Of Bloodlines and Conquistadors Hispanos have lived side by side the Pueblo people for centuries—mixing cultures, identities and even bloodlines. But recently, tensions have risen among the two populations over Santa Fe's annual conquistador pageant, known as La Entrada, which celebrates the arrival of the Spanish.
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Of Bloodlines and Conquistadors

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Of Bloodlines and Conquistadors

Of Bloodlines and Conquistadors

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GENE DEMBY, HOST:

What's good, y'all? You're listening to CODE SWITCH. I'm Gene Demby. Shereen is out this week. On this episode, we're talking about colonialism and slavery and identity in the American south - west. Ha-ha (ph), plot twist - southwest. All right. So this is a really complicated and messy story. It's about the way people try to memorialize the past. And it's about a fraught history and some racial dynamics that most of us are not going to be too familiar with. The story comes from our play cousins at Latino USA. I'm not trying to give too much of it away, so I'm just going to turn it over to Maria Hinojosa and Maggie Freleng.

MARIA HINOJOSA, BYLINE: You wore this on your head?

THOMAS BACA: Yes.

HINOJOSA: Can you put it on?

BACA: I wore this during the Entrada. It's missing some of the padding, so it looks a little odd.

HINOJOSA: This is Thomas Baca. My producer, Maggie, and I are at his house in a small town just north of Santa Fe in New Mexico. And Thomas is showing us a costume.

So actually, when you see those paintings of the conquistadores and things like the Spanish on there, it's one of those kind of...

BACA: It's similar. It's a replica.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: Thomas is the president of los Caballeros de Vargas, which is a nonprofit group dedicated to honoring the New Mexican Hispanic and Christian culture of the region.

MAGGIE FRELENG, BYLINE: Right, Maria. And when Thomas says the New Mexican Hispanic Christian culture, what he's talking about is honoring Don Diego de Vargas. Don Diego was a Spanish conquistador who is known for reclaiming Santa Fe from the Native American Pueblo people in the late 1600s.

BACA: So that was Don Diego de Vargas 2014.

HINOJOSA: Every year in September, the Caballeros put on an annual pageant re-enacting this moment in history. It's called La Entrada - The Entrance. And it kicks off a weeklong festival here called the Santa Fe Fiesta.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in Spanish).

HINOJOSA: Maggie, this pageant, it's a very big deal.

FRELENG: Yeah. The Entrada pageant is a huge procession with a fiesta queen and her court, conquistadors on horses and mariachis.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FRELENG: And it's also a religious procession with priests and friars. And for Thomas, being part of the Entrada is deeply related to his identity.

HINOJOSA: So how do you identify when people say, so, Thomas, what are you?

BACA: I will tell them that I'm Hispanic.

HINOJOSA: But in northern New Mexico, being Hispanic means something a little different than what we might think of in the rest of the country. In fact, most people here use the term Hispano instead. Hispano is an identity that is specific to northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. It's people who see themselves as descendants of Spanish settlers, basically having a direct lineage to Spain.

FRELENG: Right. And that connection to Spain, that's how Santa Fe ended up with a conquistador pageant.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in Spanish).

HINOJOSA: So, Maggie, when you and I first met Thomas, we were kind of like, wait, who is this guy who likes to relive - in a pageant form - the conquest of the native Pueblo people here?

FRELENG: Yeah. But then we dug a little bit deeper.

BACA: Being Hispanic, I am, of course, mixed in with Native American blood. And my original descendants came from Spain, and then they mixed in here in New Mexico with the Native American people and created me and, of course, my kids (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: Now, New Mexico is a very mixed place and not just culturally. Native and Spanish bloodlines mixed here in the colonial era, as they did in many parts of Latin America.

BACA: This is my daughter, Destiny (ph).

FRELENG: Hi, Destiny. Nice to meet you.

So we're in Thomas's house, and at one point in our conversation, his 15-year-old daughter Destiny comes into the living room.

HINOJOSA: Can you just describe what you're wearing for us?

DESTINY: I'm wearing my red moccasins with ties on them. And I'm wearing a keva (ph) belt.

HINOJOSA: So you wear something different when you are part of the Entrada?

DESTINY: I wear white wraps, a black manta, a yuage (ph), a keva belt, a rain sash and skunk skins.

