As with most historical ceremonies held by Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the US, the tradition of the burning of this 50-foot tall effigy is linked to Spanish traditions, such as Fiestas, a celebration originally conceived in 1712 commemorating the peaceful re-conquest of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas in 1692. Fiestas is both a civic and religious experience, lasting several days over a weekend in late summer, that includes the Children’s Pet Parade, which is not to be missed, as families decorate every imaginable pet from snakes to burros for a parade around the Plaza. Also a Hysterical/Historical Parade, poking fun at the town’s hysteria over its history. There is also an historically accurate and lavishly costumed re-enactment of the Entrada when Don Diego de Vargas returned to Santa Fe carrying the statue of La Madonna, which the fleeing Spanish had taken with them in 1680 at the outbreak of the Pueblo Revolt. As with most Santa Fe celebrations, there are food booths, an arts and crafts fair, dancing and a general sense of “fiesta” throughout the town with everyone yelling “Que Viva!” This is an abbreviated two-word phrase, meaning: “Long live Fiesta!”

image from

In the midst of all of the fiesta splendor, there is one less cheerful event – a celebration of a darker sort: The Burning of Zozobra: Old Man Gloom.


In 1924, two of Santa Fe’s original Cinco Pintores (5 painters), conceived the idea of creating the opportunity for people to annually dispose of their worries and woes. Santa Feans, Gustauve Baumann and Will Shuster created the concept and subsequent tradition of the public burning of a 50-foot paper mache effigy of an old man by the name of Zozobra. Zozobra is Spanish for anxiety and people are encouraged to write down their sorrows, bad memories, general woes and even legal papers that they wish to see go up in smoke. A “sorrows” box is placed at the base of Zozobra into which, during the day of burning, people can drop their notes and documents as fodder for the grandest and most attended bonfire of the year.


This giant old man gloom is built with hidden speakers, arms that mechanically wave, eyes that creepily dart from side to side, and even jaws that move. As the final hours before the burning of Old Man Gloom wind down, up to 50,000 people – young and old – fill Fort Marcy Park in excited anticipation of the lighting and burning of Zozobra. First everyone waits for dusk…then dancers appear taunting and gyrating at the old man’s base as thick, black smoke begins to slowly rise. Then the air is permeated with groans and moans, coming from the gut of Zozobra himself…People are yelling “Burn Him!” and hooting and hollering in anticipation of the final act of destruction of this Old Man Gloom. The excitement is electric and everyone is swept up into the contagious thrill of this amazing tradition. Many people’s memories go back to their earliest childhood years and the roar of pleasure when the flames finally burst up through the middle of the effigy is deafening!

This event is always worth the effort. Go early; bring folding chairs and beverages and snacks (no alcohol can be legally allowed inside the park for everyone’s safety). Spread out your blankets and bring the family, as this is traditionally a very family friendly evening. Zozobra is just one of the many events in our hometown that makes us the City Different and this is a weekend to attend at least several times in your life.

We hope you stop by the Inn on the Alameda and join us for a drink and toast to the burning of Zozobra and the disbursement of all our sorrows into the smoke filled heavens.

Joe’s Blog: Saint Patrick’s Day and the Importance of the Irish in New Mexico



Saint Patrick is the pre-eminent patron saint of Ireland whom we recognize annually every  March 17th. This annual day of celebration in remembrance of Saint Patrick is an important spring festival in its own right, except when Easter falls on this date which won’t happen again until 2060.

Born an Englishman in the 6th century, Patrick (or Padrig or Padraig as he would have been called) was kidnapped from England at the age of 14 by the Irish. After six years of slavery, he walked to the coast and escaped back to England. Later when he had become a Catholic Bishop, he had a revelation that he should return to the land of his captors to bring the teachings of Christ to the polytheistic Irish.  Though a historical figure, many myths concerning Patrick were established such as his expelling the snakes or the usage of the prevalent Irish three leafed clover or shamrock as a way to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Though Rome sent subsequent missionaries to Ireland, St. Patrick has always been the most recognizable and important evangelical missionary of Christianity in Ireland.



In the mid-1800’s, Ireland suffered a devastating famine that all but decimated the population. During this period, many Irish left for the New World and came to America. While some settled into existing Irish immigrant communities in cities like Boston and New York City, others headed west to find a more Catholic tolerant populace and the opportunity of owning land, something rarely achieved in Ireland. Since Mexico controlled the Southwest, Irish immigrants gravitated to this part of the New World. This region was filled with Catholics who had been established for centuries, in stark contrast to their contemporary Protestant neighbors in the United States. As with the original British and Dutch colonists in America, the Irish sought their right for religious freedom which led them west, away from the cultural and religious tensions found in the larger cities of the East Coast.

