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.