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Old Spain in New Mexico.


Capturing the proud spirit of Spain in northern New Mexico, Fiesta de Santa Fe celebrates its 276th year September 9 through 11. It's one of the nation's oldest festivals and one of four colorful fall events that focus on America's oldest enduring Spanish enclave.

Even if you don't get to these events, you can visit centuries-old adobe villages within an easy to a long day's jaunt from Santa Fe. Any of these will introduce you to compelling vestiges of 16th- to 19th-century Spanish culture unlike what's found anywhere else in the Americas.

On pages 56 and 57, we offer details on fall events throughout the area. But there's plenty to see and do even if you don't plan to attend a special event.

There's no pleasanter time to visit than autumn. Weather ranges from warm to crisp, and summer tourist crowds have eased. Cottonwoods, chamisa, and wild sunflowers create billows of yellow amid the pinion pine scented mountains. Heaps of apples, chilies, melons, and pumpkins may tempt you at roadside stands.

For more than two centuries, these villages grew as the most remote outposts of New Spain. During this long isolation, unique traditions, crafts, and even religious practices crystallized here.

Like today's roads, Spanish settlement followed the rivers and streams cutting through the foothills of the Rockies. Some towns spread up and down the valleys, but older settlements huddled around a plaza for protection against nomadic Indians who for decades attacked Spanish and Pueblo Indian villages alike,

Today, northern New Mexico's population is still predominantly Spanish. And archaic Spanish expressions are still common in these villages. While today's generation is thoroughly Americanized, pride in their heritage and a renewed interest in traditional Hispanic music, crafts, and customs are clearly evident.

In Las Trampas, Santa Cruz, and Ranchos de Taos, you'll find some fine old churches recently restored. (Others face ruin from neglect.) But the state is increasingly aware of what treasures its historic churches are; some 300 remain in northern New Mexico, two dozen dating to the Spanish era (late 1500s to 1821).

The number of Hispanic artists making traditional crafts has nearly tripled this decade; quality and prices are soaring.

The food, like the architecture, is a unique blend of Spanish, Mexican, Indian, and Anglo. You'll see Indian pueblos along the way, but our focus here is on things Spanish.

Come to browse at crafts shops, dine on chili-spiced New Mexican cuisine, and stay in fascinating, historic surroundings.

Highlights of 390 years of settlement Spain's first colonists arrived in La Provincia de Nuevo Mexico in 1598. There were no more than 2,000 settlers by 1680, when the Pueblo Indians angry at mistreatment, taxes, and religious repression-forced them to flee south along the Rio Grande into what is now Juarez.

This was the most successful Indian revolt in North America and the only defeat handed the Spanish in the New World in two centuries. But by 1692 Indian unity had broken, and Diego de Vargas traveled up the Rio Grande to reclaim the province for Spain.

By 1821, when Mexico won independence and the Santa Fe Trail opened, Hispanics in New Mexico numbered 60,000. Living in villages of several hundred, they raised fruit, vegetables, sheep, and cattle; they built irrigation systems, houses, and churches, many still in use.

From 1810 to 1850, when neither Spain's nor Mexico's churches could afford to send priests here, the region was particularly isolated. It was then that the Penitentes flourished: a conservative religious brotherhood, helping the poor and weak, keeping order, and reenacting the Crucifixion. Some 150 of their moradas-long, narrow chapter houses, often identified by three crosses are in north-central New Mexico, maybe 50 of them still active but closed to outsiders.

Then, too, the region's unique crafts flowered. Gold was unaffordable, so straw took its place, decorating wooden crosses and chests. Woodcarvers working at home or traveling from village to village provided religious objects still made today.

Some places listed close Sundays, some Mondays. Area code is 505.

The Chimayo-Espanola loop: saints, looms, and low-riders

No tour offers a better chance to compare old and new than a 55-mile loop from Santa Fe through Chimayo and Espanola.

