La Conquistadora de Santa Fe
In a small Chapel within St. Francis’ Cathedral lies a remarkable figure. A unique piece of devotional art and an amazing witness to history, La Conquistadora, continues to be venerated today within the Catholic Church. Standing only 30 inches tall, she is the oldest recorded Madonna in the United States. She was built in Spain, travelled to the new world and witness to the bloody climax of the Pueblo Revolt. Then smuggled into exile, protected from harm, companion to De Vargas through his reconquest of Santa Fe and New Mexico, and worshipped today as a divine symbol of peace and avoidance of bloodshed. The history of this Icon is an apt representation of the rich and colorful past and present of New Mexico.
Carved in Spain during the early 17th century, the delicately featured Icon first entered recorded history in 1625. A Franciscan missionary by the name of Fray Alonso de Venavidez installed and dedicated a small shrine in Santa Fe at the Church of the Assumption. Changes in Catholic dogma had begun to emphasize Mary and the Immaculate Conception, and the church became the first shrine to Mary in what would become the United States.
Beyond the walls of the chapel, however, there was great unrest. These were the years of harsh conversion, dissolution of traditional social structures, forced labor, cruel punishments and devastating disease amongst the native Pueblo inhabitants. It was in this context that the Pueblo Revolt, as discussed elsewhere on the site, began.
Don Diego de Vargas
It is said that The Lady had warned the Spanish settlers of the coming revolt with dreams and visions and signs. Despite these premonitions, the settlers were unprepared for the violence of the Pueblo Revolt, when a coordinated rising amongst the pueblos exploded on August 12, 1680. Led by the charismatic holy man, Po’Pay, the Puebloans sought to eradicate all traces of the Catholic religion. Santa Fe burned, 21 friars were killed, and the colonists fled. Amidst the violence and chaos, The Lady was rescued from the burning church and accompanied the fleeing settlers.
Moving to what is today Juarez, Mexico, the settlers nursed hopes of returning to their former homes. The Lady was held by the exiled settlers for twelve years. It was in 1691 that Spain sent forth Don Diego De Vargas to reclaim the New Mexican territory. Setting out with the exiled colonists and his soldiers, De Vargas began the resettlement and reconquest of New Mexico.
Traveling with a large host under the banner of the Lady De Vargas presented an intimidating and imposing presence. Under his banner, many of the rebellious tribes surrendered peaceably and re-pledged their allegiance. It is this event, the largely peaceful reconquest of Santa Fe and New Mexico, that we still celebrate today with Fiesta. Under the banner of The Lady, now known as La Conquistadora, Santa Fe once again came under Spanish rule.
Though rebellion and harsh persecution would continue over the next few years, Santa Fe itself was not threatened again. Recognizing the improbability of the initial peaceful reconquest, the Settlers began an annual veneration in thanks for the icon’s aid.
La Conquistadora became an integral part of the native Catholic iconography. Volunteers pledged their time and money to the Icon’s celebration and exaltation. Today the Cofradia del Rosario [or Rosary Cofraternity] continues to be active in the New Mexican Catholic community.
Dressing La Conquistadora for her annual appearances soon led to her amassing a significant collection of jewels, dresses, and coverings. Her veneration is reflected in the beauty of her coverings and the elaboration of her worship. Her procession grew over time, and what was a simple shelter soon became a Chapel. Over time, a great Cathedral rose around the smaller Chapel and today the Basilica of St. Francis surrounds the Chapel.
La Conquistadora endures as a celebrated Icon to this day, remaining an essential part of Santa Fe’s temporal and spiritual history.
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Thanksgiving is a day usually filled with remembrances of smells of turkey and pumpkin pie, uncles and aunts, cousins, football and fall weather. But a review of the underlying history of Thanksgiving reveals a story that is far from the Norman Rockwell image of Dad carving a turkey at the dining room table in some imaginary New England home.
The real Thanksgiving celebration most likely only occurred once…and lasted three days. Neither turkey, nor potatoes, nor pumpkin pie were on the menu, but waterfowl and venison were – oh, and unsweetened cranberries (as no sugar was yet available in New England). This Thanksgiving was a very appropriate one. The first English pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 with hardly any survival skills suited to their new land. Most died during that first winter from starvation and exposure to the elements. 1622 proved no different; in fact, it wasn’t until 1623 that the harvests became more reliable and bountiful. If it were not for a sole Patuxet Native named Squanto, colonization would likely have been set back by decades.
