Fiesta Santa Fe

One of the most enjoyable Santa Fe traditions I attend every year is the Santa Fe Fiesta. In Santa Fe, the Fiesta celebration is a big part of how Santa Fe came to be and it’s tradition goes all the way back to when the Spaniards settled the area of northern New Mexico in the 1600’s. If you’re planning a Santa Fe vacation I would recommend that you consider a visit to Fiesta Santa Fe. It makes a good addition to your New Mexico travel planner. The pictures of Santa Fe below show scenes from past Fiestas. Images of Fiesta guarantee an excellent photo opportunity especially around the Santa Fe plaza.

To fully understand Fiesta and why it is so significant to Santa Fe you have to look at the Pueblo Revoltwhich occurred in 1680. The annual Fiesta celebration commemorates Don Diego de Vargas‘ peaceful reoccupation of the City of Holy Faith in 1692. This was twelve years after the pueblo Indians drove the Spaniards out of New Mexico (Nuevo Mexico then) as a result of the very violent Pueblo Revolt.

fiesta santa fe

Fiesta Santa Fe procession

The Spanish colonists fled to Guadalupe del Paso (Juarez Mexico today) and took with them from a burning mission the 29-inch wood carved Marian statue, La Conquistadora which was brought to Nuevo Mexico by the Franciscans in 1625. There were twelve years where the Spaniards, after retreating back down the Rio Grand to Mexico, were entirely absent from the area. There was a similar rebellion by Native Americans during the years 1634-38 which was called the Pequot War. The similarity was that it involved several Indian tribes banding together to fight the colonizers in New England. The difference of course was that they didn’t drive the British back across the Atlantic. The Indians were the ultimate losers in the Pequot War and didn’t regain many of their rights until centuries later.

The Pueblo Revolt itself is an interesting subject and there are several good books available on the topic. The main source of the pueblo Indian discontent with the Spaniards was due to a prohibition imposed on their traditional religion. The job of the friars who journeyed to the Nuevo Mexico was to convert the native population to Christianity. The hostility which was building up for decades also was caused by the Spaniards program of forced labor. The forced labor itself was bad enough but the effect it had on the pueblo economy also caused great problems. Much of the forced labor consisted of Indians having to erect Christian missions often timne at the same site where their sacred kivas were located. The causes of the Pueblo revolt of 1680 therefore involved both religious and economic reasons.

The Pueblo Revolt’s violence was such that the warring pueblo Indians killed twenty-one of the forty Franciscan friars and an additional three hundred and eighty Spaniards, including men, women, and children. Spanish settlers tried to flee to either Santa Fe or to the Isleta Pueblo which was one of the very few pueblos that did not join the rebellion. Most of the inhabitants of Isleta Pueblo, just south of Albuquerque fled to the Hopi area of Arizona or followed the Spaniards on their retreat southward along the Rio Grande.

During this twelve year period of Spanish retreat, the pueblo people inhabited Santa Fe. When you read about the history of this time you will see that the twelve year interval wasn’t necessarily peaceful. The basic problems that the now freed pueblos faced was fighting between themselves especially about which ones would occupy Santa Fe and there were attacks from outside nomadic tribes. The Spaniards themselves made a few raids into the area. Add to this a terrible drought and the local Indians had a pretty difficult time.

santa fe fiesta procession

Fiesta Santa Fe

The combination of all of these hardships laid the foundation for the Spaniards “reconquest” of the province. In 1692 Diego de Vargas, returned to Santa Fe with a half dozen soldiers and several cannons, one Franciscan priest and a converted Zia Indian war captain. The group entered Santa Fe before dawn and called on the Indians. Diego de Vargas promised clemency and protection if they would swear allegiance to the Spanish King and again take up the Christian faith. The Indian leaders gathered in Santa Fe, met with Vargas and the Zian war captain and agreed to peace. It was a bloodless reconquest although there were some holdouts who didn’t necessarily agree with the new arrangement. This was probably expected and not unusual since there were many different tribes involved. The new Spanish rule proved to be quite different from the one prior to 1680. As an example, the Spanish issued land grants to each Pueblo and appointed a public defender to protect the rights of the Indians. The Indians also had access to the Spanish courts to decide on future disputes.

san francisco street in santa fe new mexico

San Francisco Street in Santa Fe

The Fiesta celebration commemorates this peaceful arrival of the Spaniards in Santa Fe under de Vargas and the acceptance by the pueblo residents.  One of the key Fiesta elements is a procession which takes La Conquistadora from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis to the Rosario Chapel  at Rosario Cemetery in Santa Fe. This is a procession which you don’t want to miss when you attend Fiesta. At the end of Fiesta week the statue of La Conquistadora is then returned to the Basilica Saint Francis.

