The Pueblo and Anasazi people can trace their history in New Mexico back to the 1100’s, and the Native American people to before the time of the Spanish who first arrived here in 1540. In 1598 Don Juan de Onate attempted to establish a Spanish settlement and a New Mexico ‘Capital’ taking over the Pueblo settlements of ‘Caypa’ and ‘Ohkay Owingeh’ which they named ‘San Juan de los Caballeros’. Within a year the new capital was moved to be next to the Rio Grande River, and a new name chosen ‘San Gabriel de Yunque-Ouinge’, with Don Juan de Onate as first Governor.
When Onate was replaced as Governor, and a new Governor appointed, Pedro de Peralta also moved the Capital, this time to Santa Fe. Today nothing remains of San Gabriel other than a cross and a plaque, but ‘Ohkay Owingeh’, the First Capital of New Mexico which reverted back to its Pueblo name still exists. Ohkay Owingeh today has a population of around 6800 Pueblo Indian people who speak their own Tewa language and is located about 24 miles north of Santa Fe, where there is an Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and a number of festivities during the year.
In New Mexico there are 19 Pueblos, 2 Apache tribes and the Navajo Nation, making New Mexico one of the best states to gain an understanding and appreciation of the rich history of Native American Culture.
There are three main cities in the state of New Mexico – the State Capital, Santa Fe; the biggest city, Albuquerque and the smaller city of Las Cruces. All three cities are worth visiting, but equally seeing the smaller towns, heading to a ski resort and the national parks, rivers and other scenic places will create even more memories – places such as the Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Park – two of the ‘must see’ destinations, and smaller towns like Las Vegas New Mexico (see www.lasvegasnm.com ) This town of around 13,000 people is like a movie set of the old west, with over 900 historic buildings. Yes, this is called Las Vegas, the same name as the other more famous one in Nevada!
Santa Fe has a population of around 70,000 people and can trace its history back to 1610, making it the second oldest city in the USA and the oldest State Capital in the United States, with Ohkay Owingeh being the first capital of the former Spanish State of New Mexico.
The official name of Santa Fe when it was founded was “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis” (The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St Francis of Assisi), but today it is known simply as Santa Fe.
When the Spanish established new towns they built them on a grid pattern around a ‘Plaza de Armas’, much like the English built their villages around the Village Green. Almost every Spanish town in Central and South America has a Plaza de Armas’ at its center, with civic buildings, mission stations, churches and other buildings built around the perimeter. The original idea was that the Plaza de Armas would be where Armaments and the defense of a town would take place.
Santa Fe has a Plaza de Armas at its center, and this is where you will find the San Miguel Mission Church building, the oldest church in the United States as well as the Palace of the Governors at 105 W. Place Avenue. The New Mexico Museum of Art is also on the Plaza, with lots of activities centered on the Plaza too.
Santa Fe and the Plaza de Armas (simply called the Plaza or Santa Fe Plaza) was the northern end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Road that led all the way south to Mexico City, and also the old Santa Fe Trail that led to Los Angeles.
There are a number of Museums in Santa Fe, including
- New Mexico History Museum – 113 Lincoln Avenue. See nmhistorymuseum.org Tel: 505 476 5200. Has a great collection to showcase the history of the State.
- The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum – the famous artist with its 10 art galleries located at 217 Johnson Street. See okeeffemuseum.org Tel: 505 946 1000.
- Museum of Indian Arts and Culture – located at 710 Camino Lejo. See indianartsandculture.org
- Museum of International Folk Art – with an amazing collection of art, pottery and other works of art, located at 706 Camino Lejo. See internationalfolkart.org Tel: 505 827 6344.
- Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian – 704 Camino Lejo Tel: 505 982 4636
- Canyon Rd – where you will find lots of galleries, restaurants and interesting shops.
- East De Vargas Street – is across the River in what is called the “Barrio de Analco” Historic district. Here you will find a number of historic Adobe buildings, including the Oldest house (#215), Gregoria Crespin house (#132), Roque Tudesqui House (# 129-135), Boyle House (#327) and Adolph Bandelier House (#352)all dating back to the 1700 and 1800’s.
- Santuario de Guadalupe – the shrine that was built between 1776 and 1796.
- Loretto Chapel – Built in 1878 at 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, where the Miraculous Spiral Staircase that leads to the Choir loft can be seen.
- The Cathedral of St Francis of Assisi – that first opened in 1886 located at 131 Cathedral Place
- Swaria Sante Fe Markets – 100 Old Santa Fe Trail. See swaria.org Tel: 505 983 5220
- Rancho de las Golondrinas – 334 Los Pinas Rd, La Cienega – what they call the ‘Ranch of the Swallows’ just outside Sante Fe on the Camino Real road. See golondrinas.org
- Nedra Matteucci Galleries – a beautiful art gallery and sculpture garden located at 1075 Paseo de Peralta. Tel: 505 982 4631
- Liquid Light Glass Gallery – 926 Baca Street. Tel: 505 820 2222. See liquidlightglass.com where the work of Elodie Holmes and other glass artists showcase their work. This gallery is stunning and as Elodie says “The fire sets the tempo… and glass is the music”.
Santa Fe is a city where you can see and feel the history in and around the Plaza, and appreciate the Adobe and Pueblo architecture. There is also a beautiful resort casino called the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino Tel: 505 455 5555 located at 30 Buffalo Thunder Trial about 15 minutes from the Plaza, which also shows how Adobe architecture has evolved but also stayed true to its historic roots.
There is also the Santa Fe Ski Resort, just outside Santa Fe, one of the nine ski resorts in New Mexico – the others being Angel Fire, Pajarito, Red River, Ipapu, Ski Apache, Taos, Sipapu and next to Albuquerque there is Sandia Peak Ski Resort. The Ski season starts at the end of November, and in summer months, the ski and mountain areas can be great places for hiking, with a number of walking trails and cycling tracks. Being high up also means it can be cooler and sometimes cold, so it is important to check with locals as to where and what you want to do. See www.mellowvelo.com at 132 Marcy Street Tel: 505 995 8356 for advice and also to hire bikes.
Whitewater rafting is also popular in summer in the Rio Grande Gorge area and you can book a trip with Santa Fe Rafting – See www.santaferafting.com Tel: 505 988 4914.