We've been in Santa Fe for five days now, and haven't written a trip report because we don't quite know what to make of the town. Which is not to say we haven't seen and done interesting things. Overlooking Santa Fe
Santa Fe is, first and foremost, an art center.
Lately Santa Fe has become extremely trendy, and real estate values have multiplied. The city has recently prohibited peaked roofs, in an effort to perpetuate the nearly universal pueblo style of architecture.
There's no university here, which might mean that more attention is paid to creating and selling and buying and possessing art than to studying it. There are, it seems, a dozen or more art museums, and perhaps ten times that many galleries.
It's one of the few cities we've visited in North America that offers no museum discounts for senior citizens, though probably there's a hidden discount for artists! On the other hand, maybe not, because the artists are selling so many works for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars that they must be richer than real estate agents.
People have been drawn to Santa Fe for different reasons, but no doubt the combination of natural beauty and cultural diversity is attractive. One of the few places in North America which provided enough sustenance to develop an urban Native American culture (the pueblo dwellers), these people of the New Mexico territory were brutalized and subdued by the Spanish Conquistadores, and the land was eventually settled by Norteamericanos, along the Rio Grande Valley. They spent much of their time defending against Apache and Comanche raids. New Mexico wasn't part of the U. S. until 1848, when Polk and the U. S. stole the country from the hapless Mexicans, and it didn't become a state until 1912, along with Arizona. Pedernales Butte
The Palace of the Spanish Governors is on the famous downtown plaza, and the circular state capitol is a few blocks south, on a hill. We understand that this building was supposed to reflect the pattern of the state flat, a circle with horizontal and vertical strips extending. On the day we visited some college students were using the State Legislature chamber for a mock U.N. meeting. It brought our thoughts back to our college days, when we actively participated in L.U.N.A., the Little United Nations Assembly. Were we as earnest and enthusiastic as these kids? Probably so.
We visited our friend Austin, who works downtown providing research and library support to a gallery of early western photography. He picked some highly enjoyable excursions, including a trip to the home of the late Georgia O'Keeffe in Abiquiu, about an hour and a half northwest of Santa Fe. She had obtained an old hacienda, built on the foundation of an even older pueblo. The building was lovingly converted into an artist's home and studio, about 5000 square feet with an enclosed courtyard and extensive gardens within the adobe walls. Her home was surrounded by the dramatic scenery which she loved to paint. The inside was relatively spartan, filled with gifts from fellow artists and designers. Her extremely valuable library had been limited to the Book Room, which was more of a storage location than a place to read; indeed not a book was to be seen elsewhere in the house. New Mexico state capitol
We also enjoyed the opening night performance of the Pirates of Penzance in the newly-remodeled Lensic Theater downtown, given by the Santa Fe Opera Company, which gives its major presentations in the summertime in a larger operatic stage north of the city.
Santa Fe is a retirement mecca for eastern art lovers, and the theater audience was generally Anglo, and most of them apparently acquainted with one another.
With so much art in the city, it's dangerous to make generalizations, but we noticed some themes - arts and crafts of the Native American style; arts and crafts with a Spanish colonial flavor; representational art inspired by the surrounding scenery; contemporary abstract art; and some political art and murals.
With so much art and artists, and such high prices, Santa Fe can't avoid being more than a bit pretentious and snobby, too. That goes with the territory. Fortunately for us, we're quite immune to the art-buying impulse, since we have no home to decorate!
Just strolling the streets and window-shopping is lots of fun, and Santa Fe has a wonderful variety of shops and galleries to interest the tourist. We'd happily come back and gawk some more!