Two interesting and related articles we’ve published are the Indian Art Museum on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill and the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza.

In my opinion, one of the best books you can read with a great amount of detail about the Spanish rule of Nuevo Mexico and the Pueblo Revolt is The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico by author Andrew L. Knaut.

Another big event which is held in September after Fiesta is the Zozobra burning. Zozobra represents “old man gloom“. The burning of this 50 foot high marionette is a symbol of ridding oneself of the hardships and despair of the past year. After this event there is a commemoration ceremony of Diego de Vargas’ return to Santa Fe. Also included during Fiesta is a pet parade around the Santa Fe plaza and a Fiesta Ball.

(Photos from author’s private collection)

Pueblo Revolt

Santa Fe New Mexico is a top tourist destination and draws thousands of people annually from around the world. Visit Santa Fe during the summer months and you’ll no doubt hear dozens of languages being spoken. Santa Fe has one of the richest histories of any city in the United States and to really learn about it’s roots you need to hear the famous story of the Pueblo Revolt.

What is referred to as the pueblo revolt is known in history as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. This event was THE turning point in old Santa Fe history. If you have the opportunity to visit what is called “The City Different“, there’s a very visible reminder of the Pueblo Revolt that can be seen on top of a hill just a few blocks north of the Santa Fe plaza. The walk up the hill takes perhaps 15 to 20 minutes and you’ll enjoy a splendid view of not only the city below but also the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind you to the northeast. On the top of this hill is a large white cross which is known as The Cross of the Martyrs. The cross is twenty-five feet tall and commemorates the death of 21 Franciscan friars and numerous Spanish colonists during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Cross of the Martyrs was dedicated during Santa Fe Fiesta in 1920.

cross of the martyrs in santa fe

Cross of the Martyrs, Santa Fe NM

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was a repudiation of Spanish rule by the pueblo Indian tribes of northern New Mexico. It was the culmination of decades of forced conversion and servitude applied by the Spaniards. The church was at the center of the rebellion being the instrument for converting the local pueblo Indians to Christianity. There was also a good deal of harsh punishment against those pueblo Indians accused of sorcery and just about anything connected with their centuries old spirit worship. Whipping and being put in prison was not unusual punishment during these times. While the Pueblo Revolt may appear that it was set off by one distinct event in 1680, that really wasn’t the case. The anger was building up over decades. The harsh rules and punishments just came to a head in 1680. It just so happened that in 1680, the pueblo people had a galvanizing force from a leader named Pope (pronounced po-pay). Pope, who was just recently released from a prison, was the pueblo Indian who set up a network of messengers to communicate the detailed plans for revolt to neighboring tribes. Interestingly enough, even tribes that shared a mutual distrust of other tribes joined together for this assault. This was probably the key reason that the rebellion was successful.

With this being the case, the Franciscan friars were especially targeted by the pueblo Indians during this bloody uprising. As mentioned above, twenty-one friars were killed and this represented the vast majority of friars in New Mexico which at that time was named Nuevo Mexico.

cross of the martyrs

Walkway to the Cross of the Martyrs

The Pueblo Revolt was an act that violently addressed the grievances that the pueblo Indians had against the Spanish colonists. As such, it’s an interesting event with many twists and turns. One of the best books on the subject is The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth Century New Mexico by author Andrew L. Knaut. This fine book not only describes what took place during the revolt but also describes in great detail the rules and punishments meted out by the Spaniards against the pueblo peoples. It also describes in detail the interaction between the Indians and the Franciscan friars. It’s an excellent source of information about this historic rebellion.

view of santa fe new mexico

View of Santa Fe New Mexico from the Cross of the Martyrs

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 expelled the Spaniards from Nuevo Mexico for a period of twelve years. The Spaniards were successful in reentering the territory in 1692 under the new leadership of Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon. De Vargas was successful in persuading twenty-three pueblos to rejoin Spain’s empire. While there was some resistance from a few pueblos, in the end de Vargas succeeded and Santa Fe itself was reoccupied with settlers by 1694.

