Legacy of Diego de Vargas

George A. Gonzales, Jose Gonzales, E.J. Martinez and Rudy “Froggy Fernandez

The Spanish governor responsible for the resettlement of Santa Fe in 1692 was christened Diego Jose de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon y Contreras at the church of San Luis in Madrid, Spain in 1643. For the last 309 years during the Fiesta de Santa Fe the legacy of De Vargas has endured. Since 1919, when George W. Armijo first portrayed De Vargas, more than 100 men have received that honor. The four men who once portrayed De Vargas in this photo include: George Gonzales, Jose Gonzales, E.J. Martinez and Rudy “Froggy” Fernandez. 

Family Affair

George Gonzales, who died in 2015, portrayed De Vargas in 1961. He served one term as mayor of Santa Fe in 1968.   His brother, Jose Gonzales, was De Vargas the following year. He died in 2020 at the age of 89. Several other members of the Gonzales family participated in the Fiesta de Santa Fe through the different decades.

School Legacy

E. J. Martinez, 74, who died in 2014, portrayed De Vargas in 1963. He was the son of Eleuterio Martinez, for whom E. J. Martinez elementary school is named.  Rudy “Froggy” Fernandez portrayed De Vargas in 1968. He is the only surviving De Vargas pictured in the above photo. Fernandez moved to Santa Fe from Peñasco in 1955 and became an active participant in the Fiesta de Santa Fe. Fernandez became immersed in the Hispanic culture, traditions and Catholic faith of Santa Fe, the City of Holy Faith. .

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