Santa Fe (Holy Faith), the capital of New Mexico, is an absolutely beautiful city.
Tim and I both think this is our favorite city so far on our journey. There is way too much info to put in this one tiny blog, but I’ll try to give you a tiny taste.
Culture – The population of Santa Fe is very diverse. There is a very large population of Caucasians. But of more interest to we travelers are the indigenous people. There is evidence that Native Americans have inhabited New Mexico for over 2,500 years. Early ancestral Indians lived for centuries as hunter-gatherers throughout the Southwest. About 1,500 years ago, some of these groups, commonly referred to today as the Anasazi, established permanent settlements, which are now known as pueblos.
There are 19 pueblos and 3 reservations in New Mexico, eight of them are in or near Santa Fe. The difference between a pueblo and a reservation is that the Pueblo Indians had their land granted to them, whereas most Indian reservations were established via treaties, and may not have been the land they were formerly living on. One of the better known is the Santa Clara reservation, which contains the famed Puye Cliff Dwellings. These cliff dwellings were communal houses with hundreds of rooms, often four or five stories high, accommodating thousands of people. The Spanish called these communities “pueblos”, the Spanish term for villages.
The Spanish first came to New Mexico in 1541. The Spaniards and other Hispanic cultures have influenced how New Mexicans work, play and live, for over 500 years.
Interestingly, there are a large number of Caucasian men walking around with long white beards, and white turbans. Hacienda de Guru Ram Das (HGRD) is a spiritual community of 350 people living in Northern New Mexico just outside the city of Española. While many of the members of this community practice Sikh and 3HO lifestyles, the ashram welcomes all faiths in the philosophy that an ashram is a place where spiritual seekers join together to study, grow and excel. 3HO stands for Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization, and was established in 1969. It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing the teachings of kundalini yoga, as taught by Harbhajan Singh Yogi, referred to as “Yogi Bhajan”, the founder of the group, who is now deceased.
Art– We were astounded by the number of art galleries both large and small. In fact, Santa Fe is the city with the 3rd largest collection of art in the USA. It boggles the mind. We were able to visit one gallery this go-round, and I am so pleased it was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It’s small, but it’s mighty. We watched a short documentary about her life, then proceeded to the 9 viewing rooms. We truly were in awe. We took great delight in “Starlit Night, 1917, because it reminded us of Marfa, Texas.(See Post – “The Stars At Night Are Big And Bright”, Feb. 2016).
“City Night”, 1926, was a favorite because O’Keeffe captured the New York skylines at night with such clarity, while still being an abstraction.
I really love “Pink Ornamental Banana”, 1939, mainly because I like bananas, and I love the color theme and the simplicity of the painting.
Finally, “Blue Flowere”, 1918. This is a wow! painting. I love it because it depicts some of the sexual expression that she brought to her art – even though she vehemently denied it.
Food – New Mexican food is not the same as Mexican food, as the locals will tell you quickly – and it certainlly is not Tex-Mex. It lives somewhere between the two, only with a lot more cheese. I’m told that New Mexican food is a problematic thing to understand if you didn’t grow up with it. Some people say that New Mexican fare is the perfect blend of Northern Mexican and Pueblo Indian foods. It is characterized by its use of green chiles, as well as chiles that are roasted over a fire. Red and green chiles are served with typical Mexican staples such as beans, rice, tortillas and cheese. Green chile is made into a spicy sauce that is then poured over everything. Even McDonalds features a burger with green chiles.
There are more vegetables in New Mexican dishes, as well as more whole kernels of corn. Blue corn is also distinctive element. It comes with its own set of peculiarities. For example, shredded iceberg lettuce and tomato are compulsory garnishes. You may be offered anything on a tortilla, including burgers, PB&J, melted cheese, chocolate sauce — anything goes. One important thing I can’t forget: everything is served spicy — hot, hotter, or hottest. Make sure you order water with your meal.
We had dinner at an old establishment named Maria’s, that boasts a bar menu with 200 different kinds of Margarita. Yes, 200 !!! This place was not much to look at on the outside. in fact, we thought maybe it was the wrong Maria’s, or perhaps that they were no longer in operation. We found the entrance and Holy Molé! The food was terrific, and so was the Margarita we chose. All drinks are mad from scratch – no mixers Note: the owner, Al Lucero, wrote a book about Margaritas, and the one and only Robert Redford wrote the foreword. “The Great Margarita Book: A Handbook with Recipes Paperback” – July 1, 2004.
Santa Fe has a distinctive architectural style all its own. No other city in the country has so many low-slung, earth-colored buildings made of adobe bricks, composed of a mixture of sun-dried earth and straw. Santa Fe’s unique architecture is one of the reasons for the popularity of this city, which is surrounded by majestic mountains with gentle slopes that resemble the soft curves of adobe walls. When you meander streets of downtown and nearby residential neighborhoods, you discover hundreds of historic adobe homes, built primarily in the Spanish Pueblo style. These architectural styles are rooted in ancient history. Government officials have worked very hard to preserve the flavor of the city and its roots, by developing strict building codes. Everywhere you look are adobe styled and colored buildings, most of them blend right into the landscape. Even city center and the government buildings have no skyscrapers, and all are built with the appropriate color scheme. The result is awesome. This is a picture of downtown Santa Fe and the round state capitol building.
