11:50am Friday 20th July 2012
By Oliver Phillips
WE tend to opt for the guided tour round the bigger cities and we find it extremely beneficial many more times than not. We took a trolley trip (another bus with a diesel engine called a trolley) round Santa Fe, which of course is the end of the famed 900-mile Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri.
The guide was a Londoner who has settled here eight years back so there was less of “how are all you good people” and more of “Move along madam,” to a car ahead, “I’m sure you’ll find a second gear in there.”
The tour guide in Santa Fe said the funniest question he had ever been asked, was on the subject of the Spanish in the Pueblo rebellion. They took the statue of Mary from the cathedral when they had to leave New Mexico in the 17th century, and they brought it back when they retook the area years later. So it is believed the statue of the Madonna in Santa Fe is the oldest one in the US.
To which a female asked him: “Why would they have a statue of a pop star in a cathedral?”
Said the guide: “Fortunately I do speak blonde.”
Santa Fe is expensive with lots and lots of pricey dress and artefact shops, all built in the Pueblo, cubed adobe style. Nothing building-wise is more than two storeys high, apart from official buildings, which can be three.
We could see Los Alamos across the valley, nestling in the mountains, home of the Manhattan Project – the making of the atom bomb that brought an end to the Japanese theatre of the war.
Properties are very expensive, many stars live in the area, and there was a dearth of water exacerbated by the drought. Ellie was very taken with it and said it was the first place she had seen on this trip where she could live happily, while I was impressed but not captivated by the monotony of cubist architecture even if the corners are rounded.
Even so, it is stunning with a great ambience and goes straight into my US Top Twenty Cities and Towns. The light is very special, caused by the elevation and the mountains that surround it.
It is the third biggest art centre in the US, and there are almost as many galleries as there are shops and restaurants.
Naturally we went for the Indian restaurant, but after the trolley tour, we headed for a recommended breakfast restaurant and ordered bacon and egg. No, nothing else, just bacon and egg,please.
We waited and waited and were then shown a great big plate of cooked and refried beans, an allotment’s worth of salad, and other stuff to make a rabbit salivate, plus a burrito or two wrapped round bacon and eggs.
I asked them what it was about the sentence of “just bacon and egg and nothing else,” did they find hard to understand. It is compulsive in this country – you order something simple and you get bread, beans or melts, honey-roast turds on rye or whatever - all of which we don’t want.
We eventually got what we asked for and it was very good. Apparently the beans I am moaning about are the refried Mexican beans. Other beans in other states are better, I am told.
We had a great day, ambling round shops, recovering from the shock of the prices, but there were some lovely clothes, which we cannot afford: a skirt for $590 or a top for $475 and anyway the skirt wasn’t in my colour.
We did find some cheaper skirts and tops and Ellie duly indulged and with that, we headed back for a meal and an early night. We had not become acclimatised to the new time zone but I rather suspect it is the altitude that was hitting us.
New Mexico, Texas, California and Alto-California (later Arizona) belonged to Spain (called New Spain) until 1821 when the Mexican Revolution kicked the Spanish out. Texas then rebelled against Mexico (Alamo etc) and became an independent republic for a few years, before joining the USA.
The Yanks decided they wanted to own an empire to the sea and so the American-Mexican War took place with the Mexicans losing and settling for cash for New Mexico, California and Alto California. Then in the Civil war, Alto-California seceded from New Mexico and became Arizona- the last territory to be granted statehood (1912).
There was a lot of opposition throughout the states because Arizona territory was full of Mexicans and Indians, so they had to wait until 1912 to join the land of the free and become effectively if not constitutionally third-class citizens along with the blacks, Indians, Mormons and Jews. Prejudice was the cornerstone of the land of the free. The Statue of Liberty contains the words: “Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
They had to breathe deep and long and some are still waiting.
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