Taos Fiestas

Posted on July 24, 2012

I remember going to the Taos Fiestas as a child. The parents would tell us that we were going to watch the parade. For some reason they assumed that my brothers and I even cared. Parades were hot, smelly, and tiring events. Maybe we would be able to scrape some candy off the pavement before the horses would drop their presents in the road and turn our stomachs.

In Taos, there are several sides to the celebrations that make up the Fiestas. The celebration honors the patron saints Santa Ana and Santiago. The central ceremony seems to focus around the crowning of royalty. Santa Fe, Española, Las Vegas, and Taos each crown a queen and offer her runner-ups the honor of being part of the royal court. These girls are tasked with raising money in order to gain the crown. Royals from each town visit the fiestas of their neighbors. Taos crowns the queen in a ceremony at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; located just off the plaza. The royal court hands out balloons during the children’s parade and rides in a grand float along the main parade route the next day.

The plaza sets up with food vendors and random trinkets from Mexico. There are few nicely authentic games. An old lady and her family set up a simple coin toss and target range. It is done in an incredibly simple way. There is a carnival feel to the plaza during Fiestas, but some people feel that the crowd is a bit coarse and stay away at all costs.

On one edge of the plaza, the Lions Club sets up Tio Vivo, a carousel with hand carved horses. This is the most recognizable bit of Taos culture for me. I remember those horses from my childhood.

The children’s parade happens on Saturday at 10 AM. The kids get ready in the Enos Garcia Elementary driveway. A few kids make floats out of wagons that are pulled by their parents.

I was surprised to see a couple kids dressed as Matachines dancers. They wore feathered hats that suggested native dress. They danced to the call and beat of the drummers that followed.

Matachines (Spanish matachín, a sword dancer in a fantastic costume —called also bouffon b pl matachi·ni [MexSp matachín, fr. Sp, matachin (sense 1a), fr. It mattaccino] : a member of a society of north and South American-Indian dancers who perform ritual dances. They are found from Peru up to Northern NM where the Spanish first influenced “The New World” and introduced Christianity to the native peoples.

The introduction of the Dance of the Moors and Christians gave rise to a further range of masked dances, one of them recounting the Spanish victory over the Indians and their eventual conversion to Christianity. These dances are called conquest dances (also a Matachin tradition), and Cortes and La Malinche (his Indian mistress and translator) often appear in them. It’s interesting to note that in many versions of this dance, the Indians wear lavish costumes while the Christians are played by children. – Source: Wikipedia