Back during the winter of 1609-1610, Santa Fe’s Plaza was laid out under the rules of the Spanish king. At that time, the Plaza’s open space was twice as large, extending from about present-day Lincoln Avenue to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
Since then, the Plaza has been the center of much activity. Over the years, it’s been a place of social gathering and commerce, plus much more. The Plaza has been an area for small markets of fruits and vegetables, and other items of everyday life; one could have received the services of a blacksmith or other services of the times. The Plaza was also a place where public punishment was handed out. A whipping post and stocks once existed on the Plaza. On the Plaza, Spanish soldiers marched, paraded, and exercised themselves and their horses.
The Plaza has always been a place of transportation, where, during the Spanish Colonial period via the Camino Rael, goods were delivered from Mexico. Later, during the Mexican and the Territorial periods, the Santa Fe Trail lead to the Plaza and tons upon tons of goods were delivered by Conestoga Wagons pulled by various animals. In 1880, from the railyard people stepped off the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe train, and were transported by wagon to La Fonda on the Plaza. From 1926 to 1937, Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles led to the Plaza.
Today, and in recent history, the Plaza roadways have been used for the time-honored tradition of cruising. This past Sunday, sitting on the Plaza, I saw six classic Corvairs traveling one behind the other on the roads of the Plaza. On that same Sunday, people of all ages drove the Plaza in their old classic cars, showing them off for all to see. In Santa Fe, at middle age, many people buy a Harley and cruise the Plaza. The shipping and deliveries of goods still come and go from the Plaza. Every summer, wedding parties travel the Plaza roads in limousines announcing to the world “Just Married.”
Last summer, a new tradition began when young ladies celebrating their Quinceanera began to stop on Lincoln Avenue in their rented stretch limos to walk to the Plaza Park and mingle with family, friends and other people. Photos were taken and people were curious as to what was happening.
During the holiday season, young families, seniors and people with disabilities travel the Plaza roads to admire the beautiful lights, the menorah and farolitos of the festive season.
If Mayor Gonzales has his way, long-standing traditions of vehicular use will come to an end, and the Plaza will become more homogenized and the message will be “For Tourists Only.” But even the tourists I have spoken with have agreed that the Plaza should remain open to vehicular traffic.
Mayor Gonzales has submitted a resolution that would close off the Plaza to motorized traffic by May 24. The process is proceeding much too fast and the title of the resolution is misleading – “People to the Plaza.” It should be titled “Closure of the Plaza Roads to Motorized Traffic.”
The resolution was introduced at the April 9 City Council meeting and has already gone through two different committees as of Wednesday. There has been little to no public input. The resolution calls for closing roads around the Plaza now and gathering information on the effects later.
If you disagree with the resolution to close the Plaza to vehicular traffic, please call Mayor Gonzales and city councilors, especially Councilors Ives and Dimas, who are co-sponsors, and let them know there has to be much more input and conversation before long-standing and recent traditions of the Plaza are taken away from the people of Santa Fe.
Montaño is a former city councilor and school board member who operates a downtown tour business.