Tuesday, 27 August 2013 18:02

Santa Fe Fiestas Pasatiempo-Hysterical Parade

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Personal photo, 1952. Taken from area behind our house on Washington Street. Afternoon before fire dancer and pifi gloom arrives. Personal photo, 1952. Taken from area behind our house on Washington Street. Afternoon before fire dancer and pifi gloom arrives.


Santa Fe Fiestas Pasotiempo-Hysterical Parade

By Arthur Scott


   In 1924 Hewett and the museum of New Mexico, under his directorship controlled the Santa Fe Fiestas. Admission was charged for most events including the De Vargas pageant and other military and social pageants which were held on Museum property. Most of the Fiestas celebration was somber.  

   The art colony of Santa Fe felt that they had moved to Santa Fe in part to be part of a community and that the cost of admission to fiesta events excluded many citizens. The gay poet, Witter Bynner and Dolly Sloan, wife of artist John Sloan, teamed up to start a free event called “Pasatiempo.”  According to Chris Wilson, The Myth of Santa Fe, 1997, Pasatiempo included “band concerts, community singing and street dancing, on the Plaza, a children's animal show, and the wildly popular Hysterical Pageant. People from all social strata pulled heirloom clothes from their trunks, made floats and costumes, and decorated theca cars, horses, and burros for this parade. Tongue-in-cheek parodies of historic figures, tourists, and tourist stereotypes porliferated. If the De Vargas pageants were historical murals solemnly brought to life,  then t ten-foot--tall shirts and pants of one year's Hysterical Pageant were attention-grabbing pop icons--everyday items cut loose from their cultural moorings and inflated to a bizarre size in the manner ot modern advertising and the French surrealists. In the spirit of carnival, for tt tat people began calling Pasatiempo, "the grand carnival," `artists Will Shuster and Gustave Baumann fabricated Zozobra in1926. This effigy of gloom,

“otherwise known as King Worry, or Old Man Grouch," has been burned  ever since to open theFiesta-- a pagan counterpoint to the opening mass. Mrs. Manuel (Amelia) Sanchez embraced the spirit of the Hysterical Pageant when she organized her friends and relatives in 1927 to dress up in old clothes and hats, and brown makeup and mop wigs, and set out together with a collection of barnyard animals including a sheep she dyed pink for the occasion. Their parody of popular stereotypes of Mexican hillbillies was a great hit. . After the parade, Sanchez took her children home, fed them, bathed, and put them to bed, then changed into her mother’s wedding gown augmented by a mantlla before rushing back to the plaza in time to be crowned the first queen of Pasatiempo. This role evolved into the Fiesta Queen, who in time would be attended by a full retinue of Spanish and Indian princesses and provide a female counterpart to de Vargas and his caballeros. “

   I seem to recall that while growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, when Fiestas was still a celebration of the people and not a corporation, there were three parades, the Pet Parade, the Hysterical Parade, and the Historical Parade. It was held over Labor Day weekend before school started.The Historical parade celebrated the re-conquest of Santa Fe by de Vargas. It featured elaborately costumed that year’s Don Diego de Vargas, his caballeros and queen,  (on a float). De Vargas and his entourage were mounted with a few walking. I remember how majestic and colorful it was. The Pet Parade was for the children. It featured many of your friends and neighbors hauling or walking any and all animal pets from painted “Woolworth” turtles to burros. The Hysterical Parade was always fun. It was at times somewhat bawdy and featured parodies of local politicos, political parties, and any controversy that surrounded Santa Fe at the time. During this time no one worried about an eight or ten year-old visiting the plaza alone or with similarly aged friends. We only live a few blocks up East Palace so walking to Fiesta events was not a big deal. Of course one had to scrounge around to make a costume, usually cowboy or Mexican complete with old souvenir sombrero. With luck you were given enough money to buy a green-chile hamburger from one of many food booths in the center of the plaza most often sponsored by a local civic club, church auxiliary, or some other locally known individuals. With an extra quarter you could ride Tio Vivo, the hand- cranked merry-go-round. Usually it was cranked by blind Frank La(?). The lengthy of the ride was dependant on how much wine he had consume or how much was left to consume—highly variable.

   The Plaza bandstand was always filled with local musical talent and usually one mariachi imported from Mexico for the occasion. Street dancing (and a bit of drinking) was common and free. The Mexican mariachi played for all the invitational events but also for the free events. The only charge for Zozobra was if you actually entered the ball park by car or walking.

   After viewing a video of the 2012 “Historical/Hysterical Parade” and looking at the Fiesta Corporation website from afar but with fond memories, I was struck by the seeming lack of community involvement and the proliferation of events charging admission. Perhaps I missed it, but I saw many more vehicles in the parade, a lack of mounted units, no Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Posse, no horse-drawn wagons, no burros and little parody. Perhaps history does repeat itself and Fiestas has somewhat returned to the day of Hewett, or perhaps it is my wishful and  ancient perception.


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