To paint a more balanced picture than Norman Rockwell’s, it is rarely mentioned that in 1614, English explorers initially returned to England in ships loaded with as many as 500 Patuxet Indian slaves bound for market. This was the hapless tribe that happened to be at ground zero of these European explorers’ arrival. Later, when New England’s first settlers arrived, only one Patuxet remained alive, English-speaking Squanto, who had survived slavery in England and returned later to New England thanks to the graces of a befriended Englishman. During the first two horrible years of near starvation, the Pilgrims were taught by Squanto and the neighboring Wampanoaga people how to grow corn and to survive in this new land. Squanto also negotiated a peace treaty for the Pilgrims with the nearby and very large Wampanoaga tribe. At the end of the hardships of the first year, there indeed was a 3-day Thanksgiving feast honoring Squanto and their new neighbors, the Wampanoagas, but in reality the harvest was meager and there was little to eat that winter following this thanksgiving.
Despite the continual hardship, the word spread throughout England of this newly found “paradise” in America, so countless new settlers arrived. And as always in such situations, when a more technologically superior people enter a less advanced peoples’ land, tensions increased between races until a state of war for survival arose. And such was the case with the New England Natives and the waves of land and freedom hungry colonists. Unfortunately, soon both governors and clergy began calling for days of thanksgiving following successful victories against the natives.
In 1789, President George Washington called for “ a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favours of God Almighty”. In 1863, during the Civil War, to foster a sense of national unity, Abraham Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. FDR in 1939 set the date as the 4th Thursday of November to add additional economic energy prior to Xmas, and hence the term Black Friday was probably coined, commemorating the day when retailers went from being in the red to being in the black. Our consumer driven culture solidified over the 20th century the iconic foods, settings, and modern traditions of our national holiday.
Now with the history under our soon-to-be straining belts, how better to celebrate Thanksgiving than coming to the land of the ancient Pueblos who had already been in existence for hundreds of years prior to the English explorers’ arrival on this continent?
The Inn on the Alameda’s restaurant, the Agoyo Lounge, traditionally prepares a “reservations-recommended” Thanksgiving dinner for guests and locals alike. We cook up a unique and special menu, which you can view on our website. Please join us around the fires to enjoy a day of thanksgiving for living in one of the greatest countries in the world and certainly enjoying it in one of the greatest and most unique cities in the world.
Naturally, when most people think of fall colors, they think of the east coast. Coming up from the Appalachian, through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, through New England and up to the State of Maine, everywhere fall foliage is bursting into color. Reds, yellows, and oranges are a glorious sign of the impending arrival of winter, and warmly welcome the flocks of tourists heading north and east, as numerous as birds migrating south.
Northern New Mexico is always a place to experience colors in the Fall; a burning-red chili ristra alone is worth the trip. These appear all over New Mexico about this time of year when the famous Hatch, NM green chili harvest occurs. We may not have as many pumpkins as a New England town square, but our native squashes turn just as beautiful. Like the chilis and pumpkins changing their summer clothes, in the case of trees and their leaves, it is the arrival of cooler days and longer nights, which slow and then cease the photosynthesis process, trapping sugars in the leaves – a timeless process, which results in the robust reds. As the green chlorophyll dies, the trees’ leaves begin to try and salvage other nutrients and the carotenoids, masked by the green chlorophyll during the summer, and create the glory of autumnal hues.
Each October and early November, there is almost always plenty of time to see these wonderful fall colors in and around Santa Fe. Valley cottonwoods turn golden and orange, aspens turn yellow, the Chinese Pistache becomes a ravaging deep red, and Gamble Oaks are cloaked in a soft blend of warm, burnt color. Purple Mountain Ash, ornamental crab apples and fruit trees join the chorus, while vista-wide Chamisa sprout plumes of blossoms whose bright golden yellow is unrivalled even by the mighty maples, hickories, oaks and beeches of the East Coast. One of he most amazing of all the sights is to see the quaking aspens covering the entire Sangre de Cristo mountain range just above town, while they are turning into a rippling carpet of shimmering yellows, highlighted by green pines and firs bursting above the sea of aspen gold. Hiking or mountain biking at this time of year on the many gentle – or if you prefer arduous – trails in the glorious Sangre de Cristos is just unbelievable.
