Thursday, June 12, 2003

Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part VI

Day Seven

We started the day rather quickly. Karen promised me that I could be the slave-driver that I always wanted her to be, going from place to place without stop (the only proviso was that I provide coffee to start the day.) We drove to the plaza area at the center of Santa Fe, parking near the cathedral. (We did not visit the cathedral itself because it appears to be out of character with the rest of the area. It was built by a nineteenth-century French bishop, Lamy, who detested the native spirituality.) We went first to the San Miguel chapel. The pieces in the small church were typical of what we had already seen, but were not without their own unique charm. What annoyed me was that there was a very loud, very public audio tour that played every ten minutes. The entire mood of the church was ruined by this continuous tape. Outside, Karen set up to take a picture of me from across the street.

We took a quick coffee and breakfast burrito at a local coffee shop. Thereafter we walked over to the Palace of the Governors. Along the way we looked into some of the shops in the plaza. These shops were very expensive. I told Karen that she should consider buying something, even though we both knew that we really could not afford to do so.

The Palace of Governors was built as, obviously, the home for the Spanish governors who oversaw the colony. It has been turned into a museum with two small permanent exhibits and one larger temporary exhibit. The temporary exhibit explored Jewish life in New Mexico (at least the official presence that began in the mid-nineteenth century.) Many of the Jewish family who settled brought banking to the Southwest, and the were responsible for the mercantile prosperity of town like Las Vegas, New Mexico. Very little of the exhibit was dedicated to the typical items of religious practices (as they are in other local history museums that I have visited in Europe.) The focus here was on the personalities and the families.

The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum was only a few blocks away. Our guidebook was not clear about what we would find there. The museum appears to serve a teaching institution. At the time the exhibits were works by the students (MFA, BFA, and AFA in arts and in creative writing.) Karen and I were floored by the quality of the work that the students presented. The institute must teach the students how to apply the aesthetics of Indian culture to fine arts production. (One exhibit that I remember was by an AFA: a mask with a mouth full of nails.) Some of the artwork was for sale, and at a reasonable price.

Our next destination was the Museum complex (four museums in a row on the south side of town.) We looked at the map to decide how best to get there. It looked as if the complex was not that far, perhaps a mile, and that we could leave the car in the center of town and walk. I was, perhaps, a little bold with my plan. The actual distance turned out to be a little more than two miles, up hill. The houses that we saw were incredible: old Adobes everywhere. However, another storm appear to be moving through the area. We could hear thunder. Karen’s fear of lightning kicked in. We picked up the pace to get to the complex. By the time that reached the first museum we were panting and sweaty.

The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art mines the states collection of native folk religious art and places it within a home built in a revival style of Spanish Colonial architecture (using a brick that was hollow.) We decide to take a tour with one of the docents. She was very knowledgeable about the artistic styles: the influence of Spanish and Moorish culture and how it was transformed in effective isolation.) She explained how some of the more elusive crafts were conducted: straw applique, which used regular straw to simulate inlaid gold. Part of the collection focused on the older works. Part of the thrust of the museum was to explain how the crafts have been revived by the Spanish Colonial Arts Council and bi-annual fairs like Spanish Market. Some of the recent purchases by the museum were works by the sons and daughters of masters who were, none the less, still children.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture was interesting but was somehow less compelling. One exhibit was an extended look at the Indian world-view: how the world was created, how they interacted with the landscape in the time before the arrival of the Spanish, how they had evolved. Some of the installations were ordinary. Another room was dedicated to pottery, showing the styles employed by the different Pueblos.

The Museum of International Folk Art was extensive, exhaustive, exhausting, and great fun. I cannot remember seeing a museum quite like it. There was one huge room with large village displays from all around the world. These were huge displays: several yards across and at least one yard deep. There were many of these, from different countries on each continent. There were dolls, games, fabrics, ... . We spent so long just running around with smiles on our faces; we kept calling out, “Look at this!” After that, we saw the special exhibit (the Neutragena Collection) on textile from throughout the world. Again, we were awestruck. The only drawback was that the individual textiles were not labeled; we had to consult a program guide in order to identify individual pieces, but the pictures in the book were in black and white and difficult to match. The security guard was very helpful, keeping people on track as they went through the collection. After the textiles, we were too tired to appreciate the rest of the museum. My advice: reserve lots of time for this museum.

We took a bus back to the plaza. The driver was kind enough to point out some of the more interesting houses in Santa Fe. We tried to see the Santuario de Guadalupe, but it was already closed.

After we freshened up at the hotel we headed back to the plaza in order to eat. After the previous nights splurge we wanted to find something less expensive to eat. We failed. It appears that Santa Fe has no mid-price restaurants. Instead we found a canteen/bar that had a cheap, but very filling and tasty, menu that was inexpensive. We drank it down with some Belgian ale. Our waitress was very helpful and polite: she told us how to find a bookstore that was open.

We were tired. We went back to the hotel room and stared at the television as we laid in the other of the two full-sized beds.

Day Eight

We checked out of the hotel quickly. I hoped that we could see the Santuario just as it opened and then get on the road to see a few of the natural sites.

Alas, the Santuario did not open at the posted times. I was very disappointed. Instead we went to Loretto Chapel, known for its “mysterious” staircase that defies the rules of engineering and yet still remains standing. The chapel used to serve a religious order. It was de-sacrilized in the 1970s and sold to a private interest, which in turn built a hotel around it. The chapel was a Lamy project: it had lots of European style sculpture and painting that normally would be out of place in New Mexico.

We had a quick breakfast of huevos rancheros at a fast food place. As we were across from the Palace of Governors, I ran over to the gift shop and bought some books.

We got on the road and drove north–to go back to Chimayo. Karen and I felt that we had spent too little time before and wanted to get some of the chiles. We walked around to look at the artisans and their workshops (Karen bought a necklace.) We ate tamales from a restaurant at the top of the hill. The chile sauce was spicy but also addictive. I bought a large bag of different chiles for $20 (my cuisine has never tasted so good.)

I had planned a more ambitious day–Bandalier, a pueblo–but time ran short very quickly. We had to start back toward Albuquerque. We visited one more place. We took a road off the highway to see the Tent Rocks. These were geological formations that were shaped like tee pees over the years. The road went through a pueblo. Then it was a dirt road for four miles (it took us twenty minutes.) We were both impressed with what we saw. However, we had to cut our visit short. We had no water with us, and it was very hot.

In Albuquerque, we went straight to the National Hispanic Cultural Center. We were sweaty and tired, but I wanted to do this before it closed. The Center had only its permanent exhibits open, which were not extensive. I bought a few books. (The center had a puppet presentation of a Lorca play. I tried to tell Karen, but she was too distracted to hear me.)

We went back to the Hotel Blue to stay the night. The hotel had lost our reservation; I was afraid that I would not be able to get the internet discount. Luckily I had the computer printout with me.

After cleaning up we went to Old Town to see if we could buy anything interesting. All the good stores had already closed, only the touristy shops were still open. Even the restaurants were closed. We went back to the area of our hotel and went to a pizza place–the one we ate at the previous week.

We got back to the room early with the hope of falling asleep early.

Day ten

Not much happened today. We checked out of the hotel, turned in the rental car (poor care, all the torture that we put it through, we almost drove it one thousand miles), and went to the airport. In Chicago the scheduled plane was removed, and we were delayed for one half hour as they found another (and still people complained.) We got home late, too late to spring the bunnies from the Inn for Pets. That would wait for the next day. We slept very well that night.


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?