I have been busy editing. I have also been organizing and re-arranging the content of this website (mostly in my head) for Vusi, my amazingly creative (and patient!) website design creator. I have also been reading quite a bit.
But for now, I had some photos to share from Santa Fe from my visits there. I don’t doubt there are many better photos of Santa Fe that are closer to the stereotypical images associated with the city but this is what I have.
What can I share about Santa Fe? Also known as Santa Fake or Santa Fee.
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. Or Entrapment. Depends who you ask.
Those who have previously read my travel essays on the various cities I have visited know about my tendency (perhaps like most?) to describe cities as if they were breathing entities.
I would describe Santa Fe as a beautiful woman whose parents decided to force her to enter children’s beauty pageants so she grew up thinking how she looks is all there is to her.
Perhaps only when writing fiction can one ever claim to really know all there is to know about a city. I would never assert I know all there is to know about any area, unless I really do, and when I say I really do I have dissected and plunged into every nook and cranny of a city, turned over every neighborhood’s stereotype, and talked to a lot of strangers. A lot. This includes people who are visitors, transplants of years, locals of many generations, businesses, schools etc. It is important to speak to as many different people as possible in order to get the true feel and real deal on any city. Diversity of opinions are attractive until they are so subjective that they are useless, therefore gathering information requires a fine balance.
I can offer much about Lahore, Durban, Johannesburg, Kansas City, Lawrence, Paris, Prague, New York City because I have lived there and visited many times even when not a resident. There are many other places I have visited where I can co-share a subjective authority but only because I have talked to many others who live there.
I have had many occasions to visit Santa Fe for various reasons. The first time I visited Santa Fe was over a decade ago. My mother and I were driving from Kansas to California since my family had relocated to California and I was moving to New York City. It didn’t even register in our minds that passing through Santa Fe was a big deal in any way. We were not familiar with the city having much to offer other than adobe infrastructures, Native-American/Indian casinos, and a few wonderful stops to check turquoise markets (which happened to be outside of Santa Fe, so the one thing that we remembered and liked about Santa Fe wasn’t even in Santa Fe).
We weren’t so taken by the adobe homes which mesmerize most because that is all there was in the Middle East where I spent my younger years. The primary difference being adobes were not glamorized as they are now in Santa Fe for tourism; although, initially they were very much served a necessity to combat the heat and cold in the high desert of New Mexico.
Most people are impressed by Santa Fe because they are not used to so much open space, but having lived in Kansas, having explored Colorado on many occasions, this was not a new landscape.
It was only a few years back that the name of this town was again in my stratosphere. I was embarrassed to admit that I had never, ever, ever associated the place with “art” or having anything to do with art. I was informed that Santa Fe was the 3rd largest art market in the United States after New York City and San Francisco/Los Angeles. I concluded this is probably because I am not a fan of Georgia O’Keefe (who, by the way, is not even from Santa Fe, no different than most “established” artists who live there now, she too resided there because she had the financial resources) and I am not a collector of art as endorsed by the so called gatekeepers of mainstream art. I like what I like until I don’t.
Most people who come to Santa Fe do so on retreats related to art, writing, silence (yes, really!), spiritual, nature and anything you can possibly come up with. Seldom do they talk to locals. Moreover, those who are managing or serving in hotels are not necessarily from there but just transplants working in the hospitality and tourist industry, the primary industry of Santa Fe. The city government does everything it can to ensure this continues, sometimes at the expense of local communities who have been there (and this includes Whites and non-Whites) long before others even knew about Santa Fe as more than a dirt town in the middle of nowhere.
In many ways Santa Fe serves as the extended backyard of Los Angeles’ wealthiest. After all, it is only a two hour flight from L.A.
Most people associate the following images with Santa Fe as per the churning of ‘what sells’ philosophy by the city’s business bureau:
“land of kokopelli” (A favorite character of mine too; it’s just that I am aware that there is more to Santa Fe than this icon!)
“come here and find peace you can’t anywhere else”
(although this was taken in Sunrise Springs, not quite in the city of Santa Fe, I just offer it as an example)
“land of enchantment”
and painting after painting after painting of sunsets, clouds, sky, sunrises, sunsets, clouds, sky, sunrises…
and why not?
It is indeed true: the landscape is glorious and every single time a person looks at the sky (which is hard to miss) it takes one’s breath away.
This has much to do with having the cleanest air in the nation which also makes for a great retirement community which in turn offers very little besides a tourism industry.
Unfortunately, art gallery after art gallery offers much of the same. There is very little original or unique perspective, no real storytelling in the art other than what one is expecting given the myths and preconceived ideas associated with the city. All there is is that which will sell. And anyone with money can open up a gallery regardless of any talent or vision and any tourist with money will buy it so they can say they bought it in Santa Fe so it must be collectable art. This is not true of all of New Mexico but this atmosphere is particularly common in Santa Fe.
This wasn’t always so from what I am told. Once upon a time this was a thriving small town with tiny pockets of powerful opportunities for original creative pursuits for music and art. The aforementioned issues existed but they didn’t necessarily engulf avenues for others to do something different. However, in the last fifteen years, there are hardly any options for those who are actually interested in creating something different.
The above are the least of Santa Fe’s biggest problems. The city has only one main hospital which is known for not treating its employees fairly, especially nurses. The city is by and large owned by a handful of developers most of whom don’t even reside in New Mexico which makes for a very high cost of living for a city that size. This makes it very challenging for the people who were born there to continue living there. Most people who live in Santa Fe are not from Santa Fe.
Here is me holding a shadow in a bottle. : )
Sunny day is a good day to observe frogs play some chess!
This one was taken in Albuquerque back in September. We had a great time there with friends.
These are from Los Golandrinas in La Cienega (20 minutes outside of Santa Fe) which is breathtakingly beautiful and serene.
A pensive me (photo courtesy of The Wizard) who is always thinking there has to be a way to save cities from people who just don’t care where they are given the finite people who do but can only do so much on their own.
This was taken at a spot called Counter Culture. I don’t know what culture they are counter to for there was nothing alternative there and if anything they were counter to quality service. Most of the crowd there was from Los Angeles.
But trees, the trees remind me it will be okay.
Note: Although I truly despise when blog posts at the end state a generic, “And what about you? How do you feel?” so as to generate comments for the sake of comments, I feel compelled to ask. In this instant I am genuienly curious if anyone who reads this has something to share about a place that doesn’t offer much to its local residents but is all about tourism first? Can that even be sustained? Curious, given in NYC the tourism industry is huge but it has much to offer the locals as well.