HINOJOSA: The same year that her dad played Don Diego in the Entrada pageant, Destiny and her little brother dressed up as native children, who were then baptized as part of the pageant. So to say the least, the topic of identity in New Mexico can get pretty complicated. For generations, natives and Hispanos have shared resources here and coexisted together. They've mixed culture and identities. But despite sharing so much, the two groups have also often been locked in conflict.

BACA: Our history is very different here than it is in other places in the United States. And you kind of have to almost be born and raised here to understand.

FRELENG: So although Thomas and his kids have some native ancestry...

HINOJOSA: Right, they're part native.

FRELENG: ...Not everybody's cool at the Entrada pageant.

HINOJOSA: Imagine many of the indigenous Pueblo people, whose ancestors were conquered by the Spanish, want to see this whole Entrada pageant changed or just done away with for good.

FRELENG: Yeah. And this might just seem like a neighborly dispute over a small re-enactment in New Mexico, but it's more than that.

HINOJOSA: Like Thanksgiving celebrations or Confederate memorials, the Entrada pageant is about our complicated history as Americans and how we choose to tell that history. So it's probably no surprise - things here have gotten pretty messy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: I'm here in the studio with our producer from Latino USA. Maggie Freleng. Hey, Maggie.

FRELENG: Hey, Maria.

HINOJOSA: So, Maggie, you and I spent a few days in gorgeous New Mexico reporting today's story.

FRELENG: Yeah. And after our fun-but-serious-reporting trip, we had some really similar takeaways.

HINOJOSA: New Mexico is an incredibly unique place.

FRELENG: Super unique. And I think to understand the dynamic here, you really have to understand the history. So one of the first stops we made was to meet a guy who has some really deep roots in the region.

ORLANDO ROMERO: It's very rough now because it's still sprinkling. And in summertime, we have great parties out here. I do paellas, and I do roasted lamb. (Speaking Spanish).

HINOJOSA: This is Orlando Romero. He's a writer, historian, all out kind of quirky dude. And he is Hispano. He is and sees himself as a direct descendant of Spanish settlers. He's lived his entire life in Nambe, which is just north of Santa Fe.

FRELENG: But Orlando was not a member of the Pueblo Nation, even though his town, Nambe, is within the bounds of Nambe Pueblo, which is one of the 19 sovereign Pueblo Nations of New Mexico.

HINOJOSA: Meaning that they are federally recognized Indigenous land with their own governments.

FRELENG: Right. But, Maria, the word Indigenous is really sensitive in this area.

ROMERO: When we talk about Indigenous people, be careful because what we're dealing with here is - Hispanic people, we're not immigrants. We were...

FRELENG: Orlando says his family has been living in northern New Mexico since the late 1500s. That's before the Mayflower arrived in 1620. And he says his family has owned this exact property we're standing on since the colonial times.

ROMERO: We've been here for generations and generations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRELENG: So a quick history lesson - in 1598, Spanish settlers came north from Mexico and arrived in Santa Fe. The king of Spain gave those settlers private land grants to establish their colonies.

HINOJOSA: So your ancestors have been living in one way or on this piece of land?

ROMERO: My dear, my dear, my family came here in 1598. New Mexico is very unique. We're older than Jamestown. We're older than Plymouth Rock. We are the ancient DREAMers who came here with a dream.

HINOJOSA: The Spanish king also gave out communal land grants, and those were for the Pueblo people.

ROMERO: The Spanish said, we're going to give you land grants and you're entitled to your lands. Out East, they didn't have that happen. They took their lands.

HINOJOSA: They just took them.

ROMERO: They just took them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: So this is why the people in northern New Mexico are hesitant to call these land grants reservations because the Pueblo were never removed from their land and then placed someplace else. The land that they live on today is the land that they've always lived on.

FRELENG: And because both groups have lived side by side for centuries, the particular kind of tension between Hispanos and the Pueblo people is something unique to New Mexico because the Pueblo weren't wiped out or moved away.

REGIS PECOS: Pueblo people still exist. The way of life for Pueblo people persists.

HINOJOSA: This is the former governor of Cochiti Pueblo. His name is Regis Pecos, and he's giving us a tour of downtown Santa Fe along with a friend of his, the former state historian, Estevan Rael-Galvez.

This, You mean with all the flags? OK.

FRELENG: And they brought us to Santa Fe Plaza, the Spanish-style city square. Maria, you loved this place.

HINOJOSA: I did. It was beautiful.

FRELENG: And the plaza is thought of as the heart of Santa Fe. And we're standing here looking directly at a building called the Palace of the Governors.

