About Santa Fe, NM | Answering Your 20 Most Common Questions - SantaFe.com
frito pie window at Woolworths Santa Fe New Mexico

1. What does “Santa Fe” mean?

“Santa Fe” means “Holy Faith.”

Bird’s eye view of Santa Fe, looking southeast, 1882. Unattributed lithograph.

2. What summer activity still enjoyed by locals and visitors on the Santa Fe Plaza was depicted by which artist in 1920?

Music in the Plaza, an oil painting by John Sloan, shows this popular activity for Santa Feans on summer evenings. Santa Feans and visitors alike enjoy the free Summer Bandstand series, cofounded by David Lescht, which presents music on the Plaza weekday nights from after the Fourth of July until Indian Market, in late August.

Music on the Plaza. Oil on canvas, by John Sloan, 1920. You can see the painting at the New Mexico Museum of Art.

3. Who said, “There are no nobodies in Santa Fe. Here everyone is somebody”?

Erna Fergusson. Writer, historian, and storyteller, she was sometimes referred to as New Mexico’s First Lady of Letters. Fergusson may have been the first person to point out, in her 1934 Mexican Cookbook, that the Anglo interpretation of frijoles refritos as “refried beans” was incorrect. In fact, frijoles refritos translates to “well-fried beans,” and the dish consists of beans (usually pinto beans) that have been cooked in water until soft, often mashed, and sometimes fried—but not “refried.”

4. Who is Santa Fe’s most famous hotel-haunting ghost?

Julia Staab’s ghost is said to roam the halls of what is now La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, part of which had been her family’s home in the 1880s. Julia was the wife of Abraham Staab, the wealthy supply contractor for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. She loved the Staab family home, which her husband had built, but she probably succumbed to major depression after the death of her seventh and last child shortly after his birth.

Another famous ghost is La Llorona; however, she does not haunt hotels. While the veracity of a ghost’s existence may be debated, the stories about them are truly entertaining.

5. Who was the poet who arrived in 1920 to give a talk about Chinese poetry, got the flu, fell in love with the town and its people, and became a “premier host of Santa Fe” for nearly fifty years? He entertained Freida and D. H. Lawrence, Igor Stravinsky, Aldous Huxley, Clara Bow, Martha Graham, Stephen Spender, Manuel Chávez (later called Fray Angélico Chavez), Vachel Lindsay, Mary Austin, W. H. Auden, Alice Corbin and William Penhallow Henderson, John Collier, Etna West Wiswall, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth, Mark Twain, Paul Horgan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Van Vechten, Robert Oppenheimer, Consuelo Baca and Oliver La Farge, Robert Frost, and Ansel Adams, among many others.

Witter Bynner. As well as being one of the most outstanding hosts in Santa Fe, he was well respected for The Jade Mountain, his translation of Chinese poetry. His portrait was drawn by Khalil Gibran. He said he dated Mark Twain’s daughter, and he and Edna St. Vincent Millay talked about getting married. (He and his friends were drawn to her because of her poem “Renascence.”) Willard “Spud” Johnson was an early lover of his, and Robert Hunt was his companion of more than thirty years at the end of his life. Witter Bynner died in 1968.

The photographer Ansel Adams referred to the riotous parties Bynner and Hunt gave as “Bynner’s bashes.” Adams’s son, Michael, tells the story that on November 1, 1941, while out photographing the northern New Mexico landscape, Adams realized that it was getting late in the day and he needed to hurry back to Santa Fe for a party at Witter Bynner’s place. But he noticed a beautiful scene unfolding as the moon rose, so he stopped his car and made time to take the shot. The resulting image became one of Adams’s most famous: Moonrise, Hernandez. Adams often played the piano into the early morning hours at Bynner’s parties.

The Inn of the Turquoise Bear, a bed-and-breakfast, is located on Buena Vista Street on the Bynner property. (The portrait by Gibran is owned by the inn.)


6. Where was Billy the Kid jailed in Santa Fe in 1881, and what map shows the jail?

An early Sanborn map shows the jail, off Water Street and west of Galisteo Street. There is a plaque on the wall of the Collected Works Bookstore, on Water Street, to show where the jail was located. (There has been another plaque elsewhere in the downtown area claiming the same, but it is not accurate.)

See the digital Sanborn map, October 1883, sheet 2, in the Southwest Collections at the New Mexico State Library.

