Those poor Indians, coming up against the immutable force of Spanish Catholicism during the age of the Inquisition. Judging from the legends on some of the exhibits we saw today, it seemed we were to feel sorry for the Europeans when the Indians revolted early on and killed many missionaries. The Indians didn’t seem to understand that the Spaniards had documents to validate their mission.
We continue to be astonished that the Indians aren’t even more angry than they appear to be. They were considered so expendable and inferior, with no rights to the land. They didn’t even believe that they owned it, because that was such a foreign concept to them. But they did think that they had a right to their beliefs and their way of life.
There does seem to be a real effort to soften the historical view held by European imperialists, and to restore respect to all the people who made the Southwest what it is today. This was an interesting marker on the central statue in the plaza, which followed some of the memorials on the statue itself.
But let’s start with the overview we got at the New Mexico Museum of Art. It was a nice combination of old and new, set in a beautiful Pueblo Revival building around a center courtyard. Very traditional style and very graceful.
Inside was the New Mexico gift from the Herb and Dorothy Vogel Collection, which you might remember last seeing with us in Charlotte.
There were other works by notable New Mexicans, including our friends Georgia O’Keeffe and Peter Hurd, as well as artists we have seen before in our NM travels. The huge circle made of photocopied butterflies was just spectacular.
We then went to the New Mexico History Museum, because we just hadn’t had enough of the Spanish, Mexican, American, Indian conflicts that formed this state. The most interesting part was the old Palace of the Governors, which was the seat of power since the earliest days, built in 1610. Currently, it is mostly an exhibit of religious art. However, it does include artifacts from colorful New Mexicans – here comes Billy again – and even has some rooms dedicated to those who worked in great secrecy on the Manhattan Project. –
But one part is truly amazing. In the early days, Indians would gather outside the Governor’s Palace as supplicants and merchants. That tradition continues to this day, though maybe it is only we who find it a bit sad.
Just for contrast, we also went to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, where a bit of Indian humor sneaks into the art scene, albeit somewhat dark at times.
And just to round out the rest of the Plaza, here is the Cathedral, in which a wedding was being celebrated. One notable side altar in the church holds what is considered to be the oldest Madonna in the US, La Conquistadora. The statue was brought to the San Franciscan mission in 1625, and has been venerated ever since. When those Indians rebelled in 1680, the Spanish people of Santa Fe fled with nothing but La Conquistadora. Oh, and in the same side altar is a group of reliquaries containing not only a bone each from St. Francis, St. Theresa and St. Anthony, but also a relic of the True Cross, found, as you will recall, by the mother of Constantine the Great. Not bad, for one church.
We also went to the nearby Loretto Chapel, with its miraculous stairway. Legend has it that the Sisters of Loretto were building this beautiful Gothic church – certainly the oldest one in this part of the world – and realized they needed someone with special skills to connect the loft section to the main church. Lo and behold, they prayed, and a carpenter appeared one day who single-handedly built this truly amazing feat of engineering and art. And then when he was finished, he just disappeared. Note all the rosaries that grace the surrounding trees.
Also, enjoy some general views of the center of the city, all done in Pueblo Revival. They include the lobby of La Fonda, originally the inn at the end of the Santa Fe trail. In the old days, people drank, gambled and were lynched in the lobby. Now you can buy crystals and pottery to your heart’s content.
As a final view of Santa Fe, we turned to something very new. Up in the hills is a new community called Zocalo, which is highly touted as a green development of condos with style and features like a community center and shops, emulating a pueblo of the past, and all with terrific views. We thought it a bit stark and lonely, but the altitude may be getting to us.
All in all, we thought Santa Fe very stylish and extremely well regulated in terms of its architecture, which don’t intrude on the gorgeous landscape. As a city, it is – and for many many years has been – geared for the tourist trade, which must get a little wearing if you live here.