An autumn stay at the Inn on the Alameda allows one an opportunity to revel in our artistic landscaping planned to capture the beauty of fall foliage concentrated on our beautiful 2 acres perfectly situated along the cottonwood lined Santa Fe River. With November just around the corner, meet at the Agoyo Lounge for dinner in front of the glowing fireplace and savor one of our specialty cocktails – maybe a hot-toddie on the patio or a warm apple cider. Whatever your taste, the Inn on the Alameda will always accommodate and satisfy your desires in an inimitable setting.
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 reportingtexas.com
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.
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.
Pancakes on the Plaza – image from santafe.com
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!
image from http://www.iceflowstudios.com/
We’re thinking holidays, how about you? Planning to travel to New Mexico in December? We are happy to offer some suggestions to make your Santa Fe holiday travel bright!
Here at the Inn on the Alameda, we welcome the arrival of the winter holiday season by lighting the Chanukah candles on Saturday, December 8 after sunset.
On Sunday, December 9, beginning at 3:00pm, Chabad Santa Fe invites everyone to attend a free Chanukah event on the Santa Fe Plaza, with a Community Menorah Lighting followed by a concert, featuring Jono Manson. And the Inn is also delighted to welcome any of our guests to light the candles in our Lobby on any of the eight nights of Chanukah.
Also on December 9, the annual holiday tradition of Las Posadas, a re-eanctment of the Holy Family’s search for shelter, takes place beginning at 5:30pm on the Plaza. This procession begins at the Palace pf the Governors and processes around the Plaza, and all are welcome to join. The devil makes an appearance to taunt the crowd, and booing ensues until an angel appears with a light sending blessings on those assembled. The walk concludes back at the Palace of the Governors, where biscochitos and hot cider are on tap.
Warming Up after Las Posadas
Thanks to the many wonderful museum gift shops and unique boutiques, Santa Fe has great options for picking up a holiday gift that cannot be duplicated. Each museum shop’s selection is curated around the individual museum’s mission, so you can find Native American treasures, Spanish heritage gifts, and folk art oddities. The Plaza area is a mecca for cowboy boots, souvenir potholders, velvet skirts, and of course, jewelry. And don’t worry, guys, there’s a cigar shop if you need to escape !
Case Trading Post at the Wheelwright Museum
Holiday music will be resounding through the City Different, known for its commitment to the musical performance. The Lensic has a roster of lyrical events to pick and choose from. Aaron Neville brings his sweet voice to Santa Fe with a Christmas concert on Monday, December 10 at 7:30pm. The Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus celebrates its birthday in music on Sunday, December 16 at 4:00pm. On Monday, December 17, the Santa Fe Concert Band, led by the inestimable Greg Heltman, offers its annual free concert at 7:00pm; this is your chance to carol! On December 24, at 5:00pm, the Santa Fe Concert Association welcomes an 11-year-old virtuoso pianist and composer, Emily Bear, to perform a Christmas Eve concert, also at the Lensic. And the musical year ends on New Year’s Eve with a performance by the Harlem String Quartet at 5:00pm.
Of course, the Lensic is not our only venue! Santa Fe Pro Musica will be ensconced in the Loretto Chapel for two performances nightly at 6:00pm and 8:00pm from Thursday, December 20 through Monday, December 24, presenting their annual Baroque Christmas Concert. On Saturday, December 29 at 6:00pm and Sunday, December 30 at 3:00pm, Pro Musica offers a Mozart Holiday Concert at the St. Francis Auditorium.
Our Beautiful Cathedral is Perfect for Carols
On December 14, 18, 20, 21 & 22, at 8:00pm, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale presents a concert of Carols and Lullabies in the perfect location for such music, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis. And on Sunday, December 15, the Chorale welcomes any and all to The Big Sing, a performance guaranteed to be the largest choir singing in New Mexico, taking place at 3:00pm at Cristo Rey Church. Not to be outdone, the 12-voice Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble performs A Winter Festival of Song on Saturday, December 14 at 7:00pm at the Loretto Chapel and Sunday, December 15 at 3:00pm at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.
If you are staying in Santa Fe over the winter holidays, it’s a very good idea to have dinner reservations, and our concierge-trained staff is happy to recommend and reserve for you. We are here to answer all of your holiday questions, whether you are staying with us or not…just ask!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ALL OF US AT THE INN!