The two sets of COVID-safe restrictions that have been in place on the Santa Fe Plaza don’t make much sense to Navajo jeweler Patricia Anderson. And they don’t make much sense to us, either.
City of Santa Fe vendors on the Plaza itself are no longer subject to social distancing and mask mandates. But literally just across Palace Avenue, artists at the Native American Artisan Portal Program have been forced to keep a COVID-19 safe distance, meaning fewer sellers allowed – even though the same crowd shops on both sides.
A spokesman for the state Department of Cultural Affairs says the Native American Artisans Portal Program Committee and the state History Museum can run the portal program “however they see fit.” Except, as folks from the committee, the museum and even the Governor’s Office see it, it’s up to Cultural Affairs.
Caught up in the finger-pointing have been Anderson and 20 other Native artists who were turned away earlier this month because they, apparently, sell on the wrong side of the street.
And while the museum recently reduced the distance between seller spaces under the museum portal from 6 feet to 3, increasing vendors from 22 to 34, that’s a far cry from the 68 spaces normally available.
The pandemic has been tough on many New Mexico business people, and Native artists lost their storefronts, so to speak, when the pandemic shuttered portal sales. For the first time in over a year, some were allowed to resume selling wares at the Palace of the Governors just this month. Maya Quintana, chairwoman of the Native American Artisans Portal Program Committee, says that, if the portal program had been operating normally, none of those 21 would have been turned away.
The artists need the income from their craft to survive, and the state needs the fruit of their labors for tourism.
There were indications late last week that the portal program was moving toward loosening restrictions. Out of simple fairness, it’s time to fully reopen the Native American Artisan Portal Program.