Summer 2021 Tour Santa Fe, New Mexico Episode 6: Wrap-Up

In some respects, we were glad to move to Taos after our two weeks in Santa Fe. In other respects, we were sad to leave. We had tired of our cramped spot, the daily traffic on Cerrillos, and the screaming kid a few doors down. Yet, we hadn’t checked everything off our “To Do” list. There was so much more art and history to soak up; fitting it all in proved difficult. What follows is an apology, list of sites we missed, and a few words about memorial conflict.

An Apology

Before we get into all of that, I first need to apologize to what I consider the “main event” at the New Mexico Capitol Building. For some strange reason, I failed to include his photo in Episode 2 of this series.

Buffalo mixed media sculpture by Holly Hughes

My friend Lani Longshore alerted me to my faux pas, which allowed me to update the post and include him in his rightful place. Knowing people don’t often revisit previously read posts, I present him here to ensure everyone has a chance to meet him.

Detail of Buffalo

What We Missed

And now, back to the wrap-up. We never had a chance to visit any of the many galleries, not even the one that captured my imagination several years ago when we stayed in the city: Georgia O’Keeffe. Although we had been there before, I was certain the paintings displayed this time would have been different. Canyon Road contains historic sites, galleries, restaurants, Cristo Rey Church, the First Ward School, and the Randall Davey House and Audubon Center &Sanctuary. Nor did we see House of Eternal Return at Meowwolf, a contemporary “Experience of the Unknown.”

Our day trip to Cochiti Lake, discussed in Episode 5, included Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Unfortunately, the monument was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions at Pueblo de Cochiti, the monument’s gateway. It remains closed as of October 15, 2021, until the Bureau of Land Management and the Pueblo de Cochiti work together on plans to reopen. We noticed many of the pueblos and casinos throughout the state were closed. The American Indians were doing all they could to reduce virus exposure in their communities.

Photo credit: “American Hiking Society Instagram Takeover: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico” by mypubliclands is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Then there was Los Alamos. Our day trip planned for Bandelier initially included the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the Jemez Historic Site. Why I thought we could hit all four places in one day was beyond me.

We got up early so we could eat breakfast in White Rock at the Pig + Fig. Thank goodness we arrived before a long line formed.

To get our bearings, we stopped in at the Visitor Center to pick up flyers and brochures. We left the truck in the parking lot and rode the shuttle bus to Bandelier. I would compare the ride up the mountain to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland. At times, I thought the bus would fly off the cliff until the driver careened around a curve. On the way down was more to my liking.

White Rock Visitor Center
Art inside the White Rock Visitor Center
Outside the visitor center: Kinetic Wind Sculptures, Lyman Whitaker

After Bandelier, we nixed Valles Caldera and Jemez from our list and drove to Los Alamos. As we drove through town, we felt like we had entered an episode of the Twilight Zone. Very few people were out and about, and the Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos History Museum, and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park were all closed.

All is quiet at Bradbury Science Museum

The Ashley Pond Park was the only happening place with families enjoying a picnic. We had to settle on the local Subway for a bite to eat—the only restaurant we found open.

Only place in town to eat

I guess Monday, July 5, wasn’t the best time to visit Los Alamos. It seemed like most everyone had gone out of town for vacation. We’ll try to get one of the RV sites next to the visitor center when we’re in the area again. Then we can spend a few days exploring rather than a few hours, assuming we are no longer dealing with restrictions.

Another Memorial Conflict

The Santa Fe Plaza is a popular place with so many people around it’s difficult to get a photo. It was clear enough for us to walk through one day without bumping into ten people every few feet. For some reason, it didn’t look like what I remembered from years past. In the middle of the Plaza stood a stone plinth, missing whatever once sat on top and I couldn’t remember what it was.

A few days later, while taking photos of the Scottish Rites building, we found the missing piece from the Plaza. The entire structure was erected around 1866 as a memorial commemorating soldiers who served during the Civil War and battled with Native Americans. Does anyone see where this story is headed?

Obelisk from the Plaza outside United States Court House

For more than a hundred years, people and groups begged the city to replace the obelisk with something else or amend words inscribed on the base panels. While the words were commonplace in the 1800s, over time, the words became hurtful and offensive. Outright removal was rejected, while efforts to chisel off offensive wording were more successful. Unauthorized alterations were also made.

About 40 primarily white protesters toppled the top three sections of the obelisk on October 12, 2020. So now the stone and marble monument is separated. The Plaza remains the home for the plinth, while the obelisk stands in front of the Federal Court House encased in a crate, at least when we saw it on July 8, 2021.

On June 16, 2021, the Union Protectiva de Santa Fe sued the city’s mayor over the destruction and plans to move the memorial permanently. The Hispanic group claims the monument honors the Hispanic soldiers who fought and died for the Union in battles with Confederate soldiers and indigenous tribes, and its destruction and removal dishonors the Hispanic soldiers.

A temporary fix is in the works through the city’s Arts and Culture Department. Is it possible to arrive at a solution that makes everyone happy? While discussing how every story has more than one side, our friend Jim Koch came up with a great idea. “Why not design a multi-sided monument that tells the story from the different perspectives?”

Why not, indeed? I hope Jim submits his idea to the Santa Fe Arts and Culture Department for consideration. With all the diverse artists living in or near Santa Fe, I trust the community to come up with something that pays tribute to and honors the interests of all groups.

Next up: We move on to Taos, The Soul of the Southwest, for another week of adventure in New Mexico.

Safe Travels