For the love of God

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.

16 thoughts on “For the love of God

  1. I just realised you’re on the Willa Cather Trail! Is it in ‘Death comes for the Archbishop’ where a French priest travels from Ohio to New Orleans to Galveston and then through Texas to Santa Fe?
    He went by mule–so your attention to detail is a bit lacking here.
    Weren’t us Europeans good at a bit of heavy handed colonisation? And didn’t we spread the message well??
    Thanks for the gallery of beautiful art works. A bit of a feast on grey London days.
    Who’s the artist of the red car on highway that tops this blog?

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    • Ah, what a wonderful memory you have. Yes, it does seem that Willa was somewhat chronicling the life of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, a much-memorialized bishop here who was responsible for building the cathedral in Santa Fe. I had forgotten about her writings on the Southwest. As my mother was from Nebraska, that’s the land she was always associated with in our house – Nebraska owned her. You of course know her family originated in Wales, which is how you connected, I assume. And for much of her life she was actually a New Yorker. Guess the signs are clear it is time to reread her work.

      I do love the pickup truck in the painting at the top. We saw it early on in our trip, at a wonderful small museum in Hickory, North Carolina. Don’t know the artist, but I bet I could find out if you are really curious. I should have remembered that painting while we were in Texas, official home of the pickup truck.

      It is hard to remember that much of my real world is deep in grey November. It will be a bit of a shock to return to it in a few weeks, but I’ll hope for snow to liven things up. In the meanwhile, we’ll keep marching through museums in this part of the world!

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      • I didn’t know about the Welsh connection.I’ll have to find out more. There are lots of Cather’s books in the house cos June’s a big fan
        I’d be interested in knowing who the pick up truck artist was/is –but only if it’s an easy search for you.
        Now I know why there’s a town in those parts called Lamy– after the archbish, of course .One of the big disappointments of our long ago stay in Santa Fe was to find out that the Atcheson (?), Topeka… etc etc no longer ran –and the nearest Amtrak stop was in Lamy. Never got there–but if you’re passing that way, pay my regards. Ta.

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        • I have it on good authority from a source known only to me that the Cather family name is derived from Cadair Idris, a mountain range in northwestern Wales. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

          Re the trains, Don wants you to know that they have reinstated a passenger train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe that stops at the old train station in SF, for a round-trip fare of $9. It’s a 90-minute ride you can take next time you come.

          And re the truck, I’m on it.

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        • Now that I’ve spent a few minutes on the web site, I see that she has lived in Denver, and now lives in North Carolina – not in Denver, North Carolina, as the note from the museum led me to think. (After all, we are in Las Vegas, New Mexico.) The note from the museum was a bit confusing. However, it is very spooky to see the series she did on Ghost Ranch, having just left there.

          I do like her work!

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  2. Yeh…I got in touch with my source who told me exactly the same thing about Cader Idris ( pity he/she can’t get the spelling right!) Do you think the shift from Cader Idris to Cather rings true? Who to trust these days?
    It’s a very beautiful part of the world, Unfortunately it’s in North Wales–which we Southerners hold in deep mistrust. Don’t understand these N/ S divides!
    Thank you for the grand news that the railways have returned to Santa Fe–and at a bargain price.

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    • I KNEW that name sounded off. First of all, I can take a stab at pronouncing it, which fact alone should have told me it was fishy Welsh. Also, it is missing about 20 or 30 additional letters to qualify as a representative of your native tongue, which should have been my other clue.

      Sources aren’t what they used to be. I will rely on you for more factual reportage on the Cather situation.

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      • Also it has vowels in it :a rarity in the Welsh language where ‘w ‘ or ‘y’ will usually fill in any gap between other sounds. Is the Cwthyr clan big in Nebraska?

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        • I did think the other missing 20 letters would have all been consonants. Don’t know about the Welsh in Nebraska. My mother’s family was too busy fighting Irish and Polish prejudice to worry about other oppressed people. But I have been by Willa’s house in Red Cloud. She is haunting me!

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  3. And thank you for the word on Diane Pike. I think it’s very striking work : bold colours and big landscapes. Will you be heading for Denver –and her gallery?
    ( Where does ‘skinny ‘ come from)?

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    • We are definitely going to try to seek Diane Pike out. Am dying to know what her work goes for.

      And as for “skinny,” do add this wonderful piece of American slang to your vocabulary and amaze your friends! (Skinny: Inside information; the real facts.

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    • I had a nice interchange with Diane Pike via email today. She invited us to visit us in her studio today in Denver, but alas, we won’t be there till next week, and she’ll be in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. Maybe next spring?

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  4. Final word on Willa…honest!
    Did Don tell you that sources reveal a variation of the Cather family name to be Cader…which might make sense of the connection with Cader Idris. Might…who knows?
    Diolch.

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    • He did share that. So I am going to conclude that my secret source is not so unreliable after all…

      BTW, Willa must have been up and down this Santa Fe trail. We are in Cimarron, and there is no evidence yet, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t come through here. We are in the St. James Hotel, which is full of spirits. (Details to come.) Maybe hers is here too.

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