Many flags have flown over Santa Fe from long before the first celebration of the 4th of July. New Mexico would not become any legal part of the United States until 1848 following the Mexican-American War. So the first 4th of July celebration was most likely observed when New Mexico entered the Union as a Territory (no elected representation in Washington), which she remained until gaining Statehood in 1912. Prior to this, there was a rich tradition of religious and civic festivals such as the Santa Fe Fiesta and the various Catholic saint days that made up an important part of colonial life.
In the United States, the original 13 colonies created most of the national celebrations, while religious observances handled the others. While the Congress passed a Resolution of Independence from England on July 2, 1776, it was not until 2 days later that the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence – on July 4th. In the following year in Rhode Island, the 4th was saluted with the firing of 13 guns representing the 13 original colonies.
This most certainly was the beginning of a tradition of firework displays in all communities and backyards throughout the nation.
To talk about the 4th of July today on the Plaza is easy because so many community events are all occurring at the same time, making a visit more than ordinary. What could be as American as Enchiladas and standing next to the exact spot on the Plaza where the Santa Fe Trail ended, heralding the opening of the vast Western half of the country? The most exciting event going on is standing in long lines at the United Way pancake breakfast, staffed by countless volunteers serving sausages and pancakes, with all proceeds going to the United Way of Santa Fe.
Speaking from my own experience, the 4th of July is truly the day for locals to bump into people they might not have seen in 35 years. This democratic coming together of the citizens to celebrate their day of political and religious freedom underscores the “Spirit of 1776.” After eating and feeling good from a full belly of pancakes, and with the knowledge your breakfast has contributed to the United Way, stop to see the vintage car exhibition on streets next to the Plaza. Talk to the proud restorers and owners about their vehicles’ histories and ask any question imaginable about the make and model of their particular vintage automobile. Not into old cars? There is an Arts and Crafts show as well as a silent auction. Did I forget the dancing, singing, and music from the bandstand? And there’s other food choices as well.
But the best memories of the 4th are the fireworks…sparklers and roman candles, firecrackers, rocketing displays of color throughout the nation’s skies! However, there can be no fireworks on the Plaza these days due to extreme drought conditions in the West. But if you cannot survive the withdrawal, there is still a City sponsored night display at the high school’s football field. But remember, while the firing of the 13 cannons mark this day, any conscientious citizen owes it to himself and nation to contemplate the meaning of this day of independence and what it represents. We embraced the spirit of the Enlightenment and freed ourselves from the chains of monarchy and foreign rule, embarking upon the most unique voyage of religious, political and civic freedoms the world has seen.
So, to set the tone for this contemplation, have a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Agoyo Lounge at the Inn of the Alameda and toast our Founding Fathers and the commitment and bravery they exemplified.
Happy 4th of July!