SANTA FE, ITS 400TH YEAR
Exploring the Past, Defining the Future
This book had a modest beginning but has arrived at a proud end. It began as a series of newspaper stories, based on a promise from The Santa Fe New Mexican, the West’s oldest newspaper, to honor 400 years of Santa Fe history. Those stories are now Santa Fe: Exploring the Past, Defining the Future, the publication of which came as 2010 drew to an end and helped close the 400th anniversary commemoration with a flourish.
This is a book for the present time, not about yesterday. Yes, it looks back at 400 years of history but always turns its eye forward toward Santa Fe’s future. The stories in this book happened because skilled journalists searched to explain life as they found it in 2010 and to spot clues about what may come for their community. Their journalism created a coherent narrative that put the people of Santa Fe in the midst of a story both layered and thrilling, and a community both familiar and invigorating.
It is important to stress that this is not the history of gray-haired leading men. This is the story of a people—the young and old, the women and men, the founders and latecomers. What paths did they follow? What impulses drove them? What hopes and fears guided them once they arrived? What values propel them into the future? Those questions ask Santa Feans to look back at the same time that the challenge compels them to imagine tomorrow. Turn around. Look ahead. Historians do that. So do journalists, the creators of the rough draft of history.
Santa Fe’s story arcs brightly across time, from the talking drums of the Pueblos to the pioneering work on complex systems at the Santa Fe Institute. The historian views it all from on high, like a cameraman in a news chopper. The journalist is on the ground in the crowd. The ground-level images from the swirl of excitement might be tilted or grainy, but they are of life close up in real time. So it is with this book.
In these pages, the contextual depth of history got a fresh telling because of the journalists’ earnest effort to represent—to stand in for—regular folks who can’t be everywhere the journalist goes. Picture the reporter, and imagine her as researcher sifting through stacks of archival material, or see him interviewing the witness to history and the heir to ways gone by. Imagine, too, that standing behind the journalist are the spirits of a thousand people, all virtual observers and news consumers who are equally curious to know what the journalist is finding.
This book arose from that shared commitment of journalists to turn history into public history—knowledge for the masses.
That commitment also lives in the offices of Sunstone Press. This project could not have happened without the guidance and encouragement of Jim Smith and his able staff at Sunstone. They are unsung heroes in preserving New Mexico’s heritage in general and in memorializing the Santa Fe 400th in particular.
This book has twelve parts, each a selection of original writings organized around a unifying theme. In the lead piece of the first part, Sandra Baltazar Martínez details how Native, Spanish and Anglo histories are intertwined and how, in the words of historian Estevan Rael-Gálvez, cultural interaction was the basic force in shaping and reshaping communities.
The next chapter is by Dennis Carroll, who describes Santa Fe as a commercial and cultural crossroads. It was the destination for Native, Spanish and American settlers who followed dusty trails to the base of the Sangre de Cristos. Later, the railroads, the highways and the airplanes all brought newcomers who came and went and routinely made established residents feel under siege.
Reporter Robert Nott, the author of three books, moves the story along by honoring the cherished tradition of storytelling in New Mexico. From creation myths to conquistadors to pioneers of all sorts, Santa Fe is rich with truths and legends that are worth retelling. Nott focuses on the efforts of many people to keep the art of storytelling alive.
Any conversation about Santa Fe past or present must include religion. Editor and writer Anne Constable says that not only is faith part of the city’s name, but religious diversity also is a good measure of what makes the community so different from other places. Religion both defines and binds people. A young man comfortable in two cultures said it well when he explained that both of his religions “stress taking care of one another and loving each other.”
The sense of place starts with natural surroundings. Reporter Staci Matlock offers a perspective on the fact that the Santa Fe basin landscape changed ever so slowly across millions of years only to go through rapid change since man arrived along with his urge to develop the land. The pace of man’s impact also has led to new efforts to pull back and to protect water supplies and sustain land-based cultures for generations to come.
The chapter framed by veteran Santa Fe observer Steve Terrell recounts episodes of bad behavior in our local and regional history. Writers and filmmakers long have been drawn to Santa Fe rogues. Some were more colorful than criminal. Some were brutal and cruel. All of them added an element that makes the Santa Fe story riveting, if sometimes unsettling.
Santa Fe’s image is the topic of a piece by reporter Tom Sharpe. More than most communities, Santa Fe has moved to the rhythms of cultural celebrations and debates over history. Historical preservation is code, and some say heavy-handed. At any rate, Sharpe writes, it is safe to say that Santa Fe is uncommonly self-aware when it comes to what image it protects, what history it embraces and what values it projects.
And what is that image? Art historian Douglas Fairfield provides an answer. Imagine Santa Fe without its galleries, museums, lowriders, markets, performances and descansos. It would be a city without a pulse, Fairfield concludes. Santa Fe is Santa Fe because, as one authority states matter-of-factly, it fosters creative activity and thought.
As much as anyone, students and teachers feel shifts in the community and the sense of community. Against a backdrop of computers and smart devices, reporter Robert Nott honors the constant in education—the teachers, roughly 1,000 dedicated and innovative leaders who inspire the love of learning.
Next, public-affairs reporter Julie Ann Grimm describes a political city that for 400 years has been the meeting place for conventions, rallies and protests, and has been at the intersection of money and influence. But it would be too easy to see only a capital city defined in terms of political power. As one person who knows put it, “I think it's more of a testament to the values that families have about public service and the obligation that we have to it more than an accumulation of power.”
Reporter Kate Nash explores power of another sort. The military presence and sense of duty is a signature feature of Santa Fe. From the Spanish cuadrilla that founded Santa Fe to the Native bands that led the Pueblo Revolt, from the Presidio cavalry to the Great War foot soldiers, Santa Fe residents have responded when called to fight. And many others gave us examples of unsung heroism behind the scenes.
The book closes with writer Phaedra Haywood’s recognition of family and celebration of community. For more than 400 years, Santa Fe has been an active, colorful place. It is the people and their customs, talents and varied passions that have made it so. Although Santa Fe offers the close-knit comfort of community and family, reality shows that Santa Fe sometimes falls short in keeping children and families safe and well.
Together, stories are meant to connect people living today to the currents of history and expectations for the future. But let us also acknowledge how challenging, perhaps impossible, it is to look forward with any measure of certainty. For that very reason, each of us in our own way tries to understand where we are today as a community. Thus, conveniently, we circle back to where this project started.
In one of the first interviews for this book, Native American artist Bob Haozous expressed high hopes for the events that would mark Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary. He said we should remember, first, that the people of Santa Fe are a rich blend of blood and cultures. We should remember, he said wisely, the words of his old Spanish friend: “We have all been here four hundred years together, that we are all brothers.”
—Rob Dean, Editor