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Viva Las Fiestas de Taos!

August 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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In my last post, I explored the New Mexico and Spanish tradition of cities and towns celebrating patron saints’ feast days with a weekend of celebration. We had the opportunity to enjoy such an event, known as the Fiestas, while visiting Taos a few weeks ago celebrating their patron saints of St. James and St. Anne (Fiestas de Santiago y Santa Ana). While the event lasts an entire weekend, from noon on Friday, to Sunday at 7 pm, the actual preparation begins long before.

Jewelry vendor, Fiesta weekend

Jewelry Vendor, Fiesta Weekend

The town has a Fiesta Council which is at work for much of the year making plans for the big event. In June, the young women who are vying for the coveted role of La Reina, Queen of the Fiestas, participate in the Taos Royal Pageant at which she is chosen. Remaining contestants make up her court, La Princesas.

La Reina and her escort

La Reina and her escort

The pageant begins with an introductory speech by each contestant in which she discusses the importance of the fiestas to her and personal recollections of previous fiestas. Speeches are followed by a talent show, a group dance number (“to help establish the camaraderie that will help them support each other during the year of their reinado”) and answer impromptu questions posed by officials.

The CourtLa Reina is officially crowned at the Fiesta Mass, which takes place at 5:30 pm at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, a few short blocks from the plaza, at which all other festivities will take place. Following the mass, the court processes to the plaza, led by the priest who presided at the mass, mariachi musicians and a colorguard. Each member of the court proceeds with an escort in parade fashion to and around the plaza.

Visiting Royalty

Visiting Royalty--Fiesta Court from Other Cities

Visiting royalty, ie fiesta courts from neighboring communities, also process as they have come to Taos to honor its patron saints. The court is then presented to the community on the stage of the plaza and the official opening ceremonies of the Fiestas take place.

Mariachi musiciansFestivities continue the entire weekend with entertainment from noon on Friday to 7 pm Sunday, including mariachi troops, singers, musicians, other dance groups and the like. Each group is scheduled for approximately an hour of entertainment. The plaza is lined with vendors selling food, jewelry and other wares as mementoes of the event. In addition of the procession of the Queen and her court to the plaza on Friday, a Children’s parade takes place on Saturday morning and a Historical Parade is held on Sunday afternoon. The entire event is alcohol free, which may contribute to the positive atmosphere which also reigns there.

Presentation of the Court

Presentation of the Court

Each fiestas is given a theme. This year in Taos it was “Ayer, Hoy y Manana”, which means “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” to honor the richness of the heritage past, the present time and look toward the future. In our travels to this small community, we have had the privilege of witnessing and participating in this event several times. We feel honored to have been included. We are Catholic as well and believe our traditional German parishes in Wisconsin could learn a thing or two about celebrating a Saint’s Feast Day from La Fiestas de Taos.

Fiesta EntertainmentIn fact, even Taos Pueblo gets into the act of celebrating the Fiestas. While the patron saint of the pueblo is San Geronimo, St. Jerome, whose feast day is celebrated September 30th each year, the Pueblo holds Corn Dances on the feast days of Santiago and Santa Ana to honor them as well.  The entire community is invited to join their celebration. The San Geronimo feast has a history going back centuries, however, including a feast, foot races and a trade fair during which the pueblo residents traded with other tribes and non-Indians. Hmmm…perhaps a fall visit to New Mexico is in order… Que Vivan, las Fiestas de Taos!

For more information about places to stay while visiting New Mexico browse Woodall’s listings of New Mexico camping.

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