In 1846, on the verge of the outbreak of the <!– –>Mexican-American War<!– –>, the Irish-American General Stephen Watts Kearney led an expedition of American forces into Santa Fe where he declared New Mexico a U.S. possession. Many of  Kearney’s soldiers were Irish due to the practice of  when Irish and other immigrants arrived to the US, the army greeted them at the boats and immediately enlisted them with the promise of free land and good pay. However, as US soldiers in the Southwest, the Irish were denied Mass and again felt the sting of anti-Catholic sentiment. As a direct rebellion from the US military, a soldier named John Riley formed the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, whose Irish and other European soldiers deserted and joined forces with the Mexicans.

irish_brigade flagThe Batallion de San Patricio remains a fascinating chapter in history. Several hundred Catholic immigrants, primarily Irish but including Germans, Poles and Italians that were  motivated by religious fervor,  fought for the Mexican army thus deserting with United States equipment, artillery and knowledge.  Later those “deserters” were captured, tried as traitors, and many were hung after the War.  However, on a brighter note, just 64 years later when New Mexico became a state in 1912, the first governor was an Irishman named William G. McDonald. Later, one of New Mexico’s most popular governors, David Cargo was Irish and among many other accomplishments, started the New Mexico State Film Commission.

The expansion of the West provided an opportunity for the Irish to find employment in the construction of the railroads, where they were the largest ethnic group of workers for the Eastern Pacific railway.  At Santa Fe’s Bishop Lamy’s request, Irish Sister Catherine Mellon and the Sisters of Charity relocated from Cincinnati to Santa Fe in 1865 to act as nurses for the Irish workers. The Sisters’s  successful  missions included the establishment of St. Vincent’s Hospital and Orphanage and the Saint Elizabeth’s Shelter for the Homeless, both still in existence today in Santa Fe.

Billy_the_Kid_correctedOf course, no New Mexican Irish tale can leave out Billy the Kid, himself an Irishman born William Henry McCarty. Orphaned at an early age in Silver City, over time he became known for his “neat” clothing attire and friendly nature, and of course his legendary murderous behavior. A little like Robin Hood, “The Kid” was regarded as both an outlaw and folk-hero. Shot in the back by Sheriff Pat Garret after the Governor put a price on the Kid’s head, his legacy is still known throughout the State and many parts of the country.


How could anyone leave out Georgia O’Keeffe in a blog about St. Patrick’s Day in New Mexico? This most talented of women was herself the daughter of an Irishman. She was later drawn in the second half of her life to Abiquiu, NM, north of Santa Fe. There she found a quiet life to develop her painting style and to experience an artistic life that was not centered around the East Coast and its big cities. Georgia O’Keeffe is arguably the most successful and famous female artist of the 20th and 21th Centuries, and Santa Fe is fortunate to have the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the only museum solely dedicated to her work in the world.

There is no doubt that New Mexico should always celebrate this day in gratitude and recognition of the Irish. So on March 17th, remember General Stephen Watts Kearney, Sister Catherine Mallon and the Sisters of Charity,  Irish Governors McDonald and Cargo,  Billy the Kid, and Georgia O’Keeffe.  Keep the Irish in your thoughts and something green on your person as a salute to the Shamrock and the many contributions made by the Irish to our country.

From the entire staff at Inn on the Alameda, Mike and I, we give you a little luck o’ the Irish!

Joe and Michael Schepps

Mike and Joe

Spanish Market Santa Fe

For lovers of art and heritage, the upcoming weekend promises many delights, as the 61st annual Santa Fe Spanish Market swings into the Plaza. With 183 artists in the Market, and an additional 52 youth artists exhibiting their work, this is an artistic and familial legacy that continues to grow in size and quality.

Spanish Market on the Santa Fe Plaza

Taking place on the historic Plaza, on Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, from 8:30 am to 5 pm, the Market offers something for everyone, from straw applique to retablos to engraving to weaving and calaveras, too. If we’re lucky, we might even see some of that beautiful and increasingly rare colcha embroidery!

Calaveras con Corazon

And if your taste runs more to the cutting edge, the Contemporary Hispanic Market runs concurrently, spread along both sides of Lincoln Avenue, with 134 booths of art and artistry to peruse or purchase.

There will be food, of course, since it’s Santa Fe, and among other tasty events, there’s a cooking class with John Vollertsen, “Spanish Influence on New Mexico’s Norteno Cooking,” at Las Cosas on July 26 at 10 am.  And if you just can’t make time for that class, don’t forget that the Inn offers a Muy Sabrosa Cooking Experience with the experts from the Santa Fe School of Cooking, soon to be fully ensconced in their new location.

