Travels & Traditions: Santa Fe, New Mexico - #701

BURT WOLF: Santa Fe in northern New Mexico rests in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Native Americans have been living in and around Santa Fe for at least 12,000 years. The Spanish arrived in the 1600s, about the same time that the English showed up in Virginia. In 1821, the territory was taken from Spain by the newly formed government of Mexico. And in 1850, it became part of the United States.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Nothing much happened for the next 60 years. But then the First World War made it impossible for wealthy Americans to take their annual trip to Europe and so they decided to understand their own country and suddenly anything and everything that had anything to do with the American Southwest was fashionable. And anthropologists came in to try and understand and preserve Santa Fe.


BURT WOLF: In the center of town is The Palace of the Governors, an outstanding example of Spanish adobe architecture. It was constructed in 1610 and is the oldest government building in the United States. For about four hundred years, it has been the residence of Spanish, Mexican and American governors.

The Palace houses The New Mexico History Museum with over 17,000 historical objects that document the history of the area: 223 years of Spanish control, 25 years as part of Mexico, 66 years as a territory of the United States, and statehood since 1912.

The Palace Photographic Archives contain over 750,000 historical images and copies are available for purchase.

The building is also home to the Palace Press. In 1834, the first printing press arrived in New Mexico and was used to produce religious and political materials as well as school primers. In 1877, the first book was printed in a Pueblo language.

THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: The capital letters are arranged alphabetically with the exception of J and U which follow X, Y, Z.


THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: Because they're recent additions to the Roman alphabet.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Huh, when did they come in?

THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: Probably 16th century…a - J, is a modified I and U is a modified V. So the printers just added those to the end of X, Y, Z.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: That's amazing, new letters.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Okay, so let's set.

THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: As you're setting that you're really reading it upside down and the letters read backwards. Now in the old days, no you picked a K, the printers were amazingly fast…

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I'm going to put these in now so would you hold those for me?!

THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: Certainly. Once we have the type set then we need to lock it up in the iron chase, this frame right here, so I have to carefully lift the letters out, you don’t want to spill them…put it right there. My mallet and plane and tap it down to that all the letters are the same height. Give it another slight twist, everything looks good, test it like that.

THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: Next we take it over and put it in the press.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Ok, any particular level of pressure?

THOMAS LEECH ON CAMERA: Well actually the faster the easier it is. The faster you go the easier it is to pump.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The faster the easier it is.

Just want to take my pulse here for a second…


BURT WOLF: Outside the Palace dozens of Native American artists display and sell their work --- pottery, jewelry and other crafts from each of more than 20 different Native American communities in New Mexico. They are participating in a museum program that regulates what they may sell. Everything must be handmade by the craftsman or his or her immediate family. The pieces must display a maker’s mark and be registered with the Palace of the Governors. In effect, these objects have been authenticated by the museum.


BURT WOLF: The Chapel of San Miguel is the oldest church structure in the United States still in use. The original adobe walls were built in 1610 by Indians who came here from Mexico and worked under the direction of Franciscan missionaries.

The altar screen is considered to be one of the great works of colonial art in the Southwest. It was hand-made of native pine and held together with wooden pegs and joints.

It was designed to accommodate paintings on canvas of Saints and Spanish royalty that were brought from Mexico as well as locally produced sculptures.

BROTHER LESTER LEWIS ON CAMERA: The chapel is dedicated to Saint Michael, who's the patron of the church, and because this was a military chapel from 1610, so, you have the favorites up there, particularly over the Franciscans. On my upper right hand, is Saint Teresa Arriva. She was a Carmelite nun in the 15th century. The large middle painting is Saint Michael the Archangel. To the right, the oval painting is Saint Gertrude of Germany, a Benedictine Abbis that lived in the 12th Century. Below Saint Teresa is the painting of Saint Francis of Assisi. And opposite of that is King Louis IX, King of France. Now the large painting that separates Saint Francis and the King is the Spanish rendition of The Passion of Christ.

BURT WOLF: The altar screen includes a series of Solomonic Columns that were copied from the Bernini columns that flank the great altar in the Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican.


