We have just returned from a weeklong trip to the Greater Disney Entertainment Complex in central Florida having thoroughly “done Disney” and, no offense to Old Walt, it only made us appreciate the values and unique attractions of the Inn on the Alameda. Traveling as a family with a nine year old turning ten was an eye-opening and bracing examination of today’s lodging trends. While we were dazzled by Disney the trip truly brought us a renewed appreciation of our home and inn.
Traveling to Disneyworld is an exercise in corporate homogeneity and the contrast to New Mexico is apparent upon arrival. Orlando International is a confusing labyrinth of poor signage and retail opportunities that must be maneuvered before even setting a foot in Florida proper. The Interstate to the corporate state within a state that is Disney is an endless stretch of billboards and novelty shops. There cannot exist an experience in sharper contrast to the stark beauty and endless views of the drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, as the wide sky rises up to meet you when cresting La Bajada hill and gazing out at the City Different nestled placidly beneath her clean blue skies and rising Sange de Cristo mountain peaks.
Once in the Disney Complex you are in a vast and all encompassing world of orchestrated consumerism where money is abstracted into the form of a “Magic Band “ with which you just swipe your wrist to charge gifts, rides and meals. Disney seems to have found the highest common denominator for all of America in entertainment and lodging. Here one would believe that the food options are limited to just a few repetitive items, with lots of starch and sugar. This is unfortunately for the Disney visitor an unfulfilling, if filling, dining experience, totally different than one’s experience at the Agoyo Lounge at the Inn where we seasonally change our unique regional cuisine, like our Chicken Enchiladas. At the Inn we pride ourselves on a level of personal service and customer engagement which is reflected is our high numbers of returning guests.
It is impossible to not dwell on Disney’s countless differences with Santa Fe. Few locations in the United States are so deeply entrenched in location, place and history. Cultural contexts in New Mexico are deep and wide, encompassing Anglo-American and Hispanic settlers over hundreds of years and Native Indian occupation over thousands. To travel from the Inn on the Alameda to the Plaza is to walk the same byways and streets that have been walked upon for hundreds of years. You will see independent vendors, shops and galleries offering authentic and world class goods. Santa Fe is no fantasist vision sprung madly from the visions and dictates of a multinational corporation, it’s as real and as authentic a location as you’re likely to find on this continent. We can truly say we’ve “done Disney”, and we are now done with it. What we see when we look at the Inn on the Alameda is authenticity and reality where the guest is treated with recognition and respect, and it is this vision that becomes bracing in its clarity when contrasted with Orlando.
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.
One of New Mexico’s signature scents is the roaring open fire, burning bright with Pinon and juniper. At the Inn on the Alameda we’d like to also include the tempting scents of hot cider cocktails and Toddies.
Toddy Stick & Jerry Thomas
Hot drinks are an American tradition. Early Colonial era gatherings were enlivened with the tradition of “Flipping” drinks, adding a hot iron to the cocktail to make it froth and “flip” about. The earliest recipes consisted of a blend of beer, rum and sugar. Over time, eggs were added and the beer was reduced. Eventually this drink evolved into the now familiar nogs.The father of modern Bartending, the famed Jerry Thomas, included many variations of flips in his influential books on cocktails.
No discussion of hot drinks would be complete without mentioning the traditional Irish balm: the Hot Toddy. Mixing whiskey with boiling water, sugar or honey, lemon and spices provides a revivifying effect. The vitamin C and honey help explain the soothing efficacy of the drink in treating the cold effects of winter. The toddy can be fine tuned in many different ways to individualize the drink. In the Midwestern United States it can be made with the addition of ginger ale, a decidedly non-traditional preparation.
It is good naturedness that provides the final element of hot drink perfection, the quality of welcome, which you will find at the Inn on the Alameda. Cultures around the world have terms to refer to this ineffable quality. For Germans it’s called Gemütlichkeit, the quality of a situation or location that induces a sense of welcoming coziness and unhurried warmth. That’s a standard we’re proud to offer – come see us soon for a soul-warming beverage of your choice.
Santa Fe remains synonymous with railroads, thanks to the continued existence of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, even though a merger in 1994 with Burlington Northern all but obliterated Santa Fe’s name from the new company. Now known as BNSF, future generations will certainly not recall the colorful history of the AT&SF Railroad, nor the origins of the name of the BNSF.
The D&RG on the Narrow Gauge. Image from ngdiscussion.net
Long before this merger, in the beginnings of the western expansion of the railroads, the AT&SF was formed in 1859 to connect Kansas with Santa Fe, the legendary capital of the newly formed New Mexico territory. However, unknown to most, there was another railroad that served Santa Fe. Ironically, the AT&SF never even reached the capital, as the elevation grade made routing through Santa Fe impractical. But the grades were nothing for the tough narrow gauge (3 feet wide) railroad known as the Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG), incorporated in 1870 to build tracks from Denver to Santa Fe. Its company emblem was scribed with the words: “Through the Rockies, not around them.”
