We are staying at the La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel right in the centre of Old Santa Fe. I thought it might have been named after the actor Henry la Fonda but the word ‘fonda’ in Spanish simply means an ‘inn’ The site of this hotel has been the location of various inns since 1609 when Santa Fe was first settled by Spanish missionaries. It is located on the very intersection of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail, (which linked Mexico City to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo) and the terminus of the old 800-mile-long Old Santa Fe Trail, which linked Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe. This was an essential commercial route prior to the 1880 introduction of the railroad.
We had a guided tour of the hotel this morning as it has some unique architecture and the owners have a special interest in collecting artworks which are displayed in all the public spaces and passage ways.
I was just as interested in the history of the area as much as the history of the hotel. We are in the state of New Mexico. It was originally part of Mexico and acquired by the US after the Mexico-American war in 1848. It did not achieve statehood until 1912. Until then it was a territory governed by the US Military and protected by a series of forts. Santa Fe was first settled by Spanish missionaries in 1609. It has a much stronger Spanish culture than any other state of the USA. As we look around the old town, its easy to think that we are in a Spanish country rather than a part of America.
An earlier construction of the hotel, called the United States Hotel but nicknamed La Fonda Americana by locals, burned down in 1912. A new hotel was built and owned by the Santa Fe Railway. It then became part of the Harvey chain of hotels and hospitality establishments right across the south of America. After 1969 it became privately owned.
Its a beautiful boutique hotel. We were fortunate enough to be upgraded to a suite and the concierge has deliverdd a few bottles of free beer to our room to help us celebrate St Patricks Day.
The hotel is on the corner of the main Plaza, or “city-square”, which was originally, and still is, the central gathering place of Spanish designed towns. Along one side is the old ‘Governer’s Palace (now a museum) and some very up-market shops surround the other three sides. Along the wall of the old Governers’ Palace are small allotments for native Americans to sell their hand made jewellery. These spots are balloted each day and there are generally only enough to go around about 2/3 the number of potential sellers. Jill lashed out to buy some earrings and a bracelet.
At the top of the street is the Roman Catholic Cathedral or Basilica which was built between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church. Outside are statues of St Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of the cathedral) and St Kateri, the first native American to be beatified in the USA. Local law prohibits any building from being constructed higher than the Cathedral.
It’s been good to have a rest from driving today. As well as walking around the town, we have been relaxing in our room and watching a little TV. I can’t believe how the TV stations here (at least the ones that we have been watching) are so universally and vocally critical of Donald Trump. We have never been to a country before where the media is so negative about their president or prime minister. I know that most Australians think that he is a narcissistic liar but the American media makes him out the be extremely incompetent and inept. We will keep watching with interest!