BURT WOLF: Northern New Mexico has been home to talented artists and craftsmen for thousands of years and what has always inspired them was the natural landscape.

Manfred Leuthard, the owner of HeliNM, runs helicopter tours over some of the most beautiful parts of the Southwest. Places that would be almost inaccessible except by air.

MANFRED LEUTHARD ON CAMERA: The first spot I want to show you is the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch. It is nestled eight miles south of Santa Fe in the foot hills here. Many films have been shot here: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cheyenne Social Club, Lonesome Dove, Young Guns and many more.

We're now turning west. The peaks ahead of us are the Jemez Mountains they were created 1.2 million years ago by a series of volcanic erruptions. The geologists estimate that about 200 cubic miles of material, enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico six feet deep, were spewed out in numerous cataclysmic events.

As we fly up Peralta Canyon look out for strangely shaped conical structures and then you know we've arrived at a place called Tent Rocks. These sculptures are composed of volcanic ash and are highly eroded. Sometimes you see little rocks balanced on top of these conical structures, it's that little balanced rock that protected the underlining softer stone from erosion. Tent Rock National park was not built where the prettiest tent rocks are; it was built where there was a road. The prettiest tent rocks are in a canyon, in the Peralta Canyon, and it's about a mile and a half long. The only way to get there is a very, very long hike, horseback ride or helicopter.

Now we come to the rim of the Valles Caldera. This vast grassland is one portion of a volcanic crater 15 miles in diameter, the flat area you see on the left is essentially the filled up crater from the volcanic eruption. There is only very little soil underneath this volcanic ash and therefore nothing grows here except a little bit of grass. It used to be a cattle ranch, now it's a nature preserve. It's used for hiking, hunting and there is a large population of elk up here.

Below us is the town of Abiqui. The area around Abiqui is what inspired Georgia O'Keeffe for her paintings and Ansel Adams for his photography. One of the thrills I can offer you on the way back to the airport is to fly through Diablo Canyon. It looks narrow but it's plenty wide for the helicopter. I know that because I've been through here before.


BURT WOLF: Santa Fe has a number of galleries that specialize in Native American artwork.

The Morning Star Gallery is devoted to historic Native American art and has an extensive collection of beadwork, pottery, basketry, masks, clothing and textiles.

It also has a collection of ledger drawings, which are exactly what their name implies; drawings on the ledger paper used for bookkeeping.

VANESSA HERNANDEZ ON CAMERA: As we are approaching the end of the 19th century, the Plains people are quickly changing their cultures. The access to buffalo hide, to hides in general, are becoming more difficult, so what the Plains artists do, being innovative, they make the transition of this pictographic artistic tradition onto paper.

These are two wonderful examples to highlight, and interestingly enough, they're done by the same artist. In the top image we have two male warriors, these are Arapahoe warriors, and they're dressed to the nines, they're in their best outfits. They're in their best outfits because they're getting ready to go courting. They're going to see their sweethearts, and as you see, they're taking their horse with them; they're going to show off their wealth and say, what a good match we will be.

This image is actually more classic, it's a hunting scene. But what's particularly interesting about this one is that it shows the perils of the hunt. Hunting buffalo is certainly not easy, and there are lots of accidents that can happen.

If you notice, to the left of the heads of the people, there is a little round shape. That's called the name-glyph, and in this case we know that this artist is called Dark Cloud.

People often times read these as children's drawings, because they seem overtly simplistic, but that's actually far from the truth. These are incredibly sophisticated drawings, they're pictorial shorthand that work as memory aids for the men to tell stories. It is very formulaic, languages have to be. So men learned to do these types of drawings from elder men. They learned that horses, when are in movement, all four legs should be up off the ground, to show progression in space.

So all of these things do work as a symbol that is recognized by the rest of the tribe, so that other people can also recognize the accomplishments of the man, so they work like a record, that everybody gets to read.


