Santa Fe’s Nocturnal Pilgrimage

Santa Fe’s annual procession to the Cross of the Martyrs in the 1940s.

Tonight’s annual procession to the Cross of the Martyrs concludes the events for the Fiesta de Santa Fe. For three centuries the underlying basis of the fiesta has been a religious celebration of Catholicism. It wasn’t until the 1850s when the American occupation took hold that the event began to change. Gradually, new activities became a part of the fiesta as we know it today.  In 1926 the artists Will Shuster and Gustave Baumann created Zozobra. The large marionette burned in a glorious ritual banishing gloom to make way for the fiesta merriment. Since the 1920s, the Fiesta de Santa Fe has evolved into a collective synergy. With each new decade the origin of the Fiesta’s religious foundation has remained intact.

Club Real

Club Real in the 1950s.

In 1944 the Club Real (Royal Court) became an organization for former Fiesta queens and princesses. The group helped make way for the future of the royal court. The women set rules and elected officers with the meetings conducted in Spanish. They acted as scouts for the fiesta council to recruit potential courts. The women also raised money to purchase a new crown and robe for the queen. The woman took part in the Fiesta parade with their own float. After each Fiesta they sponsored a gala dinner and dance with the new court inducted into the organization. The group disbanded in the 1960s due to a lack of interest and the changing times.

National Attention for Zozobra

The 1950 Zozobra float in the Rose Bowl Parade.

In 1950 Zozobra actually made it to the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta de Santa Fe–themed float became the prize-winning float at the parade. Designed in the shape of Zozobra by its creator, Will Shuster, the float contained more than a million flowers. New Mexico’s Zia symbol featured at the back of the lavish display completed the float. Fiesta Queen Anita Romero and historian Fray Angélico Chávez rode in the parade. Diego de Vargas and hoop dancers from Taos Pueblo were also featured. The head of the float had rolling eyes and a working jaw, smoke and groans coming from its mouth.

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