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Hispanic Culture

Heart of Hispanic Culture

v crosses Early Spanish explorers planted the seeds of culture in a place now known as Santa Fe in 1607. These seeds took root and flowered into the Hispanic way of life that continues to thrive today.

A people of great faith, the early Spanish settlers arrived in the region with scores of Catholic priests. The gloriously well-preserved adobe mission churches that dot the Santa Fe landscape, the Hispanic villages and the Indian Pueblos, are a testament to the strong role of religion in the lives of Hispanics both past and present.

Just as the Spanish created houses of worship from an adobe mix of mud and straw, they built villages and towns in the same architectural fashion. The energy-efficient earthen structures fit into their high desert home in every way - keeping the heat in during the winter and out in the summer - while the low-slung, flat-roofed buildings blended naturally into the land.

Although adobe construction techniques were used by Native Americans in the area long before the Spanish arrived, the Spaniards introduced their own innovative architectural elements to their new Indian neighbors. The formed mud-brick corner kiva fireplace replaced the smoke hole in the roof, and the horno - a beehive-shaped outdoor oven of Moorish origin - became a common cooking tool.

Like adobe architecture, the art forms practiced by the early Hispanics were shaped largely from resources they found in their natural environment. Using native woods such as aspen or pine, paints derived from natural pigments, and other local materials, they created utilitarian goods and religious objects to adorn their homes and churches.

v weaver At first, the work echoed the traditional artworks and motifs they had carried with them to the New World from Mexico and Spain. But in time, native artisans developed styles and techniques that were unique to New Mexico alone.

Ranging from santos (carved images of saints), furniture and textiles, to works in tin, iron, silver and straw, the art of the Spanish colonial era remains the art of many Santa Fe families who have practiced the traditional techniques for generations. Meanwhile, other contemporary Hispanic artists have carried the artistic legacy of their ancestors to new levels of excellence by working in more modern media including sculpture, photography, painting, jewelry, literature and more that reflect the ongoing evolution of Hispanic arts and culture.

In Santa Fe today, the works of Hispanic artists are displayed in shops and galleries throughout the city as well as during the annual Traditional Spanish Market Show and Sale in late July and the Winter Spanish Market in December, very popular exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Hispanic arts.

Their works are also collected and exhibited by museums, galleries and private collectors worldwide, giving the art of Hispanic New Mexicans a well-deserved place in the world of fine art.

Through the years, as Santa Fe has gained greater cachet in the public eye, the heart of the city's Hispanic culture has remained very much the same. As visitors flock to the city for a look at the oldest church, or try the latest in nouvelle Southwest cuisine, Hispanic families gather in church or at the kitchen table to share a blessing or a bowl of chile and beans.

Of course, Hispanics in Santa Fe are more than accomplished artists. They are also doctors, teachers, lawyers, politicians, priests, soldiers and writers, too.

Like their Spanish ancestors who settled their town as La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis (the Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis), Hispanics young and old look forward to the future of Santa Fe. At the same time, they continue to honor their history and traditions, never forgetting the important cultural legacy of the past.

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