BURT WOLF: The most famous artist to take up residence in the neighborhood was probably Georgia O’Keeffe. And Santa Fe has a museum that is completely dedicated to her works. O’Keeffe was born in 1887 and died at the age of 98 in 1986. The museum traces the development of her work from her early days in Wisconsin and Texas to her years in New Mexico.

BARBARA BUHLER LYNES ON CAMERA: This picture was done in 1917, when Georgia O'Keeffe was in Texas. And one of the things that interested her about Texas was the beauty of the night sky, the flatness of the horizon and the activity in the night sky. It's one of the most innovative and important abstractions of American art in the 1910s. What she does is create an extremely simple, minimalist image in which the stars are conveyed to us through the actual paper, so she's using the paper as a component of the imagery.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: What did O'Keeffe love about New Mexico?

BARBARA BUHLER LYNES ON CAMERA: It was a landscape that she immediately identified with, and I think it has a lot to do with the light and the color and the crispness of the contours, and the severity of the landscape appealed to her. She often said that when she walked in the landscape in New Mexico, she felt she had been someplace that no one had been before.

This is another spectacular Georgia O'Keeffe flower painting. It's called "Black Hollyhock and Blue Larkspur", and it was painted in 1930, the second summer that O'Keeffe was in New Mexico.

When she first started painting floral forms in large scale, the critics interpreted it as a manifestation of her sexuality, which she was really angry about it, because she felt her work was about the sensuality and sexuality of the natural world.

So by depicting this the center of the flowers, she's focusing on their androgyny, because they have male and female parts. So it's really a joke on the critics, but they didn't get it and they still don't.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: How many works do you think she produced?

BARBARA BUHLER LYNES ON CAMERA: She produced 2,029 works that our Museum would document, so that includes oil paintings, pastels, charcoal drawings, finished works, as well as, you know, sketches. THE LORETTO CHAPEL

MARK CHILDERS ON CAMERA: The chapel was built by the Sisters of Loretto. They were an American born teaching order from Kentucky and they were brought here by the first archbishop of Santa Fe, Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. And he asked them to come and open a girl's school. The chapel was actually built with the sister's dowries, with their own savings from their families.

BURT WOLF: It was the first stone masonry structure in Santa Fe. And these days it's famous for its Miraculous Staircase.

MARK CHILDERS ON CAMERA: After the chapel was finished they realized there was one major architectural flaw. They had a beautiful chapel, a choir loft, where the sisters could sing the liturgy. They had no way to get to the choir loft. So the sisters did what nuns know how to do, and that was to pray.

BURT WOLF: A stranger arrived, built the Miraculous Staircase and disappeared without asking to be paid. Word circulated that the staircase had been built by St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

MARK CHILDERS ON CAMERA: The staircase makes two full 360 degree turns. It stands apparently on its own weight without any center supports. And it is built without nails. It was built simply held together with square pegs. It has 33 steps, which we would know from our bible history, 33 is the number of years that Jesus lived on this Earth. It is regarded as the first gothic structure built west of the Mississippi. They started construction in 1873 and it was finished by 1878.

The beautiful alter itself is made out of a plaster and wood composition and then painted to look like marble. The mosaics that are in the ceiling that you would see, and also the borders, under the windows, around the chapel, the mosaics are actually just paint made to look like mosaic tile.


BURT WOLF: In 1888, a 40 year old self-taught anthropologist named Adolph Bandelier went to New Mexico under the sponsorship of the Archeological Institute of America. His goal was to trace the customs of the people of the southwest. One of the areas in which he worked is now the 32,000 acre Bandelier National Monument.

GARY ROYBAL ON CAMERA: Bandelier is a sacred place, a beautiful place. And the people who lived here chose this because of the abundance of water and wildlife. Their main staple was corn, beans and squash at the time. But they also had wild life, like wild turkey, deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels. You look around; you see a lot of small and large caves. They built into the walls of canyon and built structures in front of it. And that's the result of the volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The holes were made from very soft volcanic rock called tuff - t-u-f-f. So, very soft materials so if people had maybe used stone tools or deer antlers in order to shape it and carve it.

This is the largest village in Frijoles Canyon called Duwinny in the Caras language.

