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Eighty-year-old Trini Aragon, from left, sways to the music as she watches Lyric Nelson and Rex Bustamante perform during a visit by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home on Thursday. Led by the band Mariachi Differencia, the court swept through the seniors home drawing dancing residents.
Jamie-Rae Diaz sways with resident Cathy Gasparich, 73, during a visit by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home on Thursday. Led by the band Mariachi Differencia, the court swept through the seniors home drawing dancing residents.
Antonio Muniz keeps the beat while seniors dance during a visit Thursday by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home.
Don Diego de Vargas, portrayed by Doug Nava, twirls Trini Aragon, 80, during a visit by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home on Thursday.

Eighty-year-old Trini Aragon, from left, sways to the music as she watches Lyric Nelson and Rex Bustamante perform during a visit by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home on Thursday. Led by the band Mariachi Differencia, the court swept through the seniors home drawing dancing residents.
Jamie-Rae Diaz sways with resident Cathy Gasparich, 73, during a visit by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home on Thursday. Led by the band Mariachi Differencia, the court swept through the seniors home drawing dancing residents.
Antonio Muniz keeps the beat while seniors dance during a visit Thursday by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home.
Don Diego de Vargas, portrayed by Doug Nava, twirls Trini Aragon, 80, during a visit by the Fiesta Court to the Sierra Vista Assisted Living Home on Thursday.
The Fiesta de Santa Fe royal court made its way through Sierra Vista at Vista Living Care, lighting up the faces of seniors who once took part in the city’s annual Fiesta festivities.
“You could see their memories coming back,” said Stephanie Romero, an activities director at the residential center for seniors with dementia and memory care loss. “The light in their faces when music and dancing comes up, that’s definitely heart melting.”
The Thursday visit was one of several the Fiesta court has made to senior centers and schools throughout Santa Fe County ahead of this week’s full return of a community tradition that was largely scaled back over the last two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. For its 310th anniversary, Fiesta is bringing back some of its most popular events, including Desfile de los Niños — the Pet Parade — and Desfile de la Gente — the Historical/Hysterical Parade.
The pandemic’s effects have led to some changes in this year’s Fiesta, a celebration centered on local Hispanic culture, faith and history.
In most years, the Santa Fe Fiesta Council has held a competition in May to select a man to portray Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas and a woman to serve as La Reina de la Fiesta. The 2021 contest was postponed until August, and those chosen for the roles were given a two-year reign because of last year’s event cancellations.
Douglas Antonio Nava, who portrays de Vargas, said participating in the Fiesta court is a tradition members of his family have taken on for generations.
“This role means everything to me,” Nava said. “I’m the ninth one in my family, between Don Diego de Vargas and La Reina, to be in this role. When I was given this honor, my grandmother cried.”
Christina Lovato-Perea was crowned La Reina.
“I’m super honored because it’s a longtime tradition here in New Mexico,” she said.
Lovato-Perea, a mother of three, is the second wife and mother in Fiesta history to be selected as La Reina, following a Fiesta Council policy change in 2019. The city’s first La Reina, Amalia Sena-Sanchez, was crowned in 1927 before the council decided to bar married women and mothers from competing.
“My three little girls are getting to be a part of everything,” Lovato-Perea said. “It’s great to be able to be a part of this and preserve my history with my babies and my husband.”
Fiesta de Santa Fe commemorates the return of the Spanish to the city a dozen years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 prompted settlers to flee to El Paso and pays tribute to La Conquistadora, also known as Our Lady of Peace — a venerated Marian statue that accompanied de Vargas, soldiers and settlers upon their return.
The celebrations in recent years have met with controversy.
Critics argued Fiesta downplayed the violent outcome of de Vargas’ return, which led to the deaths of dozens of Pueblo people and the enslavement of hundreds of others.
The outcry led to changes in 2018 to make the celebrations more inclusive, including the end of a dramatization of de Vargas’ reentry.
Leslie Talache of Ohkay Owingeh, who joins the royal court as the Native American princesa, said she believes Fiesta can bring unity between local Hispanic and Native people.
“I couldn’t understand where that chaos was coming from because we had lived so many years amongst both cultures; my parents were a perfect example of that because one was Native and the other was Hispanic,” Talache said.
“My role here is to show the young children that we Native Americans and Hispanics can be one. … Whatever happened in history is just that, it’s history, and we can’t change it, so we need to move forward.”
Fine Arts & Crafts Market: Sunday and Monday on the Plaza.
Mariachi Matinee: 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Lensic Performing Arts Theater.
Pregón de la Fiesta: 6 a.m. Friday at Rosario Chapel on Guadalupe Street.
Fiesta opening: Noon Friday on the Plaza, followed by the Celebración de la Communidad at 2 p.m.; arts and crafts booths, food vendors and live performances until 10 p.m.
Desfile de los Niños: 9 a.m. Saturday downtown; arts and crafts booths, food vendors and live performances until 10 p.m.
Solemn Procession: 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11, at the Palace of the Governors, followed by a Pontifical Mass at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
Desfile de la Gente: 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, downtown; arts and crafts booths, food vendors and live performances until 5 p.m.
Closing Ceremonies: 5 p.m. Sept. 11 on the Plaza, followed by a candlelight procession at 7 p.m.
Bandstand schedule
Friday
1 p.m.: Mariachi Euforia
2 p.m.: Caballeros Event
3 p.m.: La Sociedad Colonial Español de Santa Fe
4 p.m.: Los Tropicales
5 p.m.: Flamenco Youth de Santa Fe
6 p.m.: Sangre Joven featuring Luisa G.
7 p.m.: Baile Ilusión
8 p.m.: Sol Fire “Lumbre del Sol Chris Abeyta” Tribute
9 p.m.: Al Hurricane Jr.
Saturday
11 a.m.: Queen’s Review
12 p.m.: Una Más y La ChaCha
1 p.m.: Indigenous Pueblo Dancers
2 p.m.: The End of the Line
3 p.m.: Mariachi Azteca
4 p.m.: Candace Vargas & Northern 505
5 p.m.: Los Niños de Santa Fe
6 p.m.: Nothern Revolution
7 p.m.: Danny T & the Stealing Thunder Band
8 p.m.: Ren Wine
Sunday, Sept. 11
9 a.m.: Po’Pay’s Dancers
10:15 a.m.: Los Matachines de Bernalillo
11:15 a.m.: Divino
3 p.m.: Los Anayas de Santa Fe
4 p.m.: The Dwyane Ortega Band
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