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.