For the most scenic approach, take State 503 northeast at Pojoaque, then State 520 north. The road drops into Chimayo Valley, with breathtaking views of heavily eroded badlands above, orchardfilled adobe neighborhoods below. Streets, not all paved, wind past buildings that seem to grow out of the earth.

The rural mood shifts in Espahola, for a century the villages' watering hole and mercantile center. Watch for low-slung cars popular with younger Hispanics. They're imaginatively painted, with crushed velvet seats and wire spokes.

Some highlights of this tour:

Weaving shops. Chimayo has been a weaving center since the 1800s. Ortega's Weaving Shop (where state highways 520 and 76 meet) is piled high with rugs, place mats, and coats woven in Chimayo style: diamond, thunderbird, or other Southwestern designs in the center, stripes on both ends.

Behind the shop, walk Plaza del Cerro, the state's oldest fortress-style town square still standing. (It dates to the mid-1700s.)

Trujillo's Weaving Shop, a few hundred yards west on State 76, features weavings by Juan Trujillo and his sons.

Centinela Traditional Arts, a mile east on State 76, is where sixth-generation weaver Jake Trujillo, son Irvin, and daughter-inlaw Lisa make some of the area's finest oldstyle Spanish-design weavings, using homedyed wool; they consistently win at Spanish Market, New Mexico's biggest Hispanic crafts fair (see page 57).

Designs include Chimayo, Rio Grande (bands and stripes throughout), Vallero (eight-pointed stars, strong border designs, bright colors), and Saltillo (usually a large central diamond and smaller diamond shapes throughout). Also ask here to see the Oviedos' carved saints (see lower left picture on page 66).

Historic churches The 1816 Santuario de Chimayo is New Mexican folk architecture at its best. Note its wood belfries on twin towers, hand-carved corbels and vigas supporting the roof, and locally carved altar screen and santos. It's open daily. During Easter week, thousands of Hispanics and Indians make a pilgrimage here to collect supposedly healing earth (crutches left by "cured" believers fill one room).

On State 76 a mile east of Espanola, stop at Santa Cruz, a village founded in 1695 by Diego de Vargas and 60 families from Zacatecas, Mexico. The 1733 Holy Cross Church, facing the plaza and old adobe houses, is the largest adobe church still in use in the state. Its interior is rich in Spanish New Mexican art. If the massive carved doors are locked, ask for a key at the rectory.

On Good Friday evening, a torchlight procession is followed by Penitentes chanting ancient abalados (mourning poems). The first Sunday in May, a fiesta includes costumed locals on horseback in Moros y Cristianos (Moors capture a cross; Spaniards regain it).

Food. Plan to try some spicy New Mexican cuisine. On State 520 in Chimayo is the famous Rancho de Chimay6, a century-old hacienda with indoor or terrace dining. To reserve, call 351 -4444.

In Espanola, El Paragua on State 76 is good, if sometimes slow; JoAnn's Ranch O. Casados, at 411 N. Riverside Drive (the main street), serves ranch-grown food. Or try Matilda's, on Corlett Road.

Southwest, on the road to Los Alamos, try Rio Grande Cafe or La Cocina. More pricy but elegant and beautifully landscaped is Anthony's at the Delta, 228 Orate N.W.; dinner daily, brunch Sundays; 753-4511. Lodging 'Hacienda Rancho de Chimayo, in a century-old adobe hacienda; $69 for two, including continental breakfast; 351-2222. La Posada de Chimay6 is an adobe guest house with corner fireplaces and ample breakfasts; $65 for two; 351-4605.

High road to Taos: magnificent views,

crafts, 18th-century churches

This is one of the West's classic drives, through beautiful, varied scenery and settiements that have survived intact from another century It also has the northern villages' best-preserved string of 18thand 19th-century Spanish churches. It's easiest to see the interiors of ones at Santa Cruz and Chimayo (see previous section), and at Ranchos de Taos. The others are locked except during Mass. For the first 30 miles, see the Chimayo section.

