The irony in the first paragraph of “Longtime Fiesta Soldados given the Boot” citing the 2018 Old Spanish Days’ theme of Celebrating Tradition and a part of its own tradition for 29 years being eliminated, immediately calls to question the reasoning of such an action.

All should remember that the Pequeña show opening the beginning of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta, is just that — a show. It is a celebration of song, dance, and interpretation of the past. Just an interpretation — not an historic rendition of the past. As stated, there was no Saint Barbara coming through the Mission doors, no flamenco dancing, no singing of “Granada,” no Aztec dancing in early Santa Barbara, California. Again ironically, there were, however, men (soldados) with wives and children who had traveled hundreds of miles to start new lives. They brought a new culture introducing agriculture, butchering, hide processing, irrigation, land tenure, leather working, metallurgy, rancho/cowboy gear, seaports, stock raising, tools, urban planning, viticulture industries (wine and brandy), western architecture, and the written language.

These men and their families founded Santa Barbara. These men were in the service of their country and valiant in their efforts to bring their way of living to the northern frontier. These men contributed financially from their meager pay to help those men and families on the other side of the continent fight for their freedom in the Revolutionary War — again ironically, whose descendants are now enjoying Santa Barbara. There were, of course, bad men and evil events, but those should not overshadow all the facts of the history of Santa Barbara or of its founders. The soldados of Santa Barbara changed an area to one that made pottery, blacksmithing, masonry — the variety of artisans made products never seen in this area before. This group of men and their families, their story and their endeavor to begin new lives are the genesis of Santa Barbara today.

There is a director of Pequeña, and as all directors of a show, has the right to include or exclude participation. If Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days and especially if Pequeña is a celebration of its past, elimination of its founding fathers with censorship for bigoted, racist, and biased opinions is shameful. Using inflammatory and nonapplicable descriptions of history only confirms the uninformed knowledge of those claiming such.

I am proud to have participated in and been a part of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days for the last four years. It is wonderful to be included in a joyous celebration.

The board of Old Spanish Days and the director of Pequeña should be honest about Santa Barbara’s history, leave out politics and certainly give honor to its own Founding Fathers.

Pequeña should just be a joyous celebration.

Martha Ann Francisca Vallejo McGettigan is a California historian, director of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Spanish Task Force, and a descendant of founding families of San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.


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