ESTEVAN RAEL-GALVEZ: It's built in the early 1600s, exactly when Santa Fe was settled. It's an adobe building.

HINOJOSA: It's said to be the oldest continuously-used public building in what is today the United States. And, well, its history has a bit of a dark side.

RAEL-GALVEZ: Beneath this place that we're standing upon rests our Indigenous forefathers.

HINOJOSA: Estevan says that this is the place where Pueblo people who rebelled against the Spanish were made examples of.

RAEL-GALVEZ: The ears of native peoples were cut off from their heads and were left hanging on the portada (ph) that you and I are standing in front of right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: When the conquistadores arrived here in 1598, they killed and then enslaved many Pueblo people.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PECOS: In this place is great and deep symbolism, a place that experienced death and sacrifice.

FRELENG: But in 1680, something happened. The pueblo people fought back. They had enough of the Spanish, and they took over the Palace of the Governors.

HINOJOSA: It was a bloody revolt, but the Spanish who did survive were forced to retreat into what is now Juarez, Mexico, in the South. And they stayed there for over a decade before they decided to return to reclaim Santa Fe and to reclaim the palace, all of this led by Don Diego de Vargas.

FRELENG: And this is the moment that is recreated in the Entrada, the pageant that Thomas and his kids are in. And it takes place right here in the plaza.

HINOJOSA: After we got this tour of downtown and, like, the historical moments that happened right there, Maggie and I then went to visit Thomas at his home in Pojoaque. And in his small home, we're surrounded by crucifixes, and religious icons and then, of course, Thomas' conquistador costume, which is staring at us from across the room. And as we mentioned earlier, the pageant isn't just a celebration of the resettlement of Santa Fe. It's also a religious ceremony.

FRELENG: And, Maria, we figured this out because you asked Thomas' 8-year-old son Carlos (ph) about his hair.

HINOJOSA: Little Brother, can you tell me about your hair?

CARLOS: It's cornrows.

BACA: Who are you donating your hair to, to La Conquistadora?

CARLOS: Yeah.

HINOJOSA: OK, what?

BACA: La Conquistadora is a Marian statue that was brought here to Santa Fe in 1625.

HINOJOSA: So Thomas explains to us that La Conquistadora is a 3-foot-tall wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and that part of what the Caballeros do is protect her because, well, she's not just any wooden statue.

FRELENG: No. Don Diego brought her with him when he came to take Santa Fe back from the Pueblo, and she's been in Santa Fe ever since.

HINOJOSA: La Conquistadora is said to be the first Virgin Mary statue to make it to what is now the United States. And each year, her worshippers donate their hair in order to make the Virgin's new wig. And they do that as a show of their devotion to her.

She's looking pretty good for being 600 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter).

BACA: Oh, yeah. She really does.

HINOJOSA: And is that one of the wigs on her?

BACA: Yes.

HINOJOSA: Oh, that's why she looks so good - because she's got a great wig. Oh, we can see that. We know your secret. That's what we all need - just changing wigs (laughter).

BACA: You would be so jealous of her wardrobe.

FRELENG: OK, so Thomas and his two kids, who are part native, are dancing in the Entrada re-enactment and giving their hair to La Conquistadora. And we're like, what?

HINOJOSA: Yeah, wait. Wait a second. What's going on here?

FRELENG: Right. Why are these kids worshipping a statue that was brought during the conquest of native people - their ancestors, basically? And why are they participating in this event celebrating that conquest?

HINOJOSA: Right. And if you're thinking La Conquistadora's name sounds a lot like conquistador, or conqueror, you're not wrong. But Thomas says that's not how the Caballeros see it. He says La Conquistadora is actually called this because...

BACA: She's a conqueror of our hearts. She conquers our hearts with love and peace, and that's the reason why we call her La Conquistadora.

FRELENG: Thomas and the Caballeros also say the resettlement or reconquest of Santa Fe in 1692 was peaceful, that there was no bloodshed.

HINOJOSA: And so that's why they've decided to re-enact this particular moment in history, this nonviolent moment that they consider to be the moment that created them and their ancestors. And so they thank La Conquistadora for it.

BACA: Which is what we're doing, and what we have been doing for the past 306 is celebrating the love and peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRELENG: It is contested whether or not this moment in 1692 was completely peaceful. But what is for sure is that a year later, Don Diego again returned to Santa Fe from Juarez with Spanish settlers, and a bloody war ensued.