A key factor that aided de Vargas’ reconquest was the fact that there was trouble between the pueblo tribes during the twelve years of Spanish absence. Pope himself pushed the tribes to burn and destroy anything Spanish including all crosses. Marriages that occurred during Spanish rule were not recognized. In general, the pueblo tribes split up after the revolt and confusion reigned. It was in this atmosphere that the Spaniards under de Vargas returned in force in 1692 with the result being a bloodless reconquest.

Two additional articles we’ve published that you’ll find interesting are The Palace of the Governors and The Santa Fe Trail and Plaza.

(Photos are from author’s private collection)

Juan Bautista de Anza and the Expedition that Established San Francisco / The National Trails System

There is a very historic old Spanish trail that eventually established what is today San Francisco California, the historic Mission Dolores and the Presidio. Today, this trail is administered by the National Park Service through a partnership with other federal, state, county and municipal parks and volunteer groups. Some of the areas of this Spanish trail are in the hands of private ownership but there is a remarkably large amount of the trail that is ideal for a California auto tour. In 1990, Congress established the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail as a part of the National Trails System.

juan bautista de anza

Juan Bautista de Anza, public domain

This very important Spanish trail was blazed by a Spanish military officer by the name of Juan Bautista de Anza. Ther idea actually originated with Anza’s father who dreamed of finding an overland route to Alta California. This was an important route for Spain who was trying to secure their stronghold in the region. Spain’s concerns were the explorations of both the Russians and the English. The Russians had a thriving trade operation in the area about 100 miles north of San Francisco Bay at Fort Ross on the Pacific coast. The English of course had operations in what is today Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Using mission and Indian trading routes, Juan de Anza found a path into Alta California in 1774. This route would allow passage of supplies, livestock and much needed settlers. When Anza identified the route he secured permission from the Viceroy of New Spain to make the Spanish expedition.

Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition was quite different from a mere exploration. Some of the earlier expeditions were for simple exploration. This expedition was to help colonize a distant land. This essentially went hand in hand with the Spanish Mission system being established around the same years. Traveling through Sonora New Spain, Anza put out a call to men to join him and be paid as soldiers. His men told about the lush land to the north which was greatly different than the desert region around Sonora. Interest was high but Anza placed certain requirements to many of the prospective recruits. There were two primary conditions. The men would agree not to return to New Spain and they were obligated to bring along their families.

de anza trail map

Route of the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition, public domain

Anza’s expedition departed from Tubac Presidio on October 23, 1775. The expedition included thirty families which amounted to some 240 men, women and children. The expedition had a purpose. The purpose in general was to safely deliver the settlers and their livestock to el Rio San Francisco, the first Spanish settlement in that key area. There was no guarantee of success but the travelers put their full faith in Anza. The families who joined the expedition, after weighing their current opportunities in Sonora, felt strongly that a better life could be found in Alta California. They risked everything for a chance to be among the very first settlers to California.

As with just about all Spanish expeditions, religion and the Franciscans played a large role. Most days began with Mass and hymns of praise. These were conducted by Franciscan priest Pedro Font. In addition to Font’s religious duties, he kept a very detailed diary and recorded latitudes using a quadrant. His journals were a running historic record recording locations, miles traveled and supplies used. It is from his diary and one written by Anza himself  that today we have an excellent record of the Anza expedition. Coming up from present day Mexico around the Nogales area, the expedition which included some 1,000 head of cattle crossed the Colorado River into Alta California at present day Yuma Arizona. Anza was fortunate to have received able help from the local Indians and this included finding the Yuma Crossing. The trail went through Riverside and north of present day Los Angeles to the coast near Oxnard. Then it was up the Pacific coast past San Luis Obispo and to the east of Monterey before reaching present day San Francisco. Much of the route fairly follows US Hwy 101. It’s interesting that riders on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Oakland also follow a section of this trail.

juan bautista de anza interpretive center in martinez california

The Juan Bautista de Anza Interpretive Visitor Center in Martinez, CA, from author's collection

The Juan Bautista de Anza expedition was a great success for Spain. After Juan de Anza selected a site for both a presidio and a Spanish mission, on June 27, 1776 a Lt. Moraga led the settlers to what is today the city of San Francisco. This marked the establishment of Mission Dolores on the San Francisco peninsula. This also marked the very northernmost settlement to that date for Spain. What’s very interesting to the tourist is that many of the names of settlers and military involved with Juan de Anza’s expedition are still seen today throughout northern California. These are names such as Moraga, Berryessa, Bernal and Peralta. Today, these are names of towns, highways, landmarks and counties. De Anza’s name can be found on buildings, schools and streets.

