Skip to main content

Santa Fe - The City Different

San Miguel Mission Church*

For years I’ve followed the Top 10 list of favorite travel destinations in North America and have noted that Santa Fe has consistently made the grade. I could no longer contain my curiosity so I packed my bag and headed to this Southwest town. I was eager to check the veracity of this rating.

Situated on the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains, Santa Fe sits high and dry at 7000ft. The stark desert landscape deceived my eyes. It gave me the impression that the ocean was just beyond the horizon. Punctuating the flat terrain are mountains ascending to 12,000 feet.

This landscape has been the inspiration for many artists who have made Santa Fe their home. Among these was Georgia O’Keeffe who settled in Abiquiu, a few miles north of the city. The O’Keeffe Museum has a fine collection of the artist’s New Mexican landscapes and startling floral paintings. Much controversy has revolved around O’Keeffe’s larger-than-life flowers. But once you have examined these canvases, you will never view flowers in the same light again.

Downtown Santa Fe is a place like no other I’ve visited. Low rise adobe structures in varying shades of brown conform to a city ordinance which preserves the architectural integrity of the city. This is a step in the right direction so future generations can enjoy their historical and cultural heritage.

Farolitos on Canyon Road*

If you can’t visit Santa Fe during the Opera season, then the winter holidays present a viable alternative to savor the many Christmas revels and indulge in your favorite winter sport. The city radiates with a warm glow when traditional “farolitos” (little candles in brown paper bags filled with sand) adorning the Plaza of Santa Fe are lit up in the evenings. The lanterns line the entry to the Romanesque-style Cathedral of St. Francis. Red poinsettias, a towering Christmas tree and a crèche herald the joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus. The reredo (altar screen) while recently carved, is a throwback to the days of early Spanish settlers. A side chapel is the only remaining part of the original church on this site.

The altar of the chapel is an antique reredo with the oldest Madonna in the United States. Fray Alonso Benavides brought it here in 1626. After the Spaniards won Santa Fe back from Native Americans in 1693, the statue was renamed La Conquistadora (Our Lady of the Conquest).

That Santa Fe is an important art center is supported not only by thriving art galleries that generate the third largest revenues for the city, (government and tourism are first and second, respectively) but also by the collection of substantial artworks on display in the State Capitol and in various museums in town. On Museum Hill, there are museums dedicated to Spanish colonial art (including santos  from the Philippines), American Indian history and culture and international folk art.

A walk along Canyon Road is like walking in an outdoor museum. You’ll be bowled over by the whimsical and colorful sculptures and courtyards that beckon you to enter. Art galleries tout paintings from classical to modern and Soutwestern themes. R.C. Gorman’s paintings are beautiful with simple lines on an austere canvas.

Palace of the Governors*

Native Americans have left an indelible mark in the cultural tapestry of Santa Fe. Their vibrant handwoven rugs and blankets, intricately decorated pottery and jewelry are sold throughout town. Alas, the prices are sky high. At the Palace of the Governors, Native Americans sell their jewelry as they have for decades. Turquoise and silver are valuable to them because they represent the sky and running water (respectively), important elements in our daily life.

While Spanish and Native American influences abound, Santa Fe has yet another foreign legacy. Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, a Frenchman and the subject of the novel, Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather, initiated the expansion of St. Francis Cathedral. He brought Europeans to Santa Fe to build and decorate this and other churches in town. One of these is the Loretto Chapel which is built in the Gothic style and patterned after the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

But people come to the Chapel to see the mysterious spiral staircase with no visible support. Legend has it that the Sisters of Loretto were desperate, after a failed attempt, to build a staircase to their choir loft. They prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, for help. A carpenter showed up one day and built an extraordinary wooden staircase that makes two complete 360° turns. But just as mysteriously as the carpenter appeared, he disappeared after the staircase was completed, never collecting his fee. This tale is one of the many interesting threads that make up the fabric of the oldest capital city in the United States. The closer you look at Santa Fe, the more you appreciate the handiwork created by various cultures. 

Santa Feans have a special name for their town. They call it “The City Different”. And it certainly is.

*Images from TOURISM Santa Fe

Where to stay:

Hilton Santa Fe is a short walk to the Plaza of the Governors. For more info, go to hilton.com.

*****

**This article was published in the February 26, 2004-March 3, 2004 issue of the Manila Bulletin USA.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Art of Carlos Botong Francisco - Progress of Medicine in the Philippines

Pre-colonial period Pag-unlad ng Panggagamot sa Pilipinas (The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines) is a group of four large-scale paintings depicting healing practices in the Philippines from pre-colonial times to the modern period. Carlos Botong Francisco was commissioned in 1953 by  Dr. Agerico Sison who was then the director of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) together with   Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing of the National Museum, Dr. Florentino Herrera, Jr. and Dr. Constantino Manahan. These oil on canvas paintings measure 2.92 meters in height and 2.76 meters in width (9.71 ft x 8.92 ft) and were displayed at the main entrance hall of PGH for over five decades. Owing to its location, the artworks were in a state of "severe deterioration" at the beginning of the 21st century from exposure to heat, humidity, dirt, dust, smoke, insect stains, grime, termites and an oxidized synthetic resin used in an earlier restoration. These canvases were restored three times, the last was

Filipino Struggles in History - Carlos Botong Francisco

In 1968, Antonio Villegas (then Mayor of Manila), commissioned Carlos "Botong" Francisco to paint the history of Manila for Manila City Hall. The series of large scale paintings was called  Kasaysayan ng Maynila  (History of Manila).  The paintings deteriorated over time and no attempt was made to preserve these historical canvases until 2013 when Mayor Amado Lim sent them to the National Museum for extensive restoration. Four years later, in 2017, Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Manila City Council signed an agreement with the National Museum to leave the paintings at the museum so they may reach a larger audience in exchange for museum grade reproductions to replace the originals. Kasaysayan ng Maynila was later renamed Filipino Struggles in History and is now on display at the Senate Hall of the National Museum . Carlos "Botong" Francisco died in March 1969, a few months after completing the paintings. He is one of the first Filipino modernists and

8 Heritage Houses of Iloilo

Lizares Mansion The province of Iloilo on the island of Panay has a rich trove of heritage houses, left over from the sugar industry boom in the 19th century. Iloilo also had the largest port in the Philippines at that time which facilitated the export of sugar to foreign shores and deposited money in the hands of the sugar barons. The barons dropped their earnings into the acquisition of properties in Negros and the construction of beautiful homes in Iloilo, many of which are located in the vicinity of the Jaro Cathedral. The Lizares Mansion was built in 1937 by Don Emiliano Lizares for his wife, Concepcion Gamboa and five children. The family fled to safety when World War II broke out and the house was occupied by the Japanese military. The family returned to the house after the war but left once again after the demise of Don Emiliano. It was sold to the Dominican order in the 1960s and was converted in 1978 to a private school, Angelicum School. The mansion now houses the