Santa Fe: Through My Eyes

Great cities are masterpieces of art that allow each traveler to capture her/his own experience.

Located in northern New Mexico, Santa Fe is filled with four centuries of rich and often contentious history. A good way to know Santa Fe is through its neighborhoods – Plaza and Downtown, Canyon Road, Midtown Innovation District, Railyard-Guadalupe district, and Southside.

Three distinct styles of architecture can be witnessed in Santa Fe – Pueblo, Territorial, and Northern New Mexico. Native American culture permeates the city.

What follows is Santa Fe through my eyes.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

Under the portal of the Palace of the Governors, Native American artists—representing almost every New Mexico tribe—sell their handmade art and jewelry.

Built in 1610, the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. It is also New Mexico's oldest museum that includes the famed Segesser Hides, which are rare examples of the earliest known depictions of colonial life in the United States. The adjacent New Mexico History Museum provides more detailed information about the Hides.

Note: Purchase the New Mexico Culture Pass that provides you access to 15 museums and historical sites in New Mexico.

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture "through close collaboration with Native Communities, commits to respect Indigenous traditions and to inspire appreciation of the unique cultures of the Southwest." The complex stories of the American Southwest is told by the exhibition titled, "Here, Now and Always" that comprises of over 1,300 objects. A rotating outdoor sculpture garden showcases works by Native American sculptors.

De Vargas Street House

Located in the Barrio de Analco Historic District in Santa Fe is the De Vargas Street House. A plaque on the wall indicates that this is the "oldest" house in the United States. The claim "oldest" pertains to the west section of the house made of pueblo foundations and dates back to the 13th century. The west portion has thick adobe walls, dirt floors, and a corner fireplace. The east portion of the house contains a museum and craft shop.

Note: The Tlascalan Indian word, “Analco,” means “the other side of the river,” which distinguished this barrio from the neighborhood on the plaza side of the Santa Fe river.

San Miguel Mission

Also known as the San Miguel Chapel, this is the key site in Santa Fe's Barrio de Analco Historic District. Oral history holds that the chapel was built around 1610. The chapel is one of the finest examples of adobe architecture in Santa Fe. The chapel has had numerous repairs over the years but has retained its original adobe walls. The altar screen dates back to 1798 and is the oldest wooden altar screen in New Mexico. On either side of the chapel's inside walls, you will see two paintings on buffalo hide and deer skin that were used as teaching aids by Franciscan Friars in their conversion work.

Hewett House

Built in 1870 as part of the Fort Marcy compound, the Hewett House was one of officers' quarters when the U.S. Army maintained two military reservations in Santa Fe [1846-1894]. Fort Marcy was the first U.S. military post in New Mexico territory.

A rare two-story adobe, the house was remodeled several time times over the years and in 1916, the house was modified into the Spanish-Pueblo Indian architectural style. In 1920, Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, then Director of the Museum of New Mexico, purchased the house and lived there until his death in 1946. Hewett was a leader of Santa Fe’s cultural renaissance.

109 E. Palace Avenue

During World War II, 109 E. Palace Avenue was the administrative hub of the Manhattan Project. For personnel assigned to work on the top-secret project at Los Alamos, Santa Fe was their first stop. They arrived not knowing where they were or where they were going. The scientists and families were directed to 109 E. Palace Avenue in Santa Fe, a building constructed as a Spanish hacienda and is located off the plaza in downtown Santa Fe.

New Mexico State Capitol

As the only round capitol building in the United States, the New Mexico State Capitol combines elements of Territorial and Pueblo architecture, including Greek Revival adaptations. The Capitol resembles the Zia sun symbol, which incorporates elements representing the sun's rays, the four directions, the four seasons, and the four phases of life.

Located on the fourth floor is the Governor's Gallery, one of Santa Fe's hidden gems – a free art exhibit that is an outreach facility of the Department of Cultural Affairs and New Mexico Museum of Art. Nearly 600 artworks are exhibited in the interior public spaces of the Capitol, as well as on the grounds.

Train at Night in the Desert, Georgia O'Keeffe

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is home to the largest permanent collection of O'Keeffe's work in the world. Among other things, the collection provides a unique perspective of O'Keeffe's creative process. The collection comprises over 3,000 works that includes paintings and drawings. Georgia O'Keeffe created imagery, which she expressed as, "the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it." Her work, "Train at Night in the Desert" speaks to me the most.

Note: You can download the Museum's free app for an audio and video tour. Although the stops on the tour are numbered, you need not follow a specific order.

Multiple Visions: A Common Bond

A most delightful experience in The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe is a long-term exhibition titled, "Multiple Visions: A Common Bond." The exhibition displays approximately 10,000 pieces of folk art, toys, textiles, etc., from the Alexander and Susan Girard Collection. A guiding principle for Alexander and Susan Girard for collecting folk art is “Tutto il mondo è paese,” an Italian proverb that translates to "The whole world is hometown."

Sacred Realm: Blessings & Good Fortune Across Asia

In the Museum of International Folk Art, an exhibition titled, "Sacred Realm: Blessings & Good Fortune Across Asia" was one of my all-time favorites. Curated exquisitely, the exhibition invites you to explore ways in which people in Asia seek and secure blessings and good fortune. In spite of race, color, language, etc., the essence of blessings and good fortune permeates culture and religion, and speaks to the common essence of being able to attain balance and harmony. The exhibition raises an important question – What is a blessing? For example, "some people pray for wealth; others see money as the root of all evil. Is fertility a blessing for everyone?"

Santa Cruz, Luis Tapia

The New Mexico Museum of Art houses over 20,000 works of American and European art, paintings, sculptures, etc. The Museum is especially known for its collection of the Taos Society of Artists and Los Cinco Pintores, the five painters who moved to Santa Fe and helped establish the community as a famous art colony.

An exhibition during my visit was titled, "Con Cariño: Artists Inspired by Lowriders." In the late 1940s, people living along the U.S.–Mexican border began weighting or lowering cars. The lowriders were born and soon expanded to California, New Mexico, and Texas. In addition to being a personal utopia, the lowriders are also viewed as a form of protest against social conventions.

Meow Wolf

The Meow Wolf art complex built by 135 artists is best described as "an arts production company that creates immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling." Located inside an old bowling alley, "The House of Eternal Return" is Meow Wolf's first permanent exhibit. Examine closely. Touch. Open doors.