How creepy would it be to walk into a room in which every wall bears numerous crucifixes with all the macabre grotesqueness of the Spanish Inquisition? That was my first experience when I entered the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, NM during our free travel week. And from a first hand perspective, when you have the eyes of dozens of bleeding crucifixion victims looking down at you while “Choose Me or the Pyre” from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is playing in your head, it’s an overwhelming scenario which makes you want to leave ASAP. Other than that room, though, the Palace was quite impressive now bearing numerous artifacts after hosting 300 years of Spanish and Mexican governors from 1610-1910. The only break in the residency of the governors at that address was for a while after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when the Pueblo tribes drove the Spanish down into Mexico and then proceeded to move into homes left behind such as the Palace. Unfortunately, the Spanish eventually returned in greater force and drove the Pueblos from the area. Storage spaces under the floors which the Pueblos dug as well as rooms which the Pueblos made smaller to make them feel more homey can still be seen by visitors today.
Other than the Palace, I also visited the New Mexico Museum of History which presents exhibits about the earliest Native American inhabitants of the area through the Spanish and the U.S. invasions and up to the present day. It was a very interesting display though I wish the propaganda were lessened. For example, there is a small section on Kit Carson which discusses him as a trapper, soldier, etc. However, the Long Walk that he forced his Navajo captives to take, along which many died of disease, starvation, etc., is fairly well glazed over. In reality, though, after survivors of the Long Walk made it to Fort Defiance, the conditions in which they lived served as the model for the Nazi concentration camps of WWII and the Holocaust. If one can bear in mind that some such exhibits are made to lessen the severity of certain aspects of history, then I would recommend a trip to the museum to anyone staying in or passing through Santa Fe.
I made my way from there along the Old Santa Fe Trail down to San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the now United States. It’s a very simple adobe structure built by Pueblo Native Americans under the direction of Franciscan Friars and it’s worth the $1 entrance fee to stop inside. Even if the church itself is not the most enticing, there is a large bell now inside at ground level which was made in the 13th century while the Christians were fighting the Moors in Europe. If I remember correctly, the bell was cast after the Christians lost battle after battle as an offering to one of the saints for aid in their war. In order to bring together enough metal for the bell, the Christians melted down thousands of pounds of precious metals. Eventually, the bell made it over here and was hoisted into the top of the church though it toppled down in the 17th or 18th century. Now it just sits on a stand on the church floor with a card next to it detailing the percentages of different metals in it all watched over by a priest who looks suspiciously like Count Frolo again from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (I’m now seeing a theme here…).
My last visit was to the Museum of Indian Art and Culture on Museum Hill. Believe it or not, it’s full of art…I can’t explain it much better than that. There are also a good number of artifacts detailing the lifestyles of the ancients in the area as well as certain displays which discuss modern life. It is also a place I would recommend to those who appreciate art or who just need to kill a couple hours and are willing to support a museum to do so.
All in all, I enjoyed our free travel week both because of places I visited such as those above but also because of the good chunk of time we spent at the Santa Fe International Hostel. As I believe I said in an earlier blog post, camping for a good while in sometimes wickedly cold conditions makes you really appreciate a warm bed and indoor plumbing. But we’ve learned to leave such luxuries fairly easily as like time, the Road Whale rolls on. And so we continue our journey to find new life forms, to discover new civilizations, to go where no banjo-playing musician’s former van has ever gone before. These are the voyages of the Starship IAM…