7. Why was the Santa Fe Trail important?

The Santa Fe Trail, opened in 1821, was one of the first established international routes of commerce and travel in North America. After the strict Spanish control of trade, the relative freedom to travel and trade under the Mexican government encouraged more than the exchange of commercial goods; interest in new social mores and shared appreciation of each other’s cultures blossomed between Mexico and the United States. This mutual exchange of ideas and commerce, however, was at first not open to Texas. It was Mexican governor Manuel Armijo who supposedly lamented, in 1841, “Poor New Mexico! So far from Heaven, so close to Texas!” (Later another version of this sentiment was reportedly stated by General Porfirio Diaz, president of Mexico from 1877 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911, about the United States’ war with Mexico, from 1846 to 1848: “Poor Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United States!”)

Santa Fe has been described as eclectic; this quality was also present in the 1800s, when travel and trade over the Santa Fe Trail provided opportunities to obtain the best items available from foreign sources, and different cultures intermingled.

After a long journey on the Santa Fe Trail, the caravan arrival in Santa Fe was a relief and exciting for all travelers who had successfully completed the arduous trip.

Map of the Santa Fe Trail, compiled by W.E. Brown and drawn by Clyde Arquero, National Park Service 1963 Historic Sites Survey. The Santa Fe Trail was proclaimed a National Historic Trail in 1987. Photo courtesy: santafetrailresearch.com

8. Returning World War II veterans frequented what popular nightclub, which had the only lighted dance floor in the 1940s in Santa Fe?

The Rumba Club, located at the northwest corner of what is now Paseo de Peralta and Cerrillos Road. The club was owned and operated by Arthur Bonal, who also brought the first Hammond organ to Santa Fe for the nightclub. Bonal had operated a gasoline station there but in 1946 turned it into a nightclub; he later opened the restaurant La Joya immediately to the north of the bar. Before the Bonals owned it, the property had been the Frances Willard School for Girls, the only women’s temperance union school for girls west of the Mississippi River. Today, the Hotel Santa Fe occupies the property.

9. When was the Rodeo de Santa Fe founded, why does it begin on a Wednesday, and what is the mascot?

The rodeo was organized and founded in 1949 by Freddie Baca, Roy Butler, Austin “Slim” Green, Gene Petchesky, Paul Ragle, Paul Rutledge, and others. One of the first structures to be built on the south side of town, it was originally situated where the public softball fields are, in what is now called Ragle Park, at Yucca Street and West Zia Road. Soon afterwards, Roy Butler, of Butler & Foley Plumbing, bought close to a hundred acres for a larger arena, off what is now called Rodeo Road, and the Rodeo de Santa Fe found its permanent home. Sadly, shortly thereafter, Butler died, on a Wednesday. To honor him, the rodeo has since always opened on a Wednesday. The Rodeo Parade kicks off the events the week before.

The mascot is a bull, El Toro Diablo, originally created by artist Will Shuster, who also helped create Zozobra.

Parade in downtown Santa Fe kicks off Rodeo de Santa Fe, featuring “El Toro,” mascot of the rodeo, 1989.

10. Who was the Pueblo leader from Ohkay Owingeh (formerly called San Juan Pueblo) who is famous for coordinating and leading the 1680 uprising against the Spanish colonizers that led to the protracted Pueblo-Spanish War of 1680 to 1696?

Po’pay. He was the respected medicine man who coordinated the revolt with more than a dozen leaders from about twenty-five pueblos. He was a fierce, dynamic, and charismatic leader who inspired a core group of followers; little else is known about him.

Spanish rule of the Pueblo people had begun in 1598, and suppression of dissent and occasionally severe treatment led to unrest. In 1675 Po’pay and more than forty other spiritual leaders were taken to Santa Fe to be punished for participating in their own religious and culture ceremonies, which some Spaniards considered “witchcraft.” After this humiliation, a rebellion was planned.

The date chosen was August 11, 1680, but the Pueblo Rebellion began a day earlier because the timing was betrayed to the Spaniards. Of special note is the successful use of knotted ropes delivered by runners to each pueblo involved in the planned uprising. (The longest distance was the 400 miles to the Hopi mesas.) The number of knots corresponded to the number of days left before the revolt was to begin. An unknown number of Pueblo people perished in the combat with the besieged colonists in Santa Fe. The revolt cost about four hundred Spanish lives, including twenty-one of the thirty-three priests in New Mexico. Most of the remaining Spaniards made the long trek to what is now Juarez, Mexico. The rebellion drove the Spanish from what is now Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Although the Spanish did eventually succeed in returning to reclaim Santa Fe and New Mexico in 1692, relations were far different after the war: the encomienda system of tribute that had often illegally used forced labor was prohibited, and Pueblo warriors and Spanish soldiers were brought together against their common enemies, including the Apaches, Navajos, Utes and Comanche. And not all Spaniards and Pueblos had been in opposition to each other, since there were many ties of family and kinship between them.

