New Mexico is a land of contrasts: ancient native dances and rituals, Spanish practices, dialects from the 15th century and modern scientific laboratories. It’s a land of second chances, a place where modern people come to change their lives and it’s a place where traditions have been strong for centuries. What better place for creativity to thrive than where cultures meet?
New Mexicans of all faiths seem drawn to El Santuario de Chimayo, known as the Lourdes of the West for the miracles of healing attributed to its site—and for its healing dirt. During the annual Easter Week pilgrimages, you can still hear the high notes of the Penitente flutes carrying on traditions settlers brought from Spain in the 1600s. El Santuario is along the famous high road to Taos, and at the northern end of the road you’ll find the Los Ranchos de Taos adobe church, St. Francis de Assissi, with its miraculous painting, in which the Christ picks up and puts down his cross as the day’s light shifts.
Santa Fe has its own famous churches: The Mission of San Miguel, which is the oldest church in the United States, and the nearby Loretto chapel, known locally as the Church of the Miraculous Stairway.
The heart of our New Mexico art world still beats in Santa Fe. The light—a rich golden high altitude light—draws artists to Santa Fe, where they gather near Canyon Road. The New Mexico Art Museum collection houses the work of local artists who live in New Mexico.
Other important Santa Fe museums include The Palace of the Governors, where Lew Wallace wrote “Ben Hur” and the Museum of Indian Arts and Cultures along with The International Folk Art Museum. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum has a world-class collection of the artist’s work and tours of her home and studio in Abiquiu. One of my favorites is the Wheelwright Museum which houses the Case Trading Post, an authentic trading post like the one where I shopped when I lived at Sanostee on the Navajo reservation.
Albuquerque has its own Old Town and museums. Nothing could be more modern than the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. The Turquoise Museum shows off the beauty and variety of New Mexico’s most famous gemstone.
There’s food, music and dancers at our Pueblo feast days. The best place to get started is at Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, where you can see art by Native artists, buy authentic jewelry, eat fry bread and other native meals, watch native dancers, and learn how to be a welcome guest at our states’ pueblos. Hint: The rules vary from pueblo to pueblo, but don’t take pictures without permission. The center hosts dancers on weekends so you can get with the beat without even leaving the city.
You can visit Roswell in search of UFO’s or see Peter Hurd paintings and a piece of the Moon at the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Of course, just grab a latte and sit quietly in a New Mexico plaza or microbrewery and watch the world go by. Today we’re a metropolitan state, home to Buddhist and Japanese cultural centers, space age scientists and wildfire firefighters. We’re an eclectic people, sharing and preserving multiple cultures. Come hungry; we’ve got good food in every ‘language.’
Mary O’Gara is a creative and spiritual coach residing in New Mexico and specializing in creative coaching, tarot and writing workshops—list and schedule of all can be found using the links here:
July Writers Workshop: Walking the Tightrope
(Pictures provided by author. Beautiful Mountain and Sanostee School photos, both taken at Sanostee, NM. Old Santa Fe Street is a street near Canyon Road, behind the old San Miguel mission. Old San Miguel is the oldest church in the United States. El Santuario is the Lourdes of the West.)