Cordova and woodcarving. The high road begins as State 76 crests between two small valleys. Follow a paved road east into Cordova. A twisting, packed-dirt road leads to the village center and 1700s San Antonio de Padua church.

For several generations, woodcarving has been a specialty here. Signs welcome you into the workshops of carvers, including George Lopez and Gloria Lopez Cordova. Items range from inexpensive small cedar birds and pigs to elaborate saints.

Truchas and Las Trampas. Stop in Truchas for fresh pinon pine nuts and a visit to the general store. Look for fuertes, distinctive Spanish horizontal log barns.

One preservation success is in Las Trampas. Its 1760s church was saved from highway demolition by a coalition of villagers and Santa Fe citizens-including architect Nathaniel Owings. He re-created from historic photographs the church's long-gone wood belfries. The original altar screen, corbels, and vigas are in good shape.

As you leave town, watch on your right for a hollowed-out log flume, part of an ancient acequia system that still brings water from the mountains into the valley

Penasco and Taos. The road to Penasco is noted for fine folk architecture. Here Spanish adobe vernacular meets Greek revival; pitched tin roofs and ornate wood doors, window, and porch details are fashions that trickled here after the Santa Fe Trail opened in 1821.

Ranchos de Taos is home of the most painted and photographed church in New Mexico: the massively buttressed San Francisco de Asis. Much of its locally made art is probably as old as the church. See a slide show inside for church and art history. Don't miss Henri Ault's famous 1896 "mystery painting" of Christ at Galilee: in the dark, a cross mysteriously appears on Christ's shoulder.

Each October 3 and 4, evening torchlight processions honor St. Francis.

Surrounding the church, new galleries sell regional Hispanic crafts.

Across the highway, follow rural Ranchitos Road 4 miles west to Martinez Hacienda, to see how one wealthy Spanish family lived in the early 1800s. Built around two plazas, it has 17 furnished rooms, open 9 to 5 daily through October 1, then 10 to 4 through April 1. Admission is $2, $1 ages 6 to 15.

The loop road continues to Taos' Plaza.

Low road to Taos: wreaths to rafting A little faster than the high road from Santa Fe to Taos (1 1/2 hours instead of 2) and also very scenic is State 68, which follows the Rio Grande.

Velarde's fruit stands. Stands lining both sides of State 68 sell peaches, apples, chiles, and wreaths made from all kinds of local plants. Undisputed queen of wreath makers is Loretta Valdez, who reigns over the Herman Valdez Fruit Stand; her annual show (October 29 and 30) draws collectors from afar.

West of the highway, you'll see corn and bean fields, peach and apple orchards, adobe homes, and old churches. Detour to savor the unpaved country sites of this 1875 farm town. Venerated santero Eulogio Ortega and his wife, Zoraida, a fine weaver, welcome visitors to their home and private chapel; call 852-2290.

Embudo. On the west bank of the Rio Grande, 2 miles south of thc Dixon turnoff, is Embudo ("funnel"). For riverside lunch or dinner Tuesdays through Sundays, dine under cottonwood trees at Embudo Station; its 1880s buildings once belonged to the narrow-gauge Chili Line, which carried wool, hides, and chilies out of the valley. Turkeys, trout, and ribs, all oak-smoked on the premises, are for sale.

Two-hour raft trips give you a river-level view of farms and wildlands; $25 to $30 a person, with lunch or dinner; call 852-4707.

Turn east into the Dixon valley, noted for its vital folk architecture and particularly popular with Anglo artists. To taste local wines, stop by La Chiripada Winery on the main road; 579-4437.

Three other Hispanic village detours You'll find memorable rural scenery on these three drives.

To Mora and La Cueva. Southeast from Penasco on State Highway 518, you're in the lap of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains, southern flank of the Rockies; the range is named for the color

the mountains turn at dusk.

