Vien R. Guenther
Santa Fe, New Mexico - U. S. A
Updated: Jan 8
One of the best historic cities to visit here in the United States is Santa Fe, in New Mexico. Santa Fe. meaning “Holy Faith” in Spanish, is located at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The city is the fourth largest city and capital of the state of New Mexico, the highest state capital (7,260 feet, or almost 2,000 feet higher than Denver, Colorado) in the United States. The city is also the seat (administrative center) of Santa Fe County. It has a semi-arid climate with chilly winters and hot summers. So we come visit here when the weather is cooler and the peak of the summer season is over.
Santa Fe originally consisted of many villages of Puebloan people that dated back to between the years 1050 to 1150. The city was founded in 1610 by New Mexico’s second Spanish governor, Don Pedro de Peralta. He called the place “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis” (The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi). He made Santa Fe the capital of the province - it has remained until today the oldest state capital city in the United States. The Spanish laid out the city according to the “Laws of the Indies”. The town planning and ordinances were established in 1573 by King Philip II. The town was laid out around a central plaza; on its north side is the Palace of the Governors and on the east side is the church that later became known as the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Santa Fe is a beautiful city, with a predominance of Pueblo style architecture, consistent with the adobe structures of the surrounding area. Any new or renovated buildings, especially in the city center and other historic districts, must adhere to this style in conformance with ordinances that have been in place since the 1950's. There is one house that is said to be the oldest house in the United States, dating back to 1646.
- FESTIVALS -
FIESTAS DE SANTA FE
Santa Fe's annual festivals are something you might want to experience at least once. The last time we were there, they were celebrating Fiestas de Santa Fe. It's an annual celebration on the first weekend after labor-day. Since 1712, the city has commemorated the re-conquest of Santa Fe in 1692 by General Don Diego de Vargas. It is a fun celebration with parade, live music, dancing, art market and food! There is an annual pageant to commemorate La Reina and Don De Vargas in addition to other religious ceremonies.
One noted celebration in this fiesta is the Burning of Zozobra, the "Old Man Gloom". At the beginning of the festival, a giant marionette effigy, called the epitome of gloom, is constructed and then burned. This ritual is to destroy peoples' worries and troubles for the coming autumn. We were not able to see that unfortunately.
- NATIVE ARTS & CRAFTS -
So, you don't go to Santa Fe without exploring the beautiful shops, boutiques and vendors. Arts and jewelries are everywhere! You can't leave Santa Fe without bringing something home, believe me. Those native jewelries are uniquely beautiful. But if you are looking for authentic native American jewelry on a budget, the best place to go is to the Palace of the Governors. You have to bring cash though and the sellers (native Americans) don't charge sales tax.
About potteries and arts? You will fill your display shelves or walls if you are not careful. They are beautifully crafted so that you will have a hard time choosing one. But no matter what you choose, it will be exceptionally beautiful and memorable.
You don't want to miss visiting the art district. Even if you are not buying, this area is such a pleasant place to explore, very colorful and artsy with stunning art collections to admire. Santa Fe has over 250 art galleries.
- HISTORIC CATHERDAL & CHURCHES -
SAINT FRANCIS CATHEDRAL
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, also known as Saint Francis Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic Cathedral located in downtown Santa Fe. It is the most celebrated landmark in the city. The Cathedral was officially elevated to a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on October 4, 2005.
Before this cathedral was built, there were two older churches built on the same site. The first church was built in 1626, but was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt against the Spaniards in 1680. It was replaced by La Parroquia, an adobe church built in 1714 to 1717.
Saint Francis Cathedral was built between 1869 and 1886 by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. The cathedral was designed in the French Romanesque Revival Style. Archbishop Lamy, being French born, influenced the design. It has rounded arches separated by Corinthian columns and truncated square towers. The towers' 160 foot (49m) steeples were never built due to lack of funds, so they stayed as they are today.
SAN MIGUEL CHAPEL
San Miguel Mission, also known as San Miguel Chapel or Chapel of San Miguel, is a Spanish colonial mission church, located on the south side of the Santa Fe River. The chapel was built between 1610 and 1626 by the Tlaxcalan Indians. It was damaged by fire during the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, but the walls are so thick and solid, that only the wood was damaged. The church was rebuilt in 1710. It was repaired and rebuilt several times since then, but its original adobe walls are still intact. The church claims to be the oldest church in the United States that is still in use.
The old bell in San Miguel Mission weighs seven hundred and eighty pounds; it is four inches thick. It bears the inscription “San Jose ruega por nosotros” (St. Joseph, pray for us). The bell's age and history have been a subject of great discussion; it was said that the bell was cast in Spain in 1356 and brought to America by Nicolas Ortiz Nino Ladron de Guevara.
The Loretto chapel is known for its "Miraculous Stair", a subject of legend, mystery and rumor for over a hundred years. The spiral staircase, called "St. Joseph's Staircase", has two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20 feet tall, has no center support and rests only on its base. It has 33 steps made of unknown wood, constructed with square wooden pegs without glue or nails.
The mystery has never been satisfactorily solved, as to who the carpenter was and where he got the lumber, or how he even got it to the site. An author named Mary Jean Straw Cook claims to have solved the question in the late 1990's. According to the author, the builder was Francios-Jean "Frenchy" Rochas, an expert woodworker from France, who arrived in Santa Fe around the time the staircase was built. He was shot and found dead in 1895. The author found his death notice in The New Mexican, naming him as the builder of the staircase.
The chapel is now being used as a museum and for wedding ceremonies; it is owned by a private company. An entrance fee is required to go into the chapel.
FOOD & DRINKS
What about food you ask? You will never want for food in Santa Fe. Whether it's hearty New Mexico dishes you want or Asian, Italian, Indian or Middle Eastern, it is just a matter of choice. For us, when in Santa Fe we always opt for the favorite local food fare. Chili is New Mexico's official state vegetable, needless to say, so you will find it in most, if not all, local dishes. Warning though! Just make sure you know your level of heat when ordering Mexican Chili. Hermann learned his lesson when he ordered some for lunch one time. They have different levels of heat there, so be sure to ask.
You've got to have a Margarita of course. Santa Fe is known as the "Margarita Capital of the World". As Hermann said, Santa Fe served the best Margarita he ever had. I don't drink alcohol, but a Margarita without it is superb for me. They do serve virgin Margaritas if you ask.