HINOJOSA: And the Spanish eventually defeated the Pueblo people, and then they began to develop northern New Mexico.

FRELENG: Right. And so Maria, you and I have been talking - you know, what is the draw for somebody to want to identify as a conquistador, someone who is conquering people?

HINOJOSA: We were always asking ourselves this question, and it probably has to do with the fact that the conquerors, the conquistadores, are not being portrayed as people who are coming in and forcing themselves on people or enslaving people or raping people. That's not the narrative that is being told about them.

FRELENG: And it kind of makes me think of how we celebrate Thanksgiving - this, like, idealized moment of coming together, creating something new and beautiful, but we overlook the history of trauma that's also associated with it. And so you and I are grappling with this, and we're looking at Thomas' conquistador costume. And then you just asked Thomas.

HINOJOSA: What does it feel like when you wear this or when you wore it?

BACA: When I wore it - very emotional. You know, I actually cried before it. You know, like, I'm very emotional when it comes to stuff like that.

HINOJOSA: What were you crying about?

BACA: I was crying because I went back to 1692 when Don Diego de Vargas came here, and I went back to what it would've been like - all the feelings, all the thoughts, all the love, all the hate.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: Coming up - the other side of this debate from people who feel the Entrada papers over a much darker history.

JENNIFER MARLEY: Our culture has always been fetishized and objectified to make Santa Fe this kind of, like, art mecca where, like, the blending of cultures is the thing that is sold to tourists.

DEMBY: Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: My producer, Maggie, and I are in Santa Fe, N.M., learning about the debate over the Entrada pageant and re-enactment, which celebrates the Spanish resettlement of Santa Fe from the Pueblo people in 1692. Now, many Hispano - people who claim direct ancestry to Spain in this part of the country - say that the Pueblo surrender was peaceful. They see this as the moment that brought the Spanish and the native cultures together in a good way.

FRELENG: Yeah, but some people don't see it like that.

MARLEY: It's actually really comical that they think we've been living in peace all this time. That's a total buy-in to this absolutely false narrative because we have not lived in peace and harmony at all whatsoever.

HINOJOSA: This is Jennifer Marley.

MARLEY: I'm from the Pueblo of San Ildefonso.

HINOJOSA: San Ildefonso is next to where Thomas lives, and it's one of the Pueblo lands that they held onto during the Spanish conquest.

FRELENG: It's where Jennifer grew up. She's native herself and is a Native American Studies major at the University of New Mexico.

MARLEY: And I'm also a lead organizer with The Red Nation, a native liberation group. We are not a nonprofit. We call ourselves antiprofit.

HINOJOSA: Red Nation has been part of some pretty big protests, like Standing Rock. This past September, though, they focused some of their resources on opposing the Entrada re-enactment.

MARLEY: We're calling for the end of the Entrada permanently.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRELENG: She says it's not representative of what actually happened when the Spanish conquistadors came.

MARLEY: It just goes to show how deeply embedded this revisionist history is for people. They have a personal stake to it. They think that this is really what comprises their ancestry and their history.

HINOJOSA: And another reason...

MARLEY: It's something that isn't really representative of any of the communities in New Mexico because it was invented. In its form now, it was created as a tourist attraction.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARLEY: Our culture has always been fetishized and objectified to make Santa Fe this kind of, like, art mecca where, like, the blending of cultures is the thing that is sold to tourists.

FRELENG: Yeah. We asked Estevan, the historian we spoke to earlier, about this.

HINOJOSA: Wait a second. Are you historians saying that the Entrada was basically created as a kind of Disneyland-Hollywood trap to bring in tourists here? Like, come see the big show in Santa Fe?

RAEL-GALVEZ: Yes.

FRELENG: And to be clear, the Santa Fe Fiesta, which celebrates the founding of Santa Fe and La Conquistadora - it's been going on since the 1700s. But the Entrada pageant itself was actually created in the early 1900s, partially because local officials wanted to attract tourists.

HINOJOSA: So the Entrada as it exists today was essentially born in 1911.

FRELENG: We also followed up about this notion of Hispanos claiming direct lineage to Spain dating back hundreds of years.

HINOJOSA: And Estevan says that's not exactly true either. It's actually a bit more nuanced.

RAEL-GALVEZ: Some of those people may have come directly from Spain, but not likely. They came into Mexico City, they're there for a few generations, and they continue to move up. And as these eras fold over time, it gets even more complex.

