Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Santa Fe, New Mexico, August 2009/2012

It's now time to discuss something a little closer to home.  Santa Fe is quite an unusual city with a proud history.  There is great respect for the Native American tribes of the region - Navajo and Apache - as evidenced by its artisans and cuisine.  Architecturally, the low adobe structures are the primary part of the landscape.  There is a definite lack of high rise structures in the Old City; it is a pleasure to be in such free and open space.  Santa Fe is the capital of the state yet it boasts no commercial airport.  Access by air must be via Albuquerque, approximately 45 minutes by car from Santa Fe.  This is a testament to the focus of the citizenry on the environmental, social and cultural needs of the area.  Tourism is an important part of Santa Fe's economy but not to the detriment of the city's resources.

The Historic Plaza dominates the Old City with benches on all four sides, colourful hanging baskets of flowers and a quaint gazebo for music or special events.  With shops on three sides supporting Native artistry such as jewelry, pottery and woven textiles, visitors can purchase beautiful remembrances of their stay.

courtesy of D.R. Craig

On the fourth side of the Plaza stands the Palace of the Governors.  Constructed in the early 17th century, this was the seat of the Spanish government.  Its walls are four feet thick and the building is made up of long rooms with a secure courtyard.  It represents 400 years of New Mexico history.  Our recent visit was during the 100th Anniversary of the state.  New Mexico became the 47th member on January 6, 1912.  

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Opened in May, 2009, and located directly behind the Palace, is the New Mexico History Museum.  This light and airy facility houses a number of exhibits and collections.  The early history of the region's indigenous people is presented in dioramas and photographs  as well as artifacts.  Spanish colonization, the Mexican Period and trade and commerce on the Santa Fe Trail are highlighted in similar presentations.  The museum is a testament to the pride that New Mexicans take in their heritage.

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One of the more exciting finds is two blocks off the Plaza in the Pueblo-Revival style building housing the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  The collection opened in July, 1997, and houses 1149 paintings, drawings and sculpture.  This is the largest single collection of her work but still the beautiful facility is too small.  Its wonderful neutral white spaces are used to rotate O'Keeffe's varied pieces, often presenting not only her works but also the tools she used to create them.  On our last visit, her entire campsite was set up to show how she lived in the desert during times of her research.  Georgia O'Keeffe's (1887-1986) love of the New Mexico landscape is reflected in what she referred to as "the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it."  

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Our primary purpose for visiting this fascinating city was to attend the brilliant Santa Fe Opera.  Founded in 1957 by New York conductor, John Crosby, it has become one of the world's leading opera festivals.  Producing such traditional pieces as Puccini's Tosca and premieres like Morrison's Oscar - about the life of Oscar Wilde - the Opera draws international vocalists, directors and designers.  In 1965, a training program was added in order to expose new artists to its wonders.  The building itself is adobe style, blending art and nature, open to the air and nestled in the mountains just outside the city.  The current version of the facility opened in 1998 with seating for 2128 and 106 standing spaces.  This open-air theatre has panels on its south side to defend against substantial winds and rain.  A particular feature of the building is its roof.  Not only is it shaped in such a way that the sound flows perfectly from the stage to the audience, it also collects 60,000 gallons of rainwater each year for maintaining the grounds.

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