Last week my fairy godmother invited me to visit her in spectacular Santa Fe, New Mexico. Land of enchantment is an understatement for capturing the natural beauty of this historic American city. Originally known as La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asis, modern-day Santa Fe boasts a charming nickname, City Different. The meaning behind this nickname quickly becomes apparent to anyone visiting this southwestern city. Surrounded by five mountain ranges, eight Native American pueblos, more than 250 art galleries and enriched by Spanish cultural influences, Santa Fe is a unique and unparalleled place. It is the first designated UNESCO creative city for craft and folk art and the third largest art market in the United States.
The historic Santa Fe Plaza is full of mystique. Located north of the Palace of the Governors is the spectacular Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a Romanesque-style structure that stands out amongst the traditional adobe buildings in the heart of the city. Throughout Santa Fe hang strings of New Mexican red chile peppers, known as ristras. The peppers are being sun-dried to be used in local dishes; they are also believed to bring good health and good luck to the homes they adorn. Another symbol seen throughout the city and on the New Mexico state flag is the Zia sun. The Zia sun is composed of a circle with four linear rays extending in four directions. Four is a number of great significance to the Zia Pueblo people as it embodies the four directions of earth, the four seasons, the four times of day and the four phases of life.
My Aunt has 60 of the most adorable neighbors, the Alpacas of the Que Sera ranch. The alpacas are bred in a natural, open-air environment and sheared for their fleece in June when they have the warmth of the desert sun. Alpaca fleece is one of the warmest natural fibers.
Hiking through this sacred land without another human in sight was a very spiritual experience. Mountains and the red clay Glorieta Mesa surround the ancient ruins. I tried to imagine what daily life must have been like for the Pueblo people in the Pecos Valley. Pecos was a major trade center where Indians bartered jewelry, pottery, crafts, crops, feathers, and turquoise with other pueblo inhabitants. I felt most in touch with the ancient civilization when climbing down into the Kivas. These deep underground pits were sacred to the people who believed they connected them with the underworld where they originated. They would perform rituals to ensure their well-being in the ceremonial rooms where they could communicate with the spirits.
As my week of enchantment came to an end, I felt a revitalized energy and reconnected with nature and my own spirituality. I gained a further appreciation of Native American history, art, culture, and rituals. I’ve always been fond of Santa Fe, visiting several times throughout my childhood, but am thrilled to have been able to experience this mystical city again as an adult. I will carry these memories with me as a reminder of the heritage of America as I embark on my new life in Europe.