HINOJOSA: So by the time the Spanish arrived in New Mexico, many of them were already mixed, and over the years, they continued to mix with the Pueblo people of the area.

FRELENG: In fact, DNA testing in the region has become really popular, and many people seeking to find out about their Spanish heritage are actually finding a surprise - that they have a significant amount of Native American ancestry. In Thomas's case, he says he's about 30 percent Native American.

HINOJOSA: And some people who identify as Hispanos can even trace their native roots back to when their relatives were enslaved by the Spaniards. And these enslaved native peoples in New Mexico had a name. They were called Genizaros, and historians estimate that Genizaros accounted for as much as one-third of New Mexico's population in the late 1700s.

FRELENG: Yeah, and the recent interest in Native American slavery has caused a lot of people to reconsider and grapple with what it means to be Hispano. Some scholars have even started to talk about a Spanish myth. This idea that Hispanos who claim direct ancestry to Spain - they do it as a way of differentiating themselves from Native Americans, like this proof of their whiteness. Jennifer - the Pueblo activist we heard from earlier - she agrees.

MARLEY: And I think by centering this aspiration to, like, Spanish heritage, it does have white supremacist undertones because you're aspiring to your Spanish heritage - your European-Spanish heritage and denouncing the intermixing that had occurred amongst Indigenous people whether it's through the violent slave trade or not.

HINOJOSA: And for Jennifer, what's happening in Santa Fe fits right into the national conversation on race.

MARLEY: What's happening here is not too different from what's happening in the South where people are calling for the abolition of racist monuments, racist re-enactments and ultimately celebrate those who owned slaves and participated in white supremacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) Sixteen.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Eighty.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) Sixteen.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Eighty.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) Sixteen.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Eighty.

HINOJOSA: So in September of 2016, Jennifer decided to protest the Entrada.

FRELENG: You can hear them chanting 1680, the year of the Pueblo Revolt.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) Sixteen.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Eighty.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Shouting) Sixteen.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Eighty.

HINOJOSA: She says that she was with a few dozen protesters and that there was a police presence there, but that it was all pretty peaceful. And this past year in 2017, Jennifer came back to protest. But this time, it was different.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Abolish the Entrada. Abolish the Entrada. Abolish the Entrada.

MARLEY: We were met with snipers. We were met with a SWAT team. We were met with live firearms. And this time, they came with at least double the force.

FRELENG: Local papers reported that nearly 180 police officers were there. And although the scene was intimidating, Jennifer showed up in her indigenous clothing, and she was determined to be heard.

MARLEY: I wasn't preparing to enact any type of, like, physical resistance that day, but it was enacted upon me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARLEY: (Shouting) These are the new conquistadors. You protect centuries of state colonial violence. You protect the rape and the murder and the slaughter of my people, and you still do. Look at the way you handle me in my own space on my own land.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: Jennifer was arrested along with seven other people. Her charges included two counts of battery on a police officer. All of the charges were later dropped, and she says the arrest of the protesters wasn't surprising.

MARLEY: They see us as being outsiders on our own land. Where the plaza is - where Santa Fe is, Pueblos once stood. They walk on our blood and bones every day. And it was in that space where I was arrested that historically - it's very plausible that my ancestors, who were dissenters, could have been hung in that very same spot.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FRELENG: The same spot that the ears of native people were cut off and allegedly hung from the palace of the governors.

MARLEY: That very blatant repetition of history that occurred that day was really powerful and really hurtful.

HINOJOSA: But Jennifer and the Pueblo people are not the only ones who feel hurt by the conflict surrounding the Entrada.

I actually need to know why you started crying.

MELISSA MASCARENAS: Because something that we - we're celebrating our culture. Well, when a group of people take it upon themselves to be disrespectful to others, it's very sad in my mind.

HINOJOSA: This is Melissa Mascarenas. She's the president of the Fiesta Council, and we met her at Thomas's house.

MASCARENAS: It's hurtful that we even have come to this point in our life that I have to sit down with my 7-year-old grandson. And he says, why was that Indian screaming horrible things? What is wrong with him? And I have to tell him, obviously, in my book, he's off his rocker. Whatever his problem is - mental issues, whatever it is - but he is not doing the right thing. And we never act that way 'cause that's how we were raised. We never behave that way.

FRELENG: So as you can tell, there are strong feelings on both sides. And Thomas says the conflict is stemming from a misunderstanding of what the Caballeros and the fiesta are celebrating.