La Comida Muy Sabrosa!

Also on July 26, John Schaefer lectures on “Collecting Spanish Colonial Art” at Peyton Wright Gallery at 4:30 pm. On Friday July 27, at 9:30 am, Patina Gallery hosts a breakfast reception and lecture on the work of Enric Majoral.  On Friday evening, a Market Preview opens at the Santa Fe Convention Center at 7 pm.

Listen for “la musica,” not only during the Saturday-Sunday Market itself. On Thursday, July 26, the Santa Fe Bandstand series gets into the act with homegrown favorites, Andy Primm and Alex Maryol, performing on the Plaza from 6 to 9 pm. Performances by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival take place in St. Francis Auditorium on Thursday, July 26 at noon and 6 pm, Friday, July 27 at 6 pm, Saturday, July 27 at 6 pm, and Sunday, July 28 at 5 pm. The Santa Fe Desert Chorale offers a concert, “Celebrating the Centenery,” at 8 pm on Saturday, July 28 at the New Mexico History Museum.  The Santa Fe Opera serves up Giaochino Rossini’s Maometto II on Friday the 27th at 8:30 pm, and on Saturday the 28th, also at 8:30 pm, the premiere of Richard Strauss’ Arabella rounds out the season’s repertoire.

It looks like it will be a great weekend…will we see you there?

Las Posadas: A Santa Fe Holiday Tradition

The holiday tradition of Las Posadas takes place on Sunday, December 11, at 5:30pm at the Palace of the Governors

So much of the holiday season seems so familiar and so relentlessly repetitive, and once-only experiences are becoming a rarity. That’s one of the reasons that Santa Fe loves Christmas Eve and the annual farolito display, a quietly moving spectacle that those who have come to the City Different over the holidays have no doubt seen.

Farolitos Light the Way

Less well-known, however, is the unique tradition known as Las Posadas, also a one-night-only event. A re-enactment of the Holy Family’s search for lodging, this annual holiday happening takes place each year in and around the historic Santa Fe Plaza. While the Plaza hardly looks Biblical, having already been lit with holiday lights and a Christmas tree, and the staging includes some details not found in the usual account, the story nonetheless comes to life in a very local way.

The Santa Fe Plaza Dressed in Snow

Originating in Spain as a religious observation, Las Poasadas is actually a novena, a nine-day event, occurring from December 16 through December 24. Although celebrations of Las Posadas are not uncommon in Northern New Mexico towns, places deeply rooted in the Spanish Catholic tradition, the one-night Plaza re-enactment grew out of a 1970’s era neighborhood campaign against development that sparked an annual celebration, which subsequently outgrew its original San Antonio Street location and moved to the Plaza.

Costumed participants portray the mortals who, in the biblical account, refuse lodging to a humble young pregnant woman and her carpenter-fiancé. As the couple circumnavigate the Plaza from the Palace of the Governors (the oldest government building in the U.S.), seeking rest and shelter, they stop on each corner to seek lodging and comfort, finding instead denial and disappointment.

Taking Off Winter’s Chill by a Luminaria at the Palace of the Governors

The devil, who ridicules and taunts the seekers from perches on the portals on the Plaza, is in turn treated to the boos and hisses of  the assembled crowd, their faces illuminated by candle light. The supernatural power possessed by the devil purportedly allows him to magically appear at each of the Plaza locations designated as the “inns” where the couple tries to obtain a warm and dry spot in which to shelter. Four mortals portray the tormenting demon, crawling out of second-floor windows to discourage the weary travelers.

After numerous refusals stating that there was no room at “the inn,” thanks to the appearance of an angel who blesses the crowd and provides guidance, the couple and their entourage finally find respite from the chilly night in the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors for the denouement of this holiday event. Once inside the courtyard, the procession warms up with hot cider, cookies, and a round of Christmas carols.

Sound interesting? It is! Just be sure to bundle up, since the winter Santa Fe weather has definitely arrived, and it’s nothing like Bethlehem temperatures. This year, Las Posadas takes place on Sunday, December 11, 2011, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Please note that the New Mexico Museum of History will close early at 3:00 p.m. to prepare for and accommodate this holiday tradition.

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

And if you cannot attend, you can still create a special holiday reading tradition, thanks to noted author/illustrator, Tomie dePaolo, proof that an unusual event like this is indeed inspirational!