The Pueblo-Spanish War lasted about sixteen years, beginning with the initial rebellion by the Pueblos in 1680, through the reconquest effort by the Spaniards in 1692, and ending with a second revolt in 1696. Ultimately, Spaniards and Pueblos developed a kind of tolerable coexistence in order to share the kingdom of New Mexico. As a result, more blending of Pueblo and Spanish cultures in New Mexico has occurred.

Po’pay died in about 1688.

11. How is Santa Fe connected to a first North Pole trip in 1958?

Santa Fean and 1952 St. Michael’s High School graduate Albert J. Herrera was a crew member on the nuclear submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571) when it accomplished the first successful voyage under the North Pole on August 3, 1958. He later said of his trip, “It was the shortest way home.”

12. One of Santa Fe’s most eccentric artists had a great love of dogs and cats. Who was he?

Tommy Macaione, “El Diferente,” who kept more than thirty dogs and perhaps seventy cats as pets during the 1970s. There is a small statue of him in Hillside Park. He was a barber before becoming an artist. He came to Santa Fe in 1952 to paint; he died in 1992, just before his eighty-fifth birthday.

Artist Tommy Maciaone and one of his paintings of wild flowers, Santa Fe, 1982.


13. Santa Fe is one of the centers of New Mexico’s film industry; the roots of this work go back to 1898, with what picture?

Indian Day School, made by Edison Motion Pictures, was a Thomas Edison silent black-and-white movie shot on location at Isleta, Laguna Pueblo. Edison had come to the Santa Fe area to inspect his investment in the minerals of the Ortiz Grant; the Edison mill was built in 1900 but torn down in 1907. A one-minute movie called Santa Fe Politicians was made in 1914. Another early movie, shot in 1916, was called Trip to Santa Fe. (The movie Salt of the Earth, also filmed in New Mexico, in 1954, and based on true events that occurred in the state, is the only movie ever to have been banned by the U.S. federal government.)

These are just a few of the many films that were at least partially filmed in Santa Fe: The Texas Rangers (1936), with Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie; Strange Lady in Town (1955), with Greer Garson; The Man from Laramie (1955), with Jimmy Stewart; Easy Rider (1969), with Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson; A Gunfight (1971), with Kirk Douglas and Johnny Cash; The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982), the American Playhouse TV series, with Edward James Olmos; Lust in the Dust (1985), with Tab Hunter and Divine; Powwow Highway (1989), with Gary Farmer; Wyatt Earp (1994), with Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, and Gene Hackman; The Tao of Steve (2000), based on local writer Duncan North’s youthful experiences; All the Pretty Horses, based on the novel by Santa Fe resident Cormac McCarthy, with Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz; the Academy Award-winning No Country for Old Men (2007), with Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin; and True Grit (2010), with Jeff Bridges.

The city also hosts the annual Santa Fe Film Festival, highlighting New Mexican-made films as well as new U.S. and foreign films. The festival usually takes place in the fall.

14. Who said “See America First” and meant New Mexico?

Charles F. Lummis. He made a name for himself when he walked all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Los Angeles, California, on his attention-grabbing “tramp across the continent.” He arrived in February of 1885, after walking for 143 days over more than thirty-five hundred miles, wearing the one set of clothes he had selected for the trip, which included a white flannel shirt tied at the neck with a blue ribbon, knickerbockers, red knee-high stockings, a wide-brimmed felt hat, and low-cut dress shoes. He was an eccentric and charming character who didn’t mind if people made fun of him. But he also championed Native American rights and Hispanic culture and helped found the School of American Research (now the School for Advanced Research). He was a colleague of Adolph Bandelier, a good friend of Amado Chaves (son of don Manuel Antonio Chaves), and a friend of Teddy Roosevelt, who admired his gumption. And he was a journalist, a poet, a librarian, a photographer, and an author. Perhaps his most famous book is The Land of Poco Tiempo. He was also the folklorist who wrote The Man Who Married the Moon, and Other Pueblo Indian Folk-Stories.