BACA: You know, they think that we're celebrating a conquest - that we're celebrating the conquering of another people, which is not at all what we're doing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BACA: We're celebrating the peace, love and unity that came about.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: Both groups here have such strong feelings and ties to their cultures and their history that, coming to a resolution, it could take years.

FRELENG: Right. And in the past with other issues, it's been really, really difficult to resolve problems.

HINOJOSA: For example, it took them over 50 years to come to an agreement on a regional water system. In fact, this dispute turned out to be one of the longest-lasting court cases in U.S. history, and it was just settled last summer.

FRELENG: But even though there was a resolution, not everyone was left happy. Orlando Romero, one of the Hispano men we met earlier, he says these are, in a way, family disputes and they should be able to solve them without government assistance.

ROMERO: You know, it gets me so mad because it's so stupid. You know, it's like the Arabs and the Jews fighting. It's stupid. Somos primos.

HINOJOSA: Somos primos, Orlando says - we are cousins.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HINOJOSA: Even though it took these two groups over 50 years to come to an agreement over something like water, some see this as a glimmer of hope for reconciliation over the Entrada pageant.

FRELENG: Exactly. And there's efforts going on to bring everyone together to talk, the Caballeros like Thomas who put on the re-enactment and the protesters like Jennifer.

HINOJOSA: And for Thomas, keeping the Entrada going is super important to him. It's a cherished part of his identity. But he knows that in order to keep the celebration alive, he's going to have to compromise with the Pueblo people.

BACA: Once I became president of the Caballeros de Vargas back in November, I sent a letter immediately to all 19 Pueblos here in New Mexico asking to sit down and talk about the Entrada, the fiesta and everything that's going on.

FRELENG: But Thomas says after he reached out, only 2 of the 19 Pueblo governors have sat down with him. In the past, the Caballeros have been willing to work with the Pueblo people and make changes to the Entrada pageant. For example, they renamed La Conquistadora, the Virgin Mary statue the Entrada focuses around, to Our Lady of Peace so there was no confusion about what she stood for.

HINOJOSA: And Regis and Estevan, the guys who gave us the tour of the plaza, they're trying to go a step further and find a more comprehensive solution. In fact, they've coauthored a resolution that the Pueblo governors voted on and was unanimously approved.

FRELENG: The resolution states that the Entrada fails to accurately recognize the truth of what happened during the 17th and 18th centuries. It calls for specific steps to be taken to avoid matters escalating to, quote, "regrettable circumstances." Those steps include getting an apology from the Catholic Church and the city for the historic trauma caused to the Pueblo people.

HINOJOSA: But for Jennifer, the protester and activist, these steps are not enough. So for you, the only way to resolve this is for the Entrada - it needs to stop, it has to go away?

MARLEY: At the very least - at the very, very least, it needs to not be forced on the public. If it's a religious event, why don't they take it to a church or to some kind of religious headquarters? If people want to see it and celebrate it, they can go and do that on their own accord.

HINOJOSA: Not everybody is going to be happy, like the water agreement. But some, like Estevan the historian, are optimistic that they do have an opportunity here to transform things.

RAEL-GALVEZ: To tell a story in a more truthful, in a more healing way to bring our communities back together again. If someone could come in in the early 1900s and invent this Entrada notion, we certainly in this particular moment have an imaginative opportunity to invent something new.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: All right, y'all, that's our show. But do me a favor real quick - follow us on Twitter. We're @nprcodeswitch. We want to hear from you. If you prefer email, our email is codeswitch@npr.org. Subscribe to our podcast and the fine folks, our play cousins at Latino USA, wherever fine podcasts can be found or streamed. Our brand-new newsletter is at npr.org/newsletter/codeswitch.

This episode was reported and produced by Maggie Freleng. It was edited by Marlon Bishop. It was mixed by Stephanie Lebow. Thanks to everyone at Latino USA who helped put this together. We appreciate y'all.

Shoutout to the rest of the CODE SWITCH fam - Kat Chow, Leah Donnella, Adrian Florido, Karen Grigsby Bates, Maria Paz Gutierrez, Walter Ray Watson, Sami Yenigun and Steve Drummond. Our brand-new intern is Angelo Bautista. Welcome, my dude.

Shereen Marisol Meraji, my partner in crime, will be back next week. I'm Gene Demby. Be easy.

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