Since 1933, every year people in Espanola have marched through town, honoring Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate.
“The city would appoint the fiesta council and be involved in supporting the fiesta and carrying it out every year,” said city councilor John Ramon-Vigil.
But this year, that won’t happen.
The city voted unanimously to pull its support of the event, because of controversy over Onate and the celebration.
A hero of the Spanish, Native Americans criticize Onate as a brutal conqueror, who cut off the left foot of Native Americans in the 1500’s. People have protested events honoring Onate for years.
“We wanted to try and evolve or change the traditions a little,” said Mayor Javier Sanchez of Espanola.
He said the city of Espanola will bring in a non-profit to handle the fiestas.
“Many citizens of the city were very angry to see the Fiesta be changed and unfortunately this is their culture, they’re very proud of it here,” said Vigil.
In spite of opposition from the community, the mayor says this was a much-needed change.
“In the end, everybody on the council felt it would be best that if somebody wanted to preserve the specific traditions the way that they wanted to honor them, that would be best handled outside of the city’s purview,” said Sanchez.
And, he’s hoping over time, the change will be accepted.
“I am looking forward to how we can transform who we are in a way that we celebrate a greater variety of traditions,” he said.
Ramon-Vigil said they do not expect the Fiestas to happen this year due to the change, but, they are working on filing paperwork as we speak for the non-profit.