A trip to New Mexico wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Santa Fe. Even in early spring, when the air is still chilly and many of the shops are still hibernating, the town has plenty to offer.
Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the US and the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi. Established in 1607, the city is famous for its rich art scene, both native and modern. The “Mother of American Modernism,” Georgia O’Keeffe found inspiration in the area’s beauty and made New Mexico her home until she passed away at the age of 98. She purchased two properties, the Ghost Ranch (sprawling over 21,000 acres) and a more modest 5,000 square foot adobe compound which provided her with inspiration and tranquil creative space. Both properties are now a part of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
Santa Fe Plaza serves as a community gathering place. Known as “the heart of Santa Fe,” the square is a National Historic Landmark and it features traditional Spanish-American colonial architecture. Many local jewelry and art vendors display their handy work just outside the Palace of the Governors.
Located in the heart of Santa Fe, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts displays some 9,000 pieces of contemporary indigenous art and is the country’s only museum exhibiting, collecting, and interpreting the most progressive work of contemporary Native artists.
Across the street from IAIA Museum of Contemporary Art sits The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. The Roman-Catholic cathedral bears the name of the city’s patron saint. We peaked inside, where some restauration work was in progress and admired the statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first North-American native woman to be sanctified. According to the artist Estella Loretto who created the statue, Kateri stands for kindness, forgiveness, love, compassion and joyful peace.
The San Miguel Chapel is the oldest church in the country and it still holds regular mass, including one in Latin. The city also claims the oldest house in the US thought to be dating back to the Spanish colonial times. One can visit the modest home and take home local artwork available at the gift shop (I chatted with the friendly shop keeper about the area’s history and took home some lovely New Mexico handmade and hand painted tile). All throughout town, the adobe buildings seemed to be growing straight up from the earth, while colorful artwork brightened up the landscape.
Until COVID is under control, visit Santa Fe virtually.