The National Park Service has sixteen sites along the de Anza Trail where many visitors like to collect stamps showing their visit. These stamps are given out by the NPS to officially confirm the visit. The National Park Service administers the Anza Historic Trail Exhibit Visitor Center located at John Muir National Historic Park in Martinez California. This is the historic adobe on the Muir grounds that has been made into the Anza Historic Trail Center. This center has some great exhibits and would be a fine addition to any san Francisco area trip planner. Martinez is located northeast of San Francisco opposite the town of Benicia California.

Historic Old Town Albuquerque / A Spanish Settlement in the New World

Old Town Albuquerque New Mexico is very representative of most of the Spanish settlements in the southwest United States. The most distinguishing characteristic is the town plaza. Old Town Albuquerque resides in about ten blocks filled with adobe structures. Today it is a very popular tourist destination with a wide assortment of shops, unique art galleries and restaurants. Old Town is the Historical Zone of the City of Albuquerque and home for many families whose ancestors founded the town. On the banks of the Rio Grande, Old Town Albuquerque has thrived for three centuries. Vacations in New Mexico offer many alternatives. If you’re searching for things to do in Albuquerque, the Old Town Historic District is a great choice.

old town albuquerque plaza

Old Town Albuquerque Plaza

The plaza didn’t come into being until 1780. Prior to that the Albuquerque area was a scattered agricultural area. The plaza appeared after settlers built adobe homes around a defensible center for protection against the Comanche and Apache Indian attacks. The defensible area became what is now the plaza. Prior to that, the fortress would have been the church.

Everything pertaining to Spain in the southwest first occurred when Francisco Vasquez Coronado explored this area in 1540.The region was inhabited by a combination of Pueblo Indians and the nomadic Apaches and Comanches. It would be about 60 years later that the Spaniards started to settle and colonize the region. It would be about another one hundred years before Albuquerque was officially founded.

For almost three centuries Old Town has been the crossroads of the Southwest. On the north side of the plaza, which is the focal point of Old Town, is the San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest building in the city, which was built in 1793. The church was first named San Francisco Xavier by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, who founded the city of Albuquerque in 1706. Valdez named the church after the Viceroy of New Spain. Later, the Duke of Albuquerque ordered that the titular saint for the church be changed to San Felipe de Neri in honor of King Philip of Spain. The original church on the site was founded back in 1706, at the time of original settlement, by Franciscan priest Manuel Moreno.

san felipe de neri church

San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town

This church however collapsed in 1792 due to very heavy rains. The new church was built in 1793 and is the one that stands there today. When you visit the church you’ll also see the beautiful gardens in the front facing the plaza.

Everything for the church changed in 1821 after Mexico won it’s independence from Spain. Mexico ordered the Franciscan priests to leave which was happening throughout the old Spanish territories. Later in 1853, after the United States took possession of New Mexico Territory, a French priest, Father Joseph Machebeuf, was named pastor of Albuquerque by Bishop Lamy of Santa Fe. At this same time the church was remodeled which included a new roof. It’s a very beautiful structure.

It’s interesting to note that the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior Nuevo Mexico territory, which connected Mexico City with New Mexico’s Spanish capitals ran right through Old Town Albuquerque. The capitals were San Gabriel and then later Santa Fe. This was the main route to the new Spanish territory for all commerce until the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri was established in 1821. The U.S. government has now designated the El Camino Real a National Historic Trail. This amazingly long trail from Mexico City went back to the year 1598, about a decade before the founding of Santa Fe.

old town albuquerque shops and galleries

Old Town Albuquerque shops and galleries

Several flags have flown over the Old Town Albuquerque plaza. First it was Spain’s, then Mexico’s beginning in 1821 and then it was the United States flag beginning in 1846. The only interruption with the United States flag from 1846 to today was a thirty-nine day period during the American Civil War when General Henry Sibley’s Texas Volunteer regiment flew the Confederate flag over the plaza. General Sibley would go on to be defeated later by Colorado Volunteers at the Battle of Glorieta Pass which is just to the east of Santa Fe. During the Civil War, southern forces made large inroads into the southern section of the New Mexico Territory. There are two Mountain Howitzer guns that are on display today on the plaza. Both guns were left behind by retreating Confederate troops.

The move east to New Town, downtown today, occurred in 1880 and was a direct result of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad coming into Albuquerque. Eventually there was a Harvey House, named the Alvarado, at the site of today’s train terminals. Unfortunately, the Alvarado was torn down in 1970.

