We were met with mixed responses when we told Americans we were going to Santa Fe. Dane, our LA host said “why are you going there?…Everything is brown…” while others told us of the richness of culture that Santa Fe actively preserved.
When we arrived, we discovered that Dane was correct, everything was brown, but the brown worked for it. Back in 1912, when New Mexico became an official state of the USA, the town planners were deciding what to do with the place. They made Santa Fe its capitol and hatched a plan to have all future architecture align to the pre-existing aesthetic that was created by the Pueblo Indians, the initial inhabitants of the land. All the houses built around the town centre share the same design components; they all are adobe, square structures with rough exposed beams, flat roofs, earthy colours (with a bit of turquoise if your lucky) and coexist with the environment that surrounds them. They coexist so well in fact, that it is hard to see that they even exist at all. When we first arrived I pointed out one of of the adobes to Marissa and she couldn’t see it at all, thinking I was pointing out yet another old desert view from the car.
The other thing we noticed about Santa Fe, was that it seemed to be a lot more expensive than the rest of the USA . Santa Fe has attracted a lot of retirees with money, who are lured to the dry climate and the rich culture. Every second shop sells local Folk Arts in gallery like spaces, with very high price tags (not to discredit the art and its worth, but geez, it would send you broke investing in it!) Price tags were high to capitalise on the wealthy folk that make Santa Fe their home (or at least one of their homes) but parallel to that is extreme poverty that affected the Native Indian population of New Mexico. The streets were filled with expensive shiny cars controlled by retired silver foxes and their birds, but they drive behind rusty old bombs that are held together with gaffa and coat hangers. There seemed to be a real separation between the two groups, the wealthy and the poor.
Class systems aside, Santa Fe is a very exciting place if your interested in folk art. Everything down to the ATMs, freeways and parking lots are adorned with traditional carving and amazing geometric painted patterns. It has a very subtle beauty, that grows once you start to look at it longer. Nothing is left unturned or unfinished, and there is an attention to detail that I have never seen overwhelm an entire city like it does in Santa Fe. People genuinely care.
If it takes the rich republican retirees to keep the culture alive and at the forefront of everybody’s minds, go for it, I say!