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Palace reverses itself, allowing crests for Fiesta de Santa Fe

July 24, 2018

The Spanish coats of arms of local families’ ancestors will be displayed on the Palace of the Governors during the Fiesta de Santa Fe in September, after all.

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs announced Monday it would “honor the Santa Fe Fiesta Council’s request” to hang the family crests during the annual community celebration, “as they have done for decades.”

The decision reverses a request sent July 11 to the Fiesta Council by Andrew Wulf, director of the New Mexico History Museum and the Palace of the Governors, that the practice of displaying the crests on the Palace portal be discontinued. Wulf wrote that hanging the crests painted on wooden plaques had resulted in cumulative damage to the wooden beams on the portal of the historic building.

A week later, a Cultural Affairs Department representative wrote that the request was being reviewed. Monday, she wrote in an email that the crests would be displayed this year while the Palace is closed starting in August for six months during renovations.

“Finding a long-term solution will take more time,” wrote Loie Fecteau, a department employee who serves as executive director of New Mexico Arts. “However, we are confident that we will be able to ensure the preservation of the state’s most treasured historic building, as well as continue the longstanding tradition of displaying the Fiesta family crests without causing damage.”

Fecteau declined further comment.

Melissa Mascarenas, Fiesta Council president, said she was surprised the department had reconsidered. “This is a win,” she said.

She had promised to fight to keep the tradition alive. Public response to the idea of doing away with the coats of arms was largely on the side of the Fiesta Council, she said.

“It was nothing but positive,” Mascarenas said Monday. “Somebody put it on Facebook and they were posting all their crests on Facebook. It was pretty amazing.”

The family crests, or coats of arms, are hung side by side across the portal facing the Plaza during Fiesta, mounted on a wooden frame that is secured by screws on either end, she said. The practice is about 50 years old, she said. The plaques are also displayed elsewhere around the Plaza.

The coats of arms represent the families of Fiesta Council volunteers who organize the annual celebration and the men who accompanied Don Diego de Vargas on his 1692 expedition to reclaim the territory for Spain from Pueblo people, Mascarenas told The New Mexican. The Native Americans occupied the city, including the Palace, for a dozen years following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Mascarenas said she had no communication with Wulf or Veronica Gonzales, the secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs, after July 18, when Gonzales acknowledged by email Mascarenas’ objection to removing the crests. That day, Fecteau released a statement by email saying the six-month closing of the Palace for renovations offered an opportunity “to ensure the preservation of the historic building, and at the same time find a solution to display the family crests without causing damage.”

The planned renovations include the installation of heating, air-conditioning and fire-suppression equipment.

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