Browsing Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is much more than just the capitol of New Mexico. It is a place that thrills all five senses and probably that mysterious sixth sense too. This city has embraced over four-hundred years of history entertaining a diversity of cultures. Ancestral Puebloans dominated the New Mexico area before we ever adopted a calender. Their reign was interrupted by the arrival of the Spanish in 1598. By 1610 the colonists proclaimed Santa Fe as the capitol of their Nuevo Mexico. They built a central Plaza, which still acts as the city hub today. The Palace of the Governors remains in use today as a museum and local market. It is considered the oldest building to continuously be used in the United States.
Palace of the Governors
The Spanish ruled off and on until 1693, when they returned from being brutally ousted by the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Then the year 1821 came around and the Mexicans rebelled to claim Mexico as an independent nation, only to be ceded to the United Sates in 1848. Eventually New Mexico was declared a state in 1912. And on this date, state officials decreed the “city beautiful” mission otherwise known as the “city different” mission. They recognized their intensely, unique history was being torn away due to American homogenization. No longer would “main-street America” impose itself on Santa Fe. From then on, the Pueblo Revival style was deemed to be the official architectural plan of the city. This mission caused the city to be historically conscious. Preservation techniques were vigorously studied, with the intentions that Santa Fe would showcase its historical significance and attract tourists.

Well, to this day it is doing just that. Santa Fe sees thousands of tourist a year, and this year our group was one of those many. When we exited from the monotonous interstate into Santa Fe it felt like entering an episode of The Twilight Zone, especially as we got closer to the Santa Fe Plaza. I imagined I had been turned into a doll and placed into a child's “model-toy-set” of an adobe city. Though I could recognize that I was still in America, the city was unlike any other in this country. Short, plain adobe structures line the streets, which is very different than the territorial style I am used to. The adobe was amazing to look upon, especially the accent of color placed only on doors, windows, and gates. I was blessed to wake at dawn each day in Santa Fe. Each morning, I strolled through the city just before sunrise to watch the sun slowly paint the pinkish, brownish adobe buildings with a special grace foreign to my eyes.
Local shop displaying local art

We spent two days touring this city. After one day of exploring, I discovered that Santa Fe was best for browsing. This city has too much to offer for only a brief visit. It is geared to please its guests while also taking every opportunity to celebrate its history. Every shop, cathedral, restaurant, and hotel I ventured into featured either a display or exhibit of the numerous traditions linked to Santa Fe. The Palace of the Governors has even been turned into a museum and also a local artisan market. But the most unique area I experienced was Canyon Road, where I beheld an abundance of art galleries, artists, and a zoo featuring only the sculptures of animals. I even witnessed an original adobe home! It looked rugged, and the straw used to make adobe was distinctly showing. This one road made me crave more of Santa Fe! It illuminated Santa Fe's laid-back vibe, and made me think of reasons why famed artist such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Jack Kerouac used this city as a muse.

Most of the time in Santa Fe was devoted to roaming the Plaza downtown. Acting as the hub where the city began its genesis, the most vigorous focus to preserve its romantic, nostalgic aura lays here. This is where I felt most like a toy in a larger play set. In fact, there was a movie being filmed in the center of the Plaza, right next to the Palace of the Governors. The place sure did feel like it was designed from history books. Local merchants sold there goods directly off blankets. No plastic credit cards to be found here! It was a rare moment to watch the classic exchanging of money for goods. A true trading post—hooray!
Movie set in the Plaza

However, as I walked aimlessly in my free time, just soaking as much of the city in a possible, I unfortunately realized that the “city different” mission of 1912 was not as strong as when it began. The mission has brought a multitude of tourism, thus profit to Santa Fe. Due to the hospitable efforts to comfort the influx of tourists, it has not been able to mask the sprawl of “main street America” inside its boarders. Bright, LED business signs and the numerous faux-adobe (imitates adobe by plastering stucco over cement) structures disrupt the city's nostalgic aura. Of course I understand that the city is competing for tourists and must keep up with technology, but I only hope that the people in charge remember why tourist do visit Santa Fe. And the answer is because it was once very conscious of its diverse history, and was in a unique position to differentiate itself by utilizing it.

As a whole, I do see the differences and beauty in Santa Fe. I see it in its culture and in its determination to celebrate all that has been happening here for over four-hundred years. The city's future will be determined by how it handles itself as a niche market. I thoroughly enjoyed Santa Fe. It gave me a touch of serenity I did not expect to find in a state capitol. I truly hope that it will always remain a place for us to go play in the past. 
-Beau Lemoine                             


No comments: