Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Viva Fiesta! Part I


©Catherine Trapani

This is Fiesta weekend. From last Friday until this evening, we have two parades, religious processions, food and music on the Plaza, Queen of the Fiesta with her Princesses and Don Diego De Vargas in full costume. And who is he? In the late 1600s when De Vargas was planning the reoccupation of Santa Fe from the Pueblo Indians who had taken the town in a bloody revolt, De Vargas prayed to La Conquistadora, a 29″ wood carved Madonna sculpture, asking her for support. When he took back the town in 1693, he gave Madonna full credit. In 1712 the governor issued a proclamation calling for the first Fiesta de Santa Fe. Santa Fe has held the Fiesta ever since.

Desfile de Los Niños, the Pet Parade, was held Saturday. The Pet Parade has been a tradition since the 1920s.  As thousands of people cheer along the streets, about 1,500 kids in great costumes walk around the parade route holding, walking or pulling their costumed dogs, chickens, snakes, bunnies, you name it. The adults, who are ostensibly in the parade to chaperone the kids, have an excuse to act like kids for a few hours, too. Then everyone goes to the Plaza to eat, chat and listen to music.

La Reina in Training

Zozobra is Toast Tonight!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that tonight all of your troubles are going to burn away in one glorious blaze! Isn’t that good news? Tonight Santa Fe burns in effigy Zozobra, a 50 foot tall marionette made of wood and cloth with big red lips and nasty green flaming eyes. Zozobra, otherwise known as Old Man Gloom, and your hardships will be toast by 11 pm Mountain Time.

A few factoids: Zozobra was originally created by Santa Fe artist Will Shuster in 1924. Santa Feans have been burning him every year since.  Zozobra’s frame is created out of sticks, covered in chicken wire and stuffed with a whole lot of shredded paper. In the weeks preceding the event, people are invited to write down their troubles which are then shredded for use as the stuffing  along with old police reports, personal papers and old documents. Zozobra is then covered in cloth.

At dusk small fires are lit to surround Old Man Gloom. “Glooms,” played by children dressed in white, surround the base of Zozobra. Then with great fanfare the official Fire Spirit Dancer dressed in red tights and a cape appears at the top of the stage and dramatically swoops down to scare  away the Glooms. The dance between the Fire Spirit Dancer and the Glooms continues for quite some time as excitement builds and the crowd, which can be upwards of 30,000 people, gets all fired up so to speak, and yells, “BURN HIM! BURN HIM!”

Finally before the crowd takes matters into its own hands, the Fire Spirit Dancer sets Zozobra on fire. As the flames burn his white coat and rise higher and higher, Zozobra moans and groans and growls. His arms sway back and forth. He rolls his eyes and he twists his head as his mouth hangs open. I have to say the moaning is disconcerting. Zozobra is one hurting puppet. Finally Old Man Gloom is a pile of ashes and your worries and mine are a bad memory. Given the hardships people are experiencing, this should be one big damn bonfire. I hope Friday is a better day for us all.

Santo Domingo Labor Day Pueblo Market

Yesterday the Santo Domingo Pueblo held its Labor Day Pueblo Market, which is a social event rather than a feast day. While I was unable to attend, my friend the artist and jewelry designer Catherine Trapani did. By her good graces I have photos of the event to share with you.

There were corn dancers,

©Catherine Trapani

and a hoop dancer,

©Catherine Trapani


©Catherine Trapani

and Kewa, Navajo, Jemez and Zuni artists.

Seems to me Catherine’s favorite part was meeting one of the disabled Native American veterans whose face turned from this

©Catherine Trapani

to this after chatting just a few minutes with her.  A nice day.

©Catherine Trapani

Sunday Morning Coffee

“True happiness arises from the essential goodness that wholeheartedly desires everyone to find meaning in their lives. It is a love that is always available, without showiness or self-interest. The immutable simplicity of a good heart.” Happiness by Matthieu Ricard