And this village is here in Frijoles Canyon and may have been two and three-story high in some places. And the rooms were very small. Their interior rooms may have been used for storage of their grains and crops. And the exterior rooms were used for living quarters. And if you look around, you'll also see the plaza where many of their daily activities would happen as well as many of their ceremonial activities and dances.

We're going up to the cliff ones you can see that structure up there called the Tallis House. It's a reconstructed building on top.

My grandfather helped build this structure in 1925. And this structure was built to give an idea of how some of the structures that looked like here in the cliff walls where there were two and three-story high as well and ladders maybe leading up to the second room. The ceilings were blackened with the soot and the fires that they built inside and the walls were also plastered as well as the flooring. Up and down this mile-and-a-half of Frijoles Canyon, this is what you would have seen at the time they occupied this area from the 12 to about in the mid-1500s.

It's important to know that the people just didn't vanish from here. They did migrate to the Rio Grande. The people have very close ties to Bandelier.  It's very sacred to them and they still come and make pilgrimages to some of the different sites that we do have.


BURT WOLF: The ancestors of the Pueblo Indians have been living in northern New Mexico for at least twelve thousand years. They were primarily hunters. But when crops like corn and beans came up from Mexico the population began farming and started building above ground structures made of stone held together with mortar and covered with mud. The architectural style is known as adobe.

MICHAEL MOQUIN ON CAMERA: This is adobe which is really mud and it has the most critical factor is how much clay you have and the quality of the clay and not cracking too much. Rest is sand, small gravel, silt and add straw to it to help it dry out quicker and repel rain a little better.

This goes on all over the world; all the cultures have had the phase where they were farmers and making adobe homes. This is how it all started and this is how the Pueblo

Indians survived by being permanently settled in adobe homes, they weren't in teepees that could easily be run through with a horse. They could defend themselves and stuff so that's why the Pueblo Peoples are probably the most intact of all the Indian cultures in the United States.

I'm wetting the surface of the adobe so it will better bond with the mud plaster that'll go over it. If you didn’t do this it would soak all the water out of the mud plaster and not have enough to actually create the bond so it's critical. And then I kind of dust off the small gravel and stuff that's on the surface. And then throw the mud on it.


BURT WOLF: Santa Fe’s love of history even extends to its hotels. In 1876, Abraham Staab, who had immigrated to Santa Fe from Germany purchased a plot of land and began working on the mansion which he had promised his new bride. The building was a formal brick structure in the classic European style. About 100 years later the structure was incorporated into a new hotel complex known as La Posada with means “the resting place”.

Today, La Posada consists of six acres of adobe buildings, pine trees, sculptures, pools, and fountains.

Its restaurant, Fuego, is well known for its excellent food and an extensive selection of wine.

Each week during the spring and summer there is a performance by Ronald Roybal, a self-taught musician with Pueblo and Spanish colonial ancestors.

The hotel has a Spa that offers some rather imaginative treatments that reflect the area's history. Both chocolate and hot chili peppers are indigenous to the New World and considered medicine by the Native Americans. La Posada has combined them into a chocolate-chili body wrap. It comes in both milk and dark.

Ah, but there’s more.

In 1948, Margarita Sames, working as a bartender in Acapulco, Mexico, blended a shot of tequila with some orange liqueur, and introduced her creation as, a Margarita.

But Danny Herrera of Tijuana claims that he invented the drink for the actress Margarita King.

And to make matters worse, the Russian, Ivan Yukovanovich, declared that he invented all 20th century bar drinks in his laboratory at the KGB headquarters in Moscow.

Today Americans drink over 100 million Margaritas each year.

And the bar in the Staab House has become famous for its Silver Coin version.

BURT WOLF: The land here is called New Mexico but it is actually very old. In fact it contains the oldest site in the United States, continually inhabited by the same community. The Native Americans of New Mexico call themselves “The People” and they have lived on these lands for over 12,000 years. In terms of their history, the Hispanics and Anglos are what's new. But the Hispanic and Anglo influences are powerful, and a new culture is emerging--- it's a blend of the ancient Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.