Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Santa Fe's 400th Anniversary
By Phil Parker
Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE For the modern Santa Fean, there's nothing strange about living in an adobe home on a street with a Spanish name, or the question "red, green or Christmas?" coming with almost any breakfast order.
The Santa Fe 400 a year-plus-long birthday party might seem at first to be a celebration of longevity for its own sake. "It's just so old," said historian and former Palace of the Governors director Tom Chavez.
But what's truly worth celebrating is the City Different's differentness.
Linda Velasquez, a retired business owner from Albuquerque, was sitting on the Plaza one recent afternoon and said, "One thing I always like about Santa Fe, that keeps me coming back, is it's multicultural. I think it's the richness that brings to the community."
The roots of Santa Fe as an ethnic melting pot dig through 400 years, back to this city's establishment in 1610 as Spain's seat of government over the region. The adobe Palace of the Governors was built that year and still stands as a landmark of the Southwest.
But the transformational event was probably the Pueblo Revolt. In 1675, a San Juan Pueblo man named Po'pay was whipped by the Spaniards for practicing sorcery, meaning he had been performing some religious ceremony offensive to the Catholics.
Five years later, he led a band of Pueblo warriors in a successful effort to rid the Santa Fe area of Spaniards. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was a bloody six weeks, with about 400 settlers (including 21 Franciscan friars) killed. About 1,000 others fled.
It is not the violence or animosity between peoples that endures today; it is the resolution to their clash of cultures. Banished from Santa Fe to what is now Juárez, Mexico, the Spaniards returned 12 years later. Though there were intermittent attempted revolts, by 1700 a relative peace had been reached.
Fran Levine, director of both the Palace and its latest addition, the New Mexico History Museum, said there's hefty significance to how the Pueblo Revolt is remembered.
"What distinguishes us from other parts of the United States, we don't tell just a triumphalist story," she said. "We tell the history of struggle that made our culturally plural community. That's very different. The revolt and reconquest taught us that building a colony was also about building an alliance."
The Santa Fe 400 events, she said, "celebrate not just the founding as a Hispanic colony but the way in which people of many cultures learned to live together, speak together and embrace each other's customs here in New Mexico."
In New Mexico there are more tribes of Indians living on the land they occupied when the Europeans arrived than on the entire East Coast, according to Chavez. "All these cultures are still here," he said. "Imagine Santa Fe without any adobe buildings, without people speaking Spanish. We've learned it's OK to eat chile for breakfast and not kill the cook. ... There are people still gathering under the portals at the Palace of the Governors.
"It's not just looking at old things the people are still alive, speaking the same language and with the same culture. That's our message, and what could be more important than that?"
Paul Coriz, from Santo Domingo Pueblo, has been one of those people gathering under the portals for the last 15 years to sell jewelry, pottery or small sculptures. "What happened in the past as far as between Spanish and Native American people is in the past," he said. "In the new generations we've mixed with other cultures. Now we all help each other culturally, spiritually, economically."
He called the portal a "place of welcoming."
"We welcome everyone here," he said. "The same goes on the Pueblos. At each house people are welcome, to come talk or get something to drink. On the Pueblo, growing up, we're taught how to respect other people and also give them guidance."
Across the Plaza, next to a glossy black marker that says, "This stone marks the end of the Santa Fe Trail," Roque's Carnitas is peddling tamales to tourists. The carnitas stand has been manned for 28 years by Roque Garcia de Salmeron.
"That's important," he told the Journal. " 'De Salmeron.' We are the originals."
Garcia said when he first set up downtown, his customers were usually native Santa Feans. He serves a lot of New Yorkers now, he said, who call his tamales "Mexican Twinkies."
"If it wasn't for the tourists?" he said. "Bye bye. I'd be gone. ... I ask my friends here, 'Why don't you go downtown?' They say, 'What's there for me? There's nothing but tourists.'"
He said he hopes the Santa Fe 400 commemoration changes that. "We need to get the Santa Feans to come down here, to come and learn," he said. "We have to teach this culture and this history."