or symbols that cause pain for any of the cultures.”

“I want this to be something that’s grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed reconciliation and peace and forgiveness,” he said. “I’m going to say, ‘Let’s choose to celebrate an Entrada that celebrates all peoples and everybody can get behind and everybody can celebrate.’ That’s going to be my voice.”

During Monday’s celebration on the Plaza, E. Paul Torres, chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, said the intent is not to rewrite history but to share “the many stories of what happened centuries ago.”

“As our elders teach us, it was prophesized that one day we would come to share our journey together,” he said. “We believe that it is this time that they foresaw that we would need to come together to define one shared journey.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon. Contact Andrew Oxford at 505-986-3093 or aoxford@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @andrewboxford.