Burning Zozobra - photo by T-Bone
T-Bone
The burning of the Zozobra, which has taken place annually since being created by Will Shuster in 1924, commemorates the “peaceful reoccupation” of Santa Fe, with the event now becoming the unofficial kick off to Santa Fe fiestas.

Burn The Zozobra! Photos of Annual Indigenous 50-Foot Burning Man

Jason Asenap
9/8/16

When I moved to New Mexico in 2004 I was intrigued by an event known as the burning of Will Schuster’s Zozobra, but was told to avoid it. Why? Because I was Native and was told Native Americans are usually not welcomed.. Why was this? All of this intrigued me even more, so of course I had to go. My first Zozobra burning was three years ago.

Thousands of onlookers turn out year after year to watch the burning of the Zozobra - a huge monster-like boogeyman who is burned as a celebration to remove old worries and and works as a Santa Fe transition into Autumn. The burning at this year’s 92nd annual event occurred in Santa Fe, NM on September 2nd.

The burning of the Zozobra, which has taken place annually since being created by Will Shuster in 1924, commemorates the “peaceful reoccupation” of Santa Fe, with the event now becoming the unofficial kick off to Santa Fe fiestas.

The idea of being harassed as a Native has, so far, been an untruth, but I'm still conflicted on the event. While I support the idea of the community coming together for the common cause of burning one’s woes and negative energy away, why are we still using Spanish conquistador imagery and not including more Native people in the celebration? Perhaps the Native community does not care to participate in large numbers? Perhaps I am asking the wrong questions?

The event seems a mixture of family and partygoers, ready to burn their woes away in the form of the Zozobra, Chants of “Burn him! Burn him!” fill the air until the fedora’d one, or what was left of him, lay in a pile of crumpled embers.

Here are 10 memorable photos of the annual Indigenous 50-Foot Burning Man.

Up close and personal with Zozobra before the evening festivities-Photo: Jason Asenap

The event volunteers and some Kiwanas club members take pictures in front of Zozobra-Photo:Jason Asenap

Pueblo and Spanish crests hang side by side in the plaza-Photo:Jason Asenap

Even Trump supporters are accepted at Zozobra-Photo:Jason Asenap

Two friends pause their celebration for a picture-Photo:Jason Asenap

A man puts his hand over his heart during the national anthem:Photo:T-Bone

Smoke begins to swirl around Zozobra-photo:T-Bone

Zozobra’s head catches fire-photo:T-Bone

Thousand’s of people took photos of Zozobra burning-Photo:T-Bone

The crowd watches Zozobra burn as fireworks explode overhead-Photo:T-Bone

 

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Comments

Ray Sandoval
Submitted by Ray Sandoval on
Jason Thank you so much for the article. would you mind emailing me? [email protected] Ray Sandoval Zozobra Event Chair

Marta Henriksen
Submitted by Marta Henriksen on
For me, a half-blood Northern Cheyenne person, there are 2 problems with the Zozobra and Santa Fe Fiestas, although I have enjoyed going for over 30 years. First, the re-taking of Santa Fe was not peaceful, the Pecos people were essentially wiped out, and second, the portrayal of Natives in the Fiestas celebrations s That said, I have enjoyed the energy of the crowd, and the whole thing of running or walking back to the plaza after wards and eating warm fry bread and enjoying the music and other things. It is a good time, but I am also torn by the imagery and fractured history.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
In spite of the fact that I live in New Mexico, I've never been (nor do I think I'll ever attend). I grow nervous around large groups of people screaming, "BURN HIM! BURN HIM!"

Flower's picture
Flower
Submitted by Flower on
As a NM Pueblo member, I would say most local natives including myself don't attend because it's "not our way" to watch or participate in something like this. This is a made-up spectacle for and by non-natives to release their negative energy or thoughts. We respect their non-native ways and we also respect and follow our own traditional ways to be careful with our thoughts and actions which is why you won't see many there. I've never been interested in attending.
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