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The Burning Of Zozobra Is A Santa Fe Institution

By Keith Donaldson

Nearly a century old, the Burning of Zozobra is an annual tradition in Santa Fe. The festival, which culminates in the burning of a large statue of Zozobra, is an annual autumn tradition in the capital city that is opened to all and embraced by everyone. Ray Sandoval, event chairman, answered some of our questions of this unique New Mexican tradition.

How would you describe the atmosphere of your annual festival?

One of Santa Fe, NM's most highly-anticipated annual events, the Burning of Will Shuster's Zozobra is about to celebrate its 94th year on Friday, August 31, 2018. The only-in-Santa-Fe pageantry fires up the beginning of New Mexico's exceptionally rich autumn season in a festive, family-friendly, welcoming-to-all atmosphere that celebrates the historic cultural traditions that make Santa Fe such an inviting place to live.

How is the mythology of Zozobra vital to the fabric of the Santa Fe community?

Santa Fe is a city that is justifiably proud of its cultural legacy and its artistic history, and the Burning of Zozobra is an event that combines both of those points of pride to perfection. Created in 1924 by artist Will Shuster, one of Santa Fe's famed early 20th C. Cinco Pintores, Zozobra is an enduring cultural touchstone that addresses humanity's eternal battle between good and evil. This gloomy specter is a monster woeful created and reborn annually because of our own nefarious and woeful deeds throughout the year.

Called forth by the goodwill of the crowd, Zozobra's eternal enemy, the Fire Spirit, materializes from the hopes, dreams and faith of Santa Fe's citizens. Once summoned, the Fire Spirit battles in the darkness to vanquish Santa Fe's oldest foe. And when the battle is won and Zozobra's gloomy menace has been defeated, the sense of joy and release is palpable for days/

What else would you like to convey to the public about what you do? What do you enjoy about your job?

Being the Zozobra event chairman is a huge honor and responsibility. Not only do you look backwards by keeping a 94-year-old tradition alive you also look forward by investing the net proceeds into Santa Fe's youth. It is an honor to keep Zozobra's torch lit.

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