And this is a picture of the “oldest house”.
Religion – Religion played a significant role in New Mexico’s early history. The Spanish king and the clergy had one main purpose for settling New Mexico. They wanted to convert all the Indians to Christianity. In 1607, reports to the Spanish king from missionary friars, included the fact that New Mexico already had 8,000 Indian converts. How was this accomplished? The friars would not allow the Indians to practice their cultural religious ceremonies and flogged them when it occurred. So native religious practices were held in secret for fear of punishment. Converted Indians obeyed the mission priests regarding religious matters and worldly matters. The Indians were made to build large adobe churches for the missionaries. Other Indians were given tasks that were against the beliefs of their culture. If they didn’t obey, they were whipped or put in stocks. Some Indians had their heads shaved, and were made to leave the pueblos in disgrace. Indian religious artifacts and kivas were destroyed by soldiers following orders from the missionaries. In 2010, there were approximately 69,552 Indians who were Catholic. It is known that they continue to practice their Pueblo rites and rituals. Good for them!!!
Today, there are beautiful churches and missions everywhere you look in Santa Fe. Most notable are The Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, the Loretto Chapel, and the San Miguel Mission. The Loretto Chapel, below, was completed in 1878.
Specialty Shops and Side Trips – In Santa Fe, there are hundreds of them. Due to time constraints, we could only visit a few. We did take a side trip to Taos. This is primarily a ski resort town. We visited a few of the resorts. I imagine in the winter it’s a bustling village with the beautiful people dressed in their ski togs, making merry. Not so much in May. Many of the towns were in the process of road repair and all manner of renovations. I don’t think I’ll say too much more about Taos until I see it in it’s true glory – winter. But I will say that we crossed the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge, and it was beautiful.
Estrella del Norte Winery (Please see the full critique under WINERIES)
The Tasting was offered by an extremely knowledgeable and friendly guy name Jason.
Jason, the wine was delicious, and we’re only sorry we didn’t buy more. We took your suggestion and had dinner at “The Loyal Hound”. We were a bit skeptical, as the name doesn’t sound like a place one would find in New Mexico, but it too was delicious! Thanks!
Kakawa Chocolate House is a chocolate shop that sells candy and different kinds of hot chocolate. And – they do tastings. Although TripAdvisor listed several, this was number one. We sampled hot chocolate, and it was sooo good. There were also display cases of the most beautiful truffles. Unfortunately we got there at closing, and were unable to sample any. The young lady who manned the front said it was “no problem” to try, but hey, I remember wanting to leave work at closing time, so we did not stay. If you get to Santa Fe, please try a few and let us know what we missed (especially the golden peach, champagne truffle).
We also visited Barrio Brinery. This is a small little place where Pat Block makes and sells pickles. The difference is that they are made without vinegar, and they are really great. We bought some Kosher dills, and a bag of Dill Gator-Taters for the car. Yum!
Why I felt I needed a picture of me holding a pickle, I do not know. And yet, here it is.
Next up – the Santa Fe Honey Salon. It is owned by a man named Gadiel and his family. It is another boutique shop that specializes in – of course – honey. It’s a very unique little place. Gadiel, the owner, was friendly and helpful, and knew an incrediblele amount of information about his products. Plus, you can taste as many of the many, many flavors of honey he stocks in the shop. I wound up purchasing a jar of – ready for this – whole, peeled pistachios, in a jar of wildflower honey, with a hint of chile. Now that is something you don’t see everyday. And I guarantee, you will love, love this place.
Finally, we visited El Santuario de Chimayo. I guess I could have put this in the section about religion, but I wanted it to stand alone. This sanctuary is worth the ride from Sannta Fe. If you go, plan on spending at least an hour. Reportedly, this holy place is a bit like Lourdes, only on a much smaller scale. The devoted come here in the hopes of being healed from whatever condition they may suffer from, and to pray for the healing and souls of loved ones. The sanctuary sits on a lovely few acres, which are sprinkled with statues and tributes to the Catholic religion. My favorite statue is one that I have never, ever seen before. It is a statue of Mary, pregnant with child. I absolutely love this! Do you? Have you ever seen this before?
Also on the grounds is a chapel for Indians.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the main chapel, but we do have one of the outside.
It was strictly forbidden to take a picture of the “holy dirt”. So we didn’t – but someone else did! I got this picture from the internet.
The story goes that if you rub some of this “holy dirt” on the part of your body that ails, it is possible that it will be healed. An adjacent Prayer Room displays many ex-votos — discarded crutches, photographs, and other testimonials of those purportedly healed. Strictly speaking, I’m not a follower of any particular religion, but I can’t discount miracles. So we both took a little dirt, and rubbed it on what ails us. You just never know – right? Holy Faith…
Tomorrow we leave for Colorado. We’re visiting my cousin Cheryl and her husband Glen. Family — there’s nothing quite like it !!!