Hispanic tradition has long dominated what is one of the loveliest but poorest areas in the state. Vargas pursued the Pueblo Indians into this region in 1696; lonely settlements and farms dotted the valley early in the 19th century

Stop to wander among large, abandoned commercial structures in Cleveland and Mora. A century ago, Mora's flour mills, sawmills, and saloons were important to Fort Union, on the Santa Fe Trail. Look for the old plaza, behind the post office, and for St. Vrain Mill, north of Mora on State 434.

At La Cueva, visit the privately owned La Cueva Historic District. The large Romero hacienda consists of a two-story territorial adobe home, an 1860s church, and many other adobe buildings and stone corrals. This month, large raspberries from surrounding fields are for sale.

For details on Las Vegas, which is half Spanish-Mexican and half railroad town, see Sunset's May 1988 report on the Santa Fe Trail.

To Los Ojos, Tierra Amarilla, Los Brazos, and La Puenta. It's 90 miles northwest from Santa Fe to four historic districts, cited by the state for being among its least altered )9th-century Hispanic towns. Yet each struggles for economic survival. Their handsome mix of Spanish and Victorian architecture, lush green pastures, and dramatic mountain scenery makes the drive worthwhile. Around Abiquiu, watch for scenes immortalized by painter Georgia O'Keeffe, who lived there.

A historic B & B and a craft's success story may mean an economic turnaround for the area: Los Ojos's old T.D. Burns mercantile, on old U.S. 84, is now Tierra Wools, a sixyear-old weaving cooperative, open 9 to 6 daily through October (closed Sundays in winter). You can visit with weavers who follow old Spanish designs-and also create their own for blankets, pillows, wall hangings, shawls, and coats; 588-7231.

Some weaving uses the natural colors and long fibers of churro sheep, a nearly extinct strain brought by early Spanish settlers.

The large county courthouse on Tierra Amarilla's main street became national news in 1967 during a shoot-out over whether land around here belonged to the families of original land grantees or to the federal government. The feds won that round, but the issue remains -unsettled.

On Old U.S. 84, Clorinda and Medardo Sanchez host the 1868 Casa de Martinez, an L-shaped adobe once owned by Mrs. Sanchez' great-grandfather. Rooms start at $45 for two including breakfast of fruit, coffee, and muffins; 588-7858.

To Villanueva. One of the prettiest detours follows the Pecos River along State 3 for 20 miles south of 1-25 to Villanueva. Along the way, stop to enjoy San Miguel del Vado, founded in 1794. By 1830, the village was a customs-collecting point on the Santa Fe Trail. Look for its twin-towered 1805 church with rock walls 3 feet thick.

Around one bend, you'll reach Sena's post office, sporting wagon wheels and skulls.

In Villanueva, houses are shoehorned on a bluff overlooking the Pecos River; take time to look inside the modest 1818 stone church. The town's entire history is embroidered on an 18-inch-high, 265-footlong tapestry wrapping the walls; 36 local women made it for the 1976 Bicentennial. Neighbor Stella Madrid gives tours ($2); call Isadora Flores 421 -2220 for an appointment.

Near the church, Villanueva State Park gives you scenic access to the river and to an even higher bluff overlooking the town.

Santa Fe Hispanic crafts; some reading

Next summer, a major new Hispanic heritage wing will open at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. It will display permanently the best collection of Hispanic folk art, colonial to contemporary, in the United States.

Until then, visit the Galleria Hispanica, devoted exclusively to Hispanic New Mexican crafts; it opened in July at the 18th-century Santuario de Guadalupe, at 100 Guadalupe Street.

Another good bet is Dewey Galleries, Ltd. (antiques and contemporary works), at 74 E. San Francisco Street.

Books on local Spanish legends and tales abound. A useful traveling companion is New Mexico, A New Guide to the Colorful State, by six authors who have updated the state's wonderful WPA guide (University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque 87131, 1984; 639 pages; $21.45 including postage).

Entertaining and insightful about contemporary life in these villages is John Nichols' Milagro Beanfield War (Ballantine Books, New York, 1974; $4.95).
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1988
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