Santa Fe musings: diversity

- May 27, 2011

"The real Santa Fe is the one that each of us carries in our own minds..."

Diversity is at the core of Santa Fe’s identity. From its founding, Santa Fe has displayed an audacity to reinvent itself as the need arose. Indeed, it had to. As a remote northern outpost of the Spanish and Mexican governments in Mexico City, Santa Fe culture developed in relative anonymity.

After the Santa Fe Trail expanded during Mexican rule, American influence grew. During the early 1900s, a growing influx of artists, writers, and free thinkers migrated to Santa Fe and Taos and this liberal influence resonates to this day.

The 1980’s brought the beginning of a tourist boom as travelers from throughout the country discovered a cultured, open-minded, artistic city situated in a beautiful mountain tableau. Santa Fe quickly transformed into a vogue destination for the rich and famous.

Santa Fe has always extended open arms to new people and new ideas (as evidenced by its acceptance of immigrants, the new age movement and the gay community to mention a few). It is a city that exists comfortably with contradiction and paradox. The Santa Fe Fiesta is a perfect example of this hybrid as Spanish religious activities are successfully balanced with Anglo American contributions such as Zozobra, the Hysterical/Historical Parade and the Fiesta Melodrama.

Social lines are easily blurred, as evidenced by such common sights as rich folks driving beat-up pick-ups, ethnically-mixed couples, and tourists and the homeless sharing the Plaza harmoniously for the most part.

The real Santa Fe is the one that each of us carries in our own minds as reflected by our own experiences and frames of reference. Thus, we all experience and understand our surroundings using our own selective perception.

Santa Fe is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is estimated that more than one million people from across the globe visit each year. Their fascination can be attributed in part to the city’s natural attractions: Santa Fe averages over 300 days of sunshine a year, and the high mountain air and surrounding landscape lend themselves to startling blue skies and spectacular sunsets. Many observers comment on the magical quality of the natural light of Santa Fe, an attribute of the city that has attracted many artists over the years. While there are many locations in New Mexico and beyond that easily match Santa Fe in natural beauty, the city’s magnetism comes not only from its geographical attributes but its image as a “cultural Mecca.”

The “City Different” prides itself on its diversity and enthusiastic embrace, one that reaches far beyond tolerance, for those with new ideas and divergent points of view. It is this open, generous atmosphere that appeals to so many. This progressive thinking is not new. The seeds began to sprout in the late 1800s and the early 1900s when American migrants seeking an alternative lifestyle, ventured west and settled side-by-side with the indigenous Indian people and Spanish Colonists. Though it was not without struggle, these cultures learned to live together in this special place and have since been joined by a kaleidoscope of people from myriad backgrounds who call Santa Fe their home.

On the milestone of my fiftieth birthday, rather than spending the day with friends and family, I was drawn to the solitude of the beautiful Hyde Park Mountains above Santa Fe that I’d communed with since I was a boy.  As I reflected on my life, I was struck by my good fortune at having spent my existence in such an extraordinary place. It seemed that in Santa Fe there was no such thing as an ordinary day. But as I pondered this thought in the midst of an aspen grove, it occurred to me that for people all over the globe, there are no “ordinary days.” The love of diversity that we cherish in Santa Fe needs to be extended beyond our city limits. This inspiration resulted in the following musings:


An Ordinary Day

There is no such thing as an ordinary day

Today is a monumental day in thousands, if not millions of lives

For some this is the day of their birth while others will be leaving this earth

For many around the world, this is the day that they have been waiting a long time for…

This is the day that they marry or perhaps they are leaving on a long journey not knowing when they will return to all that is familiar

Someone is leaving home to go to school, entering a hospital, or going off to war

This is the day that someone will remember for unexpected good fortune, the day that disaster strikes

This is the day that an unexplainable miracle occurs

For some, today might seem like an ordinary, uneventful day that in retrospect will turn out to be the beginning of a subtle shift that will completely alter their lives

For some, today is better forgotten, a wasted day wallowing in self-pity, anger, or hatred

Some may see this day as dull and uninspiring, another in a string of indistinguishable days lost in sameness and trapped in circumstance, perhaps in prison, bedridden, or without hope

For others, today is a day of indescribable ecstasy, surrounded by loved ones, flushed by good spirits, enjoying the nectar of joy and health

The one constant: Today we all share the same sun, breath of life, and experience the miracle of our beating hearts 

An African woman cooking over an open fire, a Chinese farmer planting seeds, a Norwegian fisherman pulling in nets before dark, a child begging in the streets of Brazil, a truck driver in Poland, a soldier in Nicaragua, a student walking to school in India, an office worker riding the subway in New York

We must all eat and sleep, we all laugh, cry and dream

Mortality is our providence and our time will someday surely come

So let us for this one day find unity in what we share. Let us reflect on how we are alike and let this understanding spark a wildfire of compassion that will fuel the future of our beautiful earth

Andrew Lovato, Ph.D., is a communication professor, author and eavesdropper.