Our last morning in Santa Fe had arrived… Jon wasn’t feeling like trying out a new place for breakfast, so we went back to the Plaza Café – our breakfast haunt from the previous morning. Jon had his new usual – the egg white omelet with fruit and toast. And coffee. I ordered something different – the Traditional, with two eggs over medium, ham, toast, hash browns and hot tea. Once again, it was a good meal, with fast and friendly service.
After breakfast, we sat on a bench in the middle of Santa Fe’s plaza and watched the fattest pigeon I have ever seen scrounge for his breakfast. Amusing, but sad to to think that he probably got that way because people feed him lots of unhealthy snacks.
When the Palace of the Governor’s opened, we went inside and got our tickets. $9 admits one adult non-New Mexico resident to the Palace of the Governor’s and the New Mexico History Museum. If you are going to be in the area for longer, $20 will get you admission into 4 Santa Fe museums in a 4 day period. Or if you are visiting more than just Santa Fe, the New Mexico Culture Pass will get you admission to 8 New Mexico Museums and 7 State Historic Sites for $25 (the Culture Pass lasts for one year – and admits you once to each location). Both are pretty great deals – if you are into museums and historic sites, like we are…
The Palace of the Governor’s is fascinating. It was built in 1610 by the Spanish – it was the seat of government for the Spanish colony of Nuevo Mexico, which covered present day Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California, and New Mexico. During the Spanish colonial period, the Spanish treated the Native Indians poorly, with a forced labor system that was basically slavery.
One tribal leader, Popé, planned and executed a revolt of several of the tribes in the area. He dispatched runners with knotted cords to each of the tribal leaders. The knots were to be untied one each day, and on the day that the last knot was untied, the Indians were to attack the Spanish and drive them from the area in a collaborated revolt.
The Spanish caught some of the runners and tortured them to learn the significance of the knots, and as a result the revolt had to happen earlier than planned. However, it was still very successful. They managed to drive the Spanish out of the area for twelve years. During that time they attempted to wipe all Spanish influence from the Palace of the Governor’s, which the Indians had begun using.
When New Mexico was annexed as a U.S. territory, the Palace of the Governor’s was used as the first territorial capitol building. It is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States.
The museum has lots of artifacts from the colonial period when the Spanish were exploring the area and setting up outposts. They have cookware, pottery, lists of supplies etc. They also display a lot of artifacts that were excavated from the building and its surrounding area when it was renovated. Pottery, ironwork objects, beads from jewelry, religious objects – there was a lot to look at.
They also have cutouts in the floor that show the original adobe brick floor – they show where one room has a herringbone pattern, which indicates that the room would have been used for higher status individuals. Next door they showed where the servant class or Indians would have lived or worked, with rooms that had a simple adobe brick floor. It was interesting to see how even back then, there were significant markers showing the distinction between the classes.
After checking out the Palace of the Governor’s, we crossed the courtyard and made our way into the New Mexico History Museum (you get both museums with the same admission, even if you don’t have a pass). If you do the museum in the right order, it begins during the same Spanish Colonial period, with overviews of the beginnings of the Spanish mission system, the Pueblo Revolt and the retaking of the areas that were regained by the Indians during the revolt. It also detailed the period after Mexico lost the land to the United States, the expansion into the New Mexico territory by U.S. citizens, and its subsequent frontier and ranching days. New Mexico entered the union in 1912, the 47th state to join. I didn’t realize it was such a late state!
There is also an interesting exhibit on the development of the atomic bombs during World War II. The administrative office for the Manhattan Project was in Santa Fe, and the bombs were built in Los Alamos and tested in the New Mexico desert nearby. It was interesting to learn that people who were living and working on the project had to maintain absolute secrecy. They were not allowed to even tell their families where they were – or to send them photos that identified the landscape of New Mexico. Their mail was screened.
We also went upstairs to see a modern art photography exhibit, but it just didn’t suit my fancy – too modern and weird for my taste. But it was interesting to see.
If you are in Santa Fe – I strongly recommend these two museums. The exhibits are very well done – and you get a fantastic overview of New Mexico history. After we were done at the New Mexico History Museum – it was time to get back on the road to our next destination – Albuquerque!