Welcome to Corrales Chronicles, where we post occasional illustrated stories about life and photography in New Mexico.
One of the wonderful things about New Mexico is that we have festivals and cultural events practically every week, drawing on the traditions of three cultures – Native, Hispanic, and Anglo. The events feature food, art, dance, sports, music, religion, storytelling, balloons . . . you name it, there’s a festival for it.
And one of the premier festivals is the Fiesta de Santa Fe, this year celebrating its 300th anniversary – the oldest continuous community celebration in America. You can read more about this festival by clicking here.
The Fiesta officially opens with a pre-dawn mass at a chapel built on the site where Don Diego de Vargas camped when the Spanish re-took Santa Fe in 1692, twelve years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
But the unofficial beginning of the Fiesta happens the night before with the Burning of Zozobra, a 50-foot tall marionette effigy of “Old Man Gloom,” to dispel any unhappiness that would mar the celebration.
The burning was begun in 1924 by Santa Fe artist Will Shuster, originally as an anti-Fiesta statement. Two years later, it was brought into the official Fiesta canon of events, and is now a fundraising event for the Santa Fe Kiwanis club. You can read more about the history of Zozobra here.
The Burning of Zozobra takes place at a city park/sports field near downtown Santa Fe.
Zozobra stands on an embankment overlooking the playing field.
There are, of course, the usual tchotchke and food vendors.
entertainment . . .
. . .and the obligatory posing for photos in front of Zozobra.
These are the fire-carriers (about which, more later) . . .
There’s also an official group of costumed characters representing Don Diego de Vargas and his retinue, plus La Reina de Fiesta.
They put in an appearance before the burning, and then mingle with the crowd.
During the afternoon, if you want to dispel your own gloom, you can write down your sadness and put it in the Gloom Box for deposit inside Zozobra to be burned.
The crowd grows as the sun sets . . .
and Zozobra grows more ominous . . .
After a two-hour delay due to unacceptably high winds, the crowd has swelled to about 25,000, and they're getting restless.
Finally the ceremony begins.
First, the “judge” reads a list of grievances against Zozobra, and pronounces the sentence: “Burn him!”
The lights go out . . .
And the “gloomies” appear to defend Zozobra . . .
Only to be dispelled by the fire-carriers . . .
Finally, Zozobra is confronted with a threatening fireworks display . . .
And suddenly, Zozobra’s head begins to explode . . .
The Burning of Zozobra has begun!
In about two minutes, Zozobra collapses into a heap . . .
and the celebratory fireworks begin!
Old Man Gloom is gone! Time to go home!
If you'd like to see larger versions of these images, you can visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.