Santa Fe has celebrated Las Fiestas de Santa Fe since 1712, making it the oldest civic celebration of its kind in North America. It began as a religious celebration to celebrate the reconquest of New Mexico after the Pueblo Revolt. This year, the Fiesta runs from September 2-11th.
Even though Shuster continued to create Zozobra, or Old Man Gloom, every year, the effigy didn't always look identical. During World War Two, Zozobra took on a distinctly Asian look, with slanting eyes and round spectacles. Other times, he had sharp teeth and pointed ears, giving him a vampirish appearance. In 1964, Shuster handed over his plans and his rights to the Kiwanis Club, who has kept the tradition going ever since. It has become not only a favorite event, but the major fundraiser for the Club.
I have only seen Zozobra burn once, in the early 1970s. Back then, the crowd was unruly, with lots of drunkeness and brawls breaking out among motorcycle gangs. Since then, the crowds have become much larger, but better behaved.
Have you ever been to Zozobra, or is there a similar tradition in your area? I'd love to hear your stories.
This year's Zozobra is over 50 feet tall. He will go up in flames on the evening of Friday, September 2nd, at Fort Marcy Park.