Bat Masterson & Doc Holliday – Characters of the Old American West – images from wikipedia.org
The history of the conflicts between the AT&SF and D&RG railroads is legendary. Competition for the lucrative routes that would link the silver and gold riches of Utah and Colorado with the rest of the country eventually led to a conflict between the AT&SF and the upstart Denver D&R). The dream of the upstart D&RG owners was to eventually connect Denver with El Paso Texas, an arduous task to say the least. The fierce competition between the two railroads intensified until literally a war broke out over the lucrative Southern Colorado Arkansas River basin, where a narrow gateway named the Royal Gorge gave access to the many mines of western Colorado. The Royal Gorge War was intense, violent and even involved hired gunslingers such as Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. It looked like the AT&SF would secure the lucrative routes through force of arms until a circuit court ruling in the D&RG’s favor proved decisive. Armed now with the force of the law, the D&RG was free to pursue a direct line connecting Colorado with Santa Fe. Believing a narrow gauge design to be superior in the mountainous terrain between Antonito and Santa Fe, the company began laying a narrow gauge track south from southern Colorado to Santa Fe. The narrow track was layed within the portion of the D&RG from Antonito, Colorado, on through the small New Mexico towns of Tres Piedras, Taos Junction, Embudo, Espanola and eventually on to Santa Fe. This section was nicknamed the “Chili Line” in honor of New Mexico’s premier and distinctive crop, but its official name was the Santa Fe Branch. Though the majority of western commercial traffic would continue to go to the AT&SF, the Chili Line leg of the D&RG began construction in 1880, eventually, providing a valuable link between the small and isolated northern New Mexican and southern Colorado farmers and ranchers and the country’s larger markets.
The Rio Grande Zephyr in 1983 – image from wikipedia.org
Due to its remote nature from Antonito, Colorado, down through desolate Northern New Mexico to Santa Fe, the Chili Line would be an informal one. The engineers and fireman “often stopped to shoot jackrabbits and coyotes. Sometimes passengers joined in the sport… In the little town of Tres Piedras, the train would meet ‘a yellow mongrel dog…’ The engineer tossed off a newspaper daily which the dog picked up and carried to the home of its owner.” (The Evening Independent -St. Petersburg, Florida: Associated Press- September 2, 1941). Ironically, the court decision to bring peace between the AT&SF and the D&RG prevented D&RG to go further south than Espanola, so another train company was formed, named the Texas, Santa Fe and Northern Rail Road Company, and in 1886, the Chili Line arrived in the Santa Fe Railyards. The Chili Line continued its operations until 1941 when transportation by truck began the erosion of the small narrow gauge “feeder lines” throughout the country. But it didn’t end there, the final successor inter-city train, known as the Zephyr, continued service until the mid 1980s.
So, at least 3 Railroads have used the Santa Fe Railyards for depots, not just the more famous one, the AT&SF, whom as I said in the beginning, has itself fallen to the fate of time and is now only represented by 2 letters behind the BR of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, whose harsh orange engines laboriously pull double decked railcars from China across the country-side.
A visit to Santa Fe should always include a tour of the Santa Fe Railyards where the original depots of these railroads can be seen. And where else to stay but the Inn on the Alameda, conveniently located near the Plaza and Canyon Road as well. If you don’t feel like walking, our free courtesy car will gladly drop you off and pick you up at your convenience. Oh, yes…remember to order a :”Sidecar” when you are dining or cocktailing in the Agoyo Lounge.
One of the most defining artistic and symbolic elements of the Southwest is turquoise, a stone that possesses a captivating quality to natives and passers-through alike. The name “Turquoise” is an iteration of “Turkey,” the country from which the first turquoise imports to Europe came. This greenish blue mineral, consisting of hydrous phosphate, copper and iron, first emerged in ancient Egypt, where it was placed in tombs around 3000 BC.
In both old and new world cultures, turquoise was/is considered a holy stone – used for protection against unnatural death and hailed as a symbol of healing for both the body and the sacred land.
In the Southwest in particular, its hue is reminiscent of rain, essential to life and rebirth in the Puebloan tradition.
The story of turquoise in Santa Fe dates back over a thousand years (perhaps further), and is a complex one. The evidence of vast trade networks, connecting thousands of miles of land through multiple states and diverse cultural groups, has been recently uncovered by new archaeological techniques. Sharon Hull, a noted archaeologist, has spearheaded this endeavor by identifying clear evidence of pre-Columbian trade, stretching all the way from Nevada to the Cerrillos hills of Santa Fe.
While turquoise can be acquired today much easier than our ancestors’ methods, purchasing a piece of turquoise in Santa Fe ties you to the deep tradition of the bartering system of times passed. Most new turquoise jewelry sold today comes from mines in Nevada or Arizona, but the modern manufacturing tradition derives largely from the work of Fred Harvey and his collaboration with native New Mexican artisans. One of the fathers of modern tourism, Harvey pioneered many aspects of modern-day tourism. His handshake deal with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad to build inns, restaurants, and shops with organized tours of native performers, along the various railway stops helped shape our conception of current cultural tourism. This led to what’s been called ‘the first chain restaurants,’ as well as helped define and create the modern demand for southwestern styled silver and turquoise jewelry. Examples of this antique jewelry can be found in galleries throughout town.
Buying turquoise jewelry can be rewarding and intimidating all at once. Buying jewelry directly from native artisans at the Palace of the Governors located on the Santa Fe Plaza is one option. You can meet the artisans first hand and discuss the quality and history of the jewelry directly with the Native Americans who crafted it, placing yourself in an historical continuum of hundreds of years. The difference in cost between two roughly similar shaped and sized pieces can be thousands of dollars depending on whether the stone is natural or reconstituted and stabilized. Other options are to visit many well known and established shops in town that can take out most of the guesswork, and if you wish to read up on determining the quality of turquoise yourself, read through this guide that the Santa Fe Reporter wrote.
In addition to the native artisans present at the plaza, there are several Canyon Road galleries, located close to the Inn on the Alameda, that sell wearable turquoise art. For authentic Fred Harvey wares, Canyon Road offers the buyer many opportunities, including The Adobe Gallery and the Medicine Man gallery. Sessels on San Francisco St. and Keshi on Paseo de Peralta are additional shopping venues located close to the hotel.
The Inn on the Alameda strives to be the perfect ‘base camp’ for any shopping expedition and we would be happy to point you in the right direction based on your shopping desires.