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Walking tour of the "City Different": the Plaza

Marker at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.
Marker at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.

Tom Gallegos, born in Taos, is a knowledgeable and engaging guide who offers walking tours of Santa Fe.  Tom starts most of his walks at the Plaza, the town’s gathering place or the “heart of Santa Fe”.  As he likes to tell the story, the Spaniards established Santa Fe as the capital of their New World territories in 1610.  The Plaza, built in the traditional “Spanish Roman Catholic” style, typically comprised a central square, a Palace, a church (which has long since been moved), and stores where merchants hawked their wares.

Today, the Palace of the Governors, the “oldest continuously occupied public building” in the United States, is a museum.  A seat of the Spanish government and later Mexican and American territorial republics, the Palace’s portal is now legally reserved for Native American artists to display and sell their artwork.  It’s a great place to meet traditional artisans, and to admire their beautiful and authentic creations.  It is also a fine example of all three cultures working together: Native Americans from all nineteen NM pueblos as well as other tribes, alongside the Hispanic and Anglo museum staff.  Ironically, steps away from the portal, the monument that sits in the center of the Plaza, commemorating the fallen heroes of the Territory of New Mexico, has one word preceding “Indians” chipped away – “Savage”.

On the south side of the Plaza, Tom Gallegos points out a stone marker, another important piece of the city’s history.  The Plaza is where the Santa Fe Trail ends, having served from 1821 until 1880 as the “America’s first great international commercial highway” between Independence, Missouri, and Santa Fe.

The site southeast of the Plaza is considered to be America’s “oldest hotel corner”.  According to historical records, the Spaniards built an inn (or “fonda”) at this location when they established Santa Fe.  In later years, the hotel served as a place of rest for weary travelers and traders who crossed the Santa Fe Trail.  The current La Fonda, built in 1922, was leased to Fred Harvey from about 1925 until 1968 and operated as one of the famous Harvey Houses.

The short walk, just around the Santa Fe Plaza, immerses you in hundreds of years of history and provides one with an appreciation of the “City Different”.  Take a walking tour with Tom Gallegos (505-577-2980).  He has so much to share about Santa Fe’s multi-cultural history!


  • Billie 5 years ago

    Great article! It really captures the feeling of Santa Fe's historic Plaza, then and now.

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