Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 1: Santa Fe Plaza

Pulling into Los Sueños de Santa Fe was a challenge on June 24, 2021. First the horrendous traffic on Cerrillos Road came as a shock. Then the lack of a sign for the RV Park made us think the GPS lagged behind. If it hadn’t been for a patrol car blocking traffic behind us, we might still be sitting in the median waiting for cars to clear.

Was it the drive, the traffic, or the campground that made Jon lose his happy camper attitude? He hated everything about the campground: no sign, uneven site, too close together, only one washer and dryer. I counted us lucky, given the Fourth of July weekend fell in the middle of our stay, and we had only made reservations two weeks prior.

Our home for two weeks at Los Sueños de Santa Fe

Once he confirmed reservations elsewhere were not possible, he was back to his happy self. In the long run everything turned out okay. We only had neighbors on our patio side during the weekends, neighbors on the street side were quiet, and we found a clean laundry place a few blocks away.

To start off this series, here are a few Santa Fe details:

  • Founded as the capitol of Nuevo Mexico, a kingdom of the Spanish empire in 1610
  • New Mexico became a US territory in 1848 and Santa Fe continued as the capitol
  • In 1912, US granted New Mexico statehood with Santa Fe as its capitol
  • Soon after statehood, artists, writers, and retirees arrived for the dry climate, picturesque landscapes, and cultural wealth
  • Population in 2020: 87,505, a 20,000 increase from 2010
  • Santa Fe boasts 12 museums housing historic, cultural, and artistic creations

The Santa Fe Plaza downtown is first on our list of places to see. We hopped on The Loretto Line, an open-air trolley tour of the historical downtown to get our bearings. The driver concentrated on driving, while the guide entertained us with historical stories—some true, some maybe not—and gave us ideas about places to see. He also included tips and tricks about where to park, eat, and shop. We would have missed a few sites had we not taken the trolley.

New Mexico History Museum

Plenty to see at New Mexico History Museum

Three connected buildings house the New Mexico History Museum. The oldest building is The Palace of the Governors, built in 1610 by European settlers.

“In the beginning” story of indigenous peoples

The museum’s website states the 1610 Palace of the Governors is the “oldest public building in continuous use in the continental United States.” Various renovations and installation of modern amenities have occurred over the centuries.

Artifacts depicting Spanish rule over territory that became New Mexico

We spent most of one day at the museum following the historical record from the early indigenous habitants, through the Spanish rule, early settlers, and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, and writers such as D. H. Lawrence.

D. H. Lawrence’s satchel used between 1920 and 1940 during his worldwide travels
Up the stairs (or take the elevator) for more history

We learned about railroad activities, the impact of World War II on the community, and even the communes and social experiments of the 1960s and 1970s.

Part of railroad exhibit
Exhibits pay tribute to the New Mexican men who fought in the Battle of Bataan and faced the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, and to the Navajo Code Talkers
Mabel Dodge Luhan attracted writers, including D. H. Lawrence, and artists to Taos, New Mexico
Here come the hippies
Significant and historic places around the State of New Mexico

After viewing the museum’s first floor, we took a break for lunch at Tres Colores.

I spotted this couple while eating my lunch. The man’s gallant gestures toward the woman and the expression of appreciation and happiness on his face gave me the impression they were very much in love and had been for decades.

Simple Love

No selfies, no social media, just two people enjoying each other’s company while sharing a meal. In this age of technology and the internet of everything, the couple reminded me that it’s the simple joys of life that are the most meaningful.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi Archdiocese of Santa Fe

Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy built the Cathedral Basilica between 1869 and 1886. The limestone block masonry, round arches, columns, and towers are typical of the Romanesque Revival style. Rooted to the earth at the end of the street, the building’s magnificence exudes a sense of superiority, strength, and security that commands a viewer’s attention.

Original plans for the church called for spires atop the towers. Lack of funds prevented their addition.
The keystone in the arch contains a triangle with the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Hebrew word YHWH, or Yahweh.
Arch Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy spent much of his life seeking funding to complete construction. Statue created by Jeno Juszko
Statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the dioceses, installed during 1967 renovations
Patron Saint of the Environment Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) “Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha” created by Estella Loretto from the Jemez Pueblo and installed in August 2003

Visitors and cameras are welcome inside the church for a self-guided tour on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Check website for times.

The stained glass window was imported from Clermont-Ferrand in France.
Twelve apostle windows also were imported from France
The reredos (ornamental screen behind the altar) depicts Saint Francis surrounded by saints of the New World
Women at crucifixion

Across the street from the Basilica is the Sena Plaza where visitors will find shopping and La Casa Sena Cantina. Originally built in 1846 as a house in an old hacienda style.

Find shopping and have a bite to eat at the Sena Plaza
La Casa Sena Cantina uses a common color scheme seen in Santa Fe. Is it true the turquoise doors and window frames prevent evil sprits from entering?
La Fonda on the Plaza is also across the street from St. Francis Cathedral

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is one of 37 tribal colleges in the US. The school was established in 1962 as a high school formed under the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Two-year associate degrees began in 1975 and in the 2000s, the school expanded its offerings to include baccalaureate degrees. IAIA ventured into graduate programs in 2013 when it began the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. They have since added an MFA program in studio arts.

Statuary garden behind the gate

IAIA moved its Museum of Contemporary Native Arts to downtown Santa Fe in 1992. We enjoyed the opportunity to walk through the exhibits and admire the colorful paintings and murals created by the talented students. Each exhibit included a bio of the artist so we could get a sense of who the person was and what inspired their art.

Architectural contrast
Sculpture with a corn theme
Mural depicts American Indian themes

The museum had on exhibit works created by Linda Lomahaftewa. Lomahaftewa was among the first group of Native American youths to study art at the high school when it opened in 1962.

A study of horizon and sky in abstract
More colorful abstracts
“Weaving Memories of our South Pacific Ancestors” by Linda Lomahaftewa

Other Plaza Sites

The pink-clad Scottish Rite Temple sports a different type of architecture from what is typically seen in Santa Fe. This building was used in Tina Fey’s 2016 movie Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.

Scottish Rite Temple built in 1912 in the Moorish Revival style

During one of our excursions downtown, we came across a gay pride and celebration at the plaza.

Pride celebration in the plaza

Allan Houser (1914-1994) was an Apache Indian artist, painter, and sculptor. He was honored in 1992 with the National Medal of Arts. His works can be seen in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., as well as in numerous museums.

JT cozies up to Allan Houser

Next up: We explore a few sites beyond the plaza: the capitol building, Loretto Chapel, oldest church and oldest house.

Safe travels

8 thoughts on “Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 1: Santa Fe Plaza

  1. We used to dislike Santa Fe and would avoid stopping there during our travels from our home in Colorado to our son’s place in Phoenix. Once we actually spent time exploring and learning our way around the city, we came to really enjoy the place – so much history. Glad your stay turned out well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for all the historical details and photos! I learned more about Santa Fe than I ever knew. It seems to be a fascinating place to visit. Glad Jon recovered from his early grumpiness, although I can understand his viewpoint!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a very interesting city! Glad your husband got his spirit back. We all have our days. It’s funny to me that the events of the 1960s and 70s are in a museum. I like the idea of the trolley tour. I’d also like a tour when viewing the art. A little bit of knowledge can really enhance the experience. The cathedral was beautiful. Can you imagine the transport of those windows from France? I enjoyed reading this post, and I look forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

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