The basis of the Fiesta de Santa Fe began in 1692. That’s when Diego de Vargas led the re-conquest of the capitol city. In 1712 a resolution proclaiming the memory of de Vargas, who died that year, started the annual fiesta. The Fiesta de Santa Fe continued as a religious festival during the Spanish and Mexican eras. When New Mexico became a U.S. territory in 1850 the Anglo presence and influence increased and Fiesta gradually transformed. The Fiesta did not take place from 1913 through 1918 during World War I. The COVID pandemic in 2020 also led to the event being cancelled.
In July 1883 Santa Fe hosted the Tertio-Millennial combining the fiesta and the July 4th holiday. The coming of the railroad was a catalyst in making way for the celebration of the 333-year founding of the city. People arrived on special excursion trains from as far away as Boston to partake in the festivities. A historical parade that included members of the Apache, Zuni, San Juan and Picuris tribes took part in a mock battle with Hispanics representing the Spanish Conquistadors. This was most likely the first time that Native Americans participated in a community celebration and led to subsequent fiesta events.
In 1927 Amalia Sena Sanchez Sanchez became Santa Fe’s first Fiesta queen. The Santa Fe Living Treasure, who died in 2003 at the age of 109, lived through three centuries. Throughout her life she was a volunteer with the New Mexico Museum, the Red Cross and other civic organizations. The Fiesta de Santa Fe includes continual entertainment on the plaza bandstand, the Pet Parade and the Hysterical parade. The concluding ceremony of the procession to the Cross of the Martyrs is a reminder of the religious foundation of this nation’s oldest community celebration.