Charles Lummis with President Theodore Roosevelt, 1911.

15. Who was the first Mexican-born U.S. senator?

Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo was born in Allende, Mexico, in 1859 and came to the United States in 1870. He attended Saint Michael’s College, in Santa Fe. In 1918 he became the fourth governor of the State of New Mexico (and the second Hispanic governor). He served as a state representative before becoming a U.S. senator in 1928.

16. What is sabanilla labrada, which is often seen during Santa Fe’s Spanish Market?

It is wool-on-wool colcha embroidery work, a textile art developed and made in New Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. Sabanilla usually means “small sheet” or bedcovering, and labrada means “worked,” or manufactured. Often the decorated woolen sheets are used as bed coverings or quilts; sometimes smaller ones are used as altar cloths. Some are all a natural white, any many incorporate colored wool.

In colonial times, and sometimes still today, the colorful embroidery wool was created using dyes made from local desert plants such as the chamisa plant (yellow) as well as traded dyes made from indigo (blue), brazil-wood chips (brown), and cochineal (red). Cochineal dye is made from extractions of the cochineal insect, which lives on prickly pear and other cacti. One of the more unusual domestications in the New World, cochineal was used throughout Peru, Chile, Mexico, and Central America in payment of tribute from one individual to another, or one nation to another. In addition to being used in dye, it was made into inks and paints for codices and murals for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. Shortly after the conquest of the New World, the production of cochineal became a monopoly controlled by Spain. It was not until the early nineteenth century that cochineal became widely available

Traditionally, the wool used for sabanilla labrada is from the churro sheep. (Churro is the Americanized version of the word, which means “rough.”) The churro sheep is a sturdy, adaptable olf breed of Spanish sheep, brought to New Spain by the Spaniards in the late 1500s; eventually they became popular in the Upper Rio Grande area and were acquired by the Navajo Indians through raids and trade. They have a long protective top coat of wool and a soft undercoat. Some rams have four fully developed horns.

The Portuguese returning from Ming Dynasty China brought new culinary techniques, including their version of a rough bread stick, called You tiao, which evolved into the Spanish churro, a long prism-shaped fried snack that may be straight, curled, or spirally twisted, resembling the churro sheep’s horns. Churros are often served at breakfast and dipped in a cup of thick hot chocolate or rolled in cinnamon sugar.

17. What surprised some Anglo traders about New Mexican women when they first came to Santa Fe in the 1820s and 1830s?

Hispanic women in Santa Fe and other places could own property and conduct business, and some of them even smoked cigarettes in public!

18. The “Frito pie” was originated by whom in Santa Fe?

Carmen Ornelas is credited with making the first Frito pie, in the 1950s, which she served at the old bus depot café on Water Street, before moving to F. W. Woolworth’s, on the Plaza.

The “official” version of Frito pie is made by opening a small bag of Frito chips and pouring red chile made with hamburger meat over the chips and then adding toppings such as cheese, chopped onions, lettuce, and jalapeno peppers. (The first Frito chip was created in 1932.) Teresa Hernandez is one of the many who carried on the tradition at the counter of Woolworth’s and later elsewhere around town. Now hungry folks can get a Frito pie at many places that serve New Mexican food.

19. Who was the original creator of what has become the Zozobra spectacle, and when did the event first occur?

Noted Santa Fe artist Will Shuster, along with Gustave Baumann, E. Dana Johnson, and others, built a giant puppet in Shuster’s backyard in 1925. The puppet was burned to usher out gloom at Santa Fe Fiesta. Baumann fashioned the head out of cardboard boxes, and Johnson is credited with the name Zozobra.

20. What does “Zozobra” mean?

The Spanish word zozobra means “worry” or “anguish”; “the Gloomy One” was the translation E. Dana Johnson and Will Shuster gave for Zozobra. The burning of Zozobra begins with the Fire Dancer (first played by Witter Bynner in the 1920s, later by Jacques Cartier, and then by Chip Lilienthal). The initial public burning of Zozobra, behind the old courthouse on Washington Avenue in 1926, began a new Fiesta tradition that continues today at Fort Marcy Park. Today Santa Feans refer to Zozobra as Old Man Gloom.

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This excerpt from 400 Years, 400 Questions appears courtesy of Sunstone Press, Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM 87504-2321. Purchase the book from Amazon.

All images courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives unless otherwise cited.

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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