The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History is located at 2000 Mountain Road. This is about 1,000 feet east of the plaza itself. Included in the museum are traveling exhibits, southwestern art, Albuquerque history artifacts and outside is a sculpture garden. You’ll also want to check out Old Town area B & B’s and hotels. There’s a great choice.

Old Town Albuquerque is located about two miles west of the City of Albuquerque downtown area. Of special note, is that Old Town Albuquerque can be reached rather easily from the Santa Fe area by riding the New Mexico Rail Runner train. The NM Rail Runner will take you to the train station in downtown Albuquerque and your train ticket will get you a free bus ride to and from Old Town. It’s a good way to fit in a trip to Albuquerque while visiting Santa Fe.

(Photos from author’s private collection)

Take a Grand Tour of the California Spanish Missions

Anyone visiting California by automobile or if you happen to have a rental car and some time while in California, a visit to the California missions on the El Camino Real is one of the most interesting California trips you can take. They make a great addition to your California vacation planner.

The Spanish missions are California. The California Spanish missions represent California’s, then called Alta California, very beginnings. It represents the very firs settlement of California by a European power. When visiting several of these historically restored missions you also can learn about the method in which the Spaniards sought to civilize the region and you might wish to contrast it with how the United States tried to settle the old American West over a century later. This is why the tour of the California missions offer a unique learning experience in addition to a great photo taking opportunity.

mission san juan bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista

The missions in California were built south to north. The first mission established was in present day San Diego.  The San Diego mission was built by Father Junipero Serra. Many historians contend that Father Serra was the first genuine Californian. At that time the region north of Baja California was called Alta California. There were a total of twenty-one missions constructed in California from 1769 to 1823. The last mission built was the Sonoma Mission in the now Sonoma California wine country. Interestingly so, this last mission was built under Mexican rule after the Spaniards were driven out by the Mexican Revolution. This was out of character for the new Mexican government since they secularized the missions after the revolution. Many facts point out that the Sonoma Mission was actually built for military reasons since just to the north was Russian occupation and further north was British occupation.

The missions today are in various states of condition. Some have been beautifully restored and many are current active houses of worship. Mission work back in the 18th century had many elements. The primary goal of the Franciscans were to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Spanish government felt that the first step in civilizing the Indians was for them to be converted to Christianity. It was believed that when the Natives were converted they would be more capable of assimilating to European ways and that would help make them loyal subjects of the King of Spain. The Spanish rulers also felt that the expense of building a mission system would be a fraction of what the cost would be to pay an army to go to war. At the same time, an established mission system spanning most of Alta California would give notice to other European powers of their presence.

carmel mission

Carmel Mission

There are three missions among the total number that make a good trip up the coast of California. I point out these three missions because each had a very pivotal role in California history.

The first of course is the first mission built in San Diego. This was the first attempt at missions in Alta California although missions had been established decades earlier in present day New Mexico. Information on the San Diego Mission is on the following link  San Diego Mission.

There is also a listing of all twenty-one missions on the San Diego story.

The second mission I would recommend is the beautiful Carmel Mission. This mission was established in Carmel California somewhat near to the old Monterey Presidio which served as the military and sometime capitol of the province. Prior to the Carmel Mission there was a mission next to the monterey Presidio but Father Serra wanted a new one further away from the military and a bit closer to the Indians. This is how the carmel Mission came into being. Information for the Carmel Mission is at this link. Carmel Mission

The third mission which is quite significant is the Sonoma Mission. This mission also housed a number of mexican military troops under the leadership of a General Vallejo. This was the last mission built and is located in the heart of Sonoma California just north of the San Francisco Bay. The city of Sonoma now is a historic district and there’s plenty to see there. In addition, it’s right in the middle of the Sonoma and Napa County wine region. California’s very first commercial winery, Buena Vista Winery, was built just east of Sonoma and is a must stop when in the area. Information on the Sonoma Mission is at  Sonoma Mission.

Every mission on the list of twenty-one were important to the early Spanish settling of Alta California. Any you are able to visit is a treat. There are several  missions I’ve visited that are quite interesting as well as the three highlighted. These would include the Santa Barbara Mission, the Mission San Jose and Mission San Gabriel outside of Los Angeles.

I hope you are able to visit the Spanish Missions of California on your next visit to the West Coast. They are definitely worth adding to your California vacation planner.