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Santa Fe

Sitting peacefully in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe is a city of extraordinary natural beauty, crisp mountain air and rich heritage. Santa Fe is city with a small-town atmosphere, combined with a variety of cultural activities and exotic scenery. This makes for a quality of life appreciated by all who happen upon it. Santa Fe houses the riches of one of largest art markets in the world.

To uncover the secrets and splendor of Santa Fe for yourself, this is the place.

The St Francis cathedral in Santa Fe is a super example of some older architecture

Introduction

The city of Santa Fe has nearly four centuries of history and is recognized as the oldest capitol city in the United States. Over these years, Santa Fe has served as the seat of provincial government for the Northern Spanish Empire, the temporary headquarters of the Pueblo Tribes during the Pueblo Revolt and the capitol of the northern territory of the Mexican Republic. When the United States obtained these lands, Santa Fe became the capitol of the New Mexico Territory and it is now the capitol of New Mexico. Despite its rich and turbulent past, Santa Fe’s population has been slow to grow. In the 1960’s, it was not a major city by any standard. It is still a small city but the population is growing. Zoning laws from the 1950s, written by visionary civic leaders, helped Santa Fe retain the enchanting charm that makes it one of the most fascinating and romantic cities in the Western Hemisphere.

History & Culture

Although the history of Santa Fe is well documented, much before the Spanish settlement and conquest has been overlooked by scholars. Evidence of occupation dates as far back as 1000 A. D., when people from the Pueblos that line the Rio Grande to the south, migrated north and established communities along the small rivers that flowed out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One of these waterways was the Santa Fe River. Life here was rich, with farming opportunities to the south and thriving populations of native fauna in the mountains to the north. The geography made Santa Fe a crossroads for trade between the pueblos and the nomadic plains tribes. The fruits of this trade are evident in the ruins of Pecos Pueblo where as many as 2,000 people lived in multiple story structures. However, this wealth came at a price. Comanche from the east and Apaches from the south made regular raids on the pueblo and its communities. This prompted the construction of a defensive wall around the perimeter of the main building. Most archaeologists agree that the small villages along the Santa Fe River were abandoned for the safety of the pueblo about 150 years before the Europeans arrived.

The cool shady banks of the Santa Fe River are a great place to cool off and wind down

Spaniards were the first to come. Returning to Mexico City from an exploration to the north, Fray Marcos de Niza told a story of a golden city. This story encouraged Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to lead an expedition into the north in 1540. The golden city was not there but Coronado established a winter headquarters at Tiguex, some 50 miles south of the Santa Fe Valley and proclaimed the lands of the American Southwest to be the Spanish Kingdom of New Mexico.

Some 50 years later, Don Juan de Onate was selected to lead the first group of Spanish settlers into New Mexico. The group eventually settled across the Rio Grande from San Juan Pueblo, 25 miles north of Santa Fe. In July 1598, Onate began exploring the new territory. A reconnaissance party came under attack near Acoma Pueblo and 13 Spanish scouts were killed. Onate returned to Acoma in force the next year and the ensuing battle killed hundreds of Acoma people and enslaved hundreds more.

Years of unrest followed and Onate planned to move the provincial capitol from San Juan to the valley of the Santa Fe River. In 1610, Don Pedro de Peralta and a group of surveyors laid out the streets of Santa Fe and determined the sites for the municipal buildings. The nation’s oldest capitol city was born. The oldest public building in the United States, the Palace of the Governors still stands on the north side of the Santa Fe Plaza.

For the next seven decades, missionary work ruled in Northern New Mexico while Franciscan priests established missions and forced Catholicism upon the native people. In 1680, the Pueblo Tribes united and revolted against the Spanish, driving the 2,500 settlers back to Mexico. Santa Fe was burned, with the exception of the Palace of the Governors and other key buildings. The native people occupied the city until 1702, when Don Diego de Vargas laid siege to the city and retook it with no bloodshed.

A new policy regarding the treatment of Pueblo people led to a more peaceful coexistence with the northern Pueblo tribes. The city prospered and grew as more and more Spanish settlers moved to the region from Mexico. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain and Santa Fe became the capitol of Nuevo Mejico. This opened up trade with the American country to the east, establishing the Santa Fe Trail. As this trade flourished, taxes on imported merchandise funded the operation of the provincial capitol.

The Santa Fe Trail eventually brought American settlers to the area and this ultimately helped spark the Mexican American war in 1846. In August 1846, American General Stephen Watts Kearny raised the Stars and Stripes over the city. Two years later, the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed and the lands of Nuevo Mejico became the United States Territory of New Mexico.

Native artisans have art exhibited all over Santa Fe and New Mexico

The railroad arrived in 1880, with Santa Fe as the western terminus of the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and the economy boomed. Around the turn of the century, the railroad began contracting with artists to portray the beauty of the American West to attract tourists to ride the rails. The beauty of the landscape and natural light inspired the artists and Santa Fe gradually became a haven for native and transplanted artists.

Tourists flocked to the city from across the world to experience the cultural settings and shop for arts and crafts sold by the Pueblo Indians on the Santa Fe Plaza. In 1926, city residents created the Old Santa Fe Association and lobbied the local government to preserve the ambiance of the city. In the 1950s, building codes were enacted to prevent the construction of any buildings that did not reflect the architecture of the Pueblos, or of the Spanish Colonial period. The result is a mystical urban environment.


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