Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine Santa Fe’s annual celebration of Fiesta without the burning of Zozobra, but that wasn’t always the case. Although Fiesta dates back to 1712, Zozobra was only created in 1926 by artist/inventor Will Shuster. Shus, as he was affectionately known, was the life of the Santa Fe social scene and member of the local artist group, Los Cinco Pintores. He designed the enormous puppet and oversaw its construction for nearly four decades. Zozobra’s appearance has changed somewhat over the years, even taking on the likeness of Hitler, Mussolini, and Emperor Hirohito during World War II! In 1964, Shuster signed all the rights to Zozobra over to the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club.
The New Mexico Museum of Art owns several works by Will Shuster, including the murals in the courtyard, as well as a comprehensive archival collection. If you want to learn more about the always-entertaining Will Shuster and Zozobra, read the book , Will Shuster: A Santa Fe Legend by Joseph Dispenza and Louise Turner.
Photograph of Will Shuster (left) in front of Zozobra head by Wyatt Davis taken September 2, 1949
Will Shuster Papers, New Mexico Museum of Art Library and Archives