New Mexico Studio Tours

One of the best things about autumn in New Mexico is the chance to wander to the artists’ studio tours that occur throughout the fall months. Not only is the weather truly superb, one can meet the artists, see their studios AND buy art direct from the artist without gallery fees…a real win-win! The month of October is prime time for weekend art touring and golden aspen viewing both.

Autumn Gold

The arts touring season starts the weekend of October 1-2, in the beautiful New Mexico village of El Rito, easily one of the prettiest spots up north. With 25 years under their belts, this bunch of artisans has it down. From weaving to santeros, painting to pottery, you’ll find much to admire from the 26 participating artists.   Two venues are also stops on the new, state-wide New Mexico Fiber Arts Trail, those of Julie Wagner (#3) and Northern New Mexico Community College (#5), which boasts a fiber arts program. Yes, this pristine little village does have a college….and let’s not forget that El Rito Library promises “Death by Chocolate” desserts!

House Facade: Photo by Larry Sparks, El Rito

El Rito Studio of Michael Hennerty

October 8-10 (since Monday is Columbus Day, this tour has an extra!) welcomes art lovers to the village of Abiquiu, long renowned as Georgia O’Keeffe’s choice for the best New Mexico real estate. With 34 stops along the way, the Abiquiu Studio Tour is always well-attended, not only for the art but also for the natural beauty of the region. One can easily spend hours up north, what with O’Keeffe’s residence and Ghost Ranch both in the area. While reservations must be made in advance to tour the O’Keeffe home, the glories of  Ghost Ranch are evident for all who care to go there.

Mujeres del Campo by Armando Adrian-Lopez, Abiquiu

Ruina del Santuario, Abiquiu: Photo by Armando Adrian-Lopez

The Galisteo Studio Tour claims the following weekend, October 15-16. Just a short drive from downtown Santa Fe, the tour is celebrating its 24th year. 31 stops guarantee a variety of works, and the close-in location means you can ruminate on a piece of sculpture or a painting and then return the next day after you’ve dreamt about how it will look when you bring it home. Four food stops mean snacking is possible. And while the art doyenne of Galisteo, Priscilla Hoback, is not participating in the tour this year (since her studio time this summer was spent instead in a restaurant kitchen, bringing the venerable Pink Adobe back to life), you may see her chatting with visitors from the swing on the front porch of her studio!

The Hoback Studio in Galisteo

Sculpture by Candyce Garrett, Galisteo

The Dixon Studio Tour hunkers down and waits until November 5-6 to have the weekend to itself. If you’re taking a day trip to Taos, stopping in Dixon for a spot of art is definitely worth the short detour. 30 years is a long time to perfect the occasion, and the Dixon artists open their tour with a reception on Friday, November 4 at 7:00p.m. just to get the creative juices flowing. 35 studio stops, roving musicians, food, and believe it or not, there’s even a winery for tastings!

Art and nature…it’s easy to see why the light and the landscape have drawn so many creative souls to northern New Mexico…take time to enjoy an autumn drive and discover for yourself!

Autumn at the Inn: Photograph by Eric Swanson (all rights reserved)

Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta

Everybody seems to know about chile and New Mexico. But does everybody know how to pair our unique regional fare with fine wines? Given the vast quantity of vino out there in the world, selecting good taste and good value is a challenge even without adding in the spicy demands of New Mexico cuisine. Fortunately, once a year, the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta welcomes lovers of food and fine vintages to discover what’s new in successful pairings. Making its 21st appearance in the City Different, the festival runs from Wednesday, September 21 through Sunday, September 25 this year, and given current world travel trends, by next year, there may even be a Wine and Chile app!

The Grand Tasting at the Santa Fe Opera

While tickets for the Grand Tasting at the Santa Fe Opera are all sold, there are still other wine events to enjoy, although you’ll have to act fast as this is a big happening for this foodie town. The Fiesta wisely offers a ticket exchange, so even if it seems like what you desire appears to be a sell-out, there’s still hope for someone’s change of heart or change in plans. And if sitting in a seminar is not your thing, wine dinners abound at many of the best Santa Fe restaurants.

Charlie Will Gladly Pour You a Glass of Sangria

While the Santa Fe weather this week has been decidedly autumn-esque, with welcome rain showers and cool nights, the forecast for next week is Santa Fe sublime: plenty of sun and pleasant temps in the 70’s. And if you’re just coming for a Santa Fe getaway without the crowds, that’s fine…you can relax over our complimentary wine hour every afternoon at the Inn. We look forward to seeing you at this wonderful time of year, and who knows, the aspens may even be treating us to their golden glory!

A Touch of Gold