Sante Fe’s Hispanic Culture

Book Review: Santa Fe: Hispanic Culture, Preserving Identity in a Tourist Town by Andrew Leo Lovato (University of New Mexico Press, September 2006).


Most people who know or have been to Santa Fe, New Mexico, think of that city as a Hispanic town — which is not surprising since most people of Santa Fe and the city's government want to project that image to increase tourism. Santa Fe has succeeded very well with this. Most buildings in Santa Fe are adobe architectural style. Lovato discusses a few exceptions, including the St. Francis Cathedral which is in the Romanesque style of architecture instead of an adobe church. This reviewer spent a few days in Santa Fe and found the city to be wonderful.

Andrew Leo Lovato examines Santa Fe's Hispanic culture. He looks at the history of the city, how the people perceive themselves, the culture's impact on the city, and how the people celebrate being Hispanic. Lovato conducted personal interviews with several people who live in Santa Fe. He gathered additional information through surveys and other research about Santa Fe. He examines how Hispanics would like to be identified. The term "Hispanic" gained the most votes in his survey. "Latino", "Chicano", and other terms were also presented. He discusses how the term "Hispanic" is used in a general way when the people it is referring to are of different nationalities; which have different traditions, accents, and customs. They really prefer to be known as Mexicans, Hondurans, Chileans, and by their own nationalities than to be lumped into one general category.

Lovato discovered that there were at least two common traits with Hispanics, language and religion. Most speak Spanish and most are Roman Catholics. Many also consider family as an important aspect of their lives. One way Hispanics celebrate being Hispanic in Santa Fe is the annual festival called the Fiesta. This Fiesta commemorates the return of the Spanish colonists to Santa Fe after they had been driven out by the Indians of the Pueblos in 1692. This fiesta combines different characteristics of the Hispanic community of Santa Fe, including a religious aspect where the Catholic Church is very much involved in it with celebrating special Masses. There have been additions from the Anglo community of Santa Fe to encourage more participants in the fiesta. A fiesta queen is chosen and a man is chosen to represent symbolically the leader of the Spanish re-conquest of Santa Fe, Don Deigo de Vargas, who is called the de Vargas. Lovato examines the Fiesta of 1999 through interviews with the queen and the de Vargas of 1999, and others involved in the Fiesta. This Fiesta has not been popular with some Native Americans since it celebrates a Spanish victory over them. Lovato discusses this and other opposing views on this event.

Lovato examines Hispanic cultural aspects of Santa Fe like its art, its architecture, statistics about the Hispanic population, and other issues of research importance. Santa Fe has become known for a place where you can find many kinds of art work. Most have a Southwest flavor to them which can mean Hispanic or Native American. With the art scene and Santa Fe's tourism appeal the city has become a magnet for tourism. The city is considered one of the major tourism sites of the world.

One important aspect of Catholicism in Santa Fe is the devotion to Our Lady of La Conquistadora (Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus) who is also called La Conquistadora. The center of this devotion is the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that Don Diego de Vargas and his army had with them when they re-conquered Santa Fe in 1693. The statue is carried in processions during the Fiesta.

Andrew Leo Lovato has provided an interesting examination of Santa Fe's Hispanic identity. His book is recommended for those interested in Santa Fe, in Hispanic culture, and in social science research. Andrew Leo Lovato is assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and director of international programs at the College of Santa Fe.

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  • Guest

    just finished re-reading Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather's beautiful novel about the life of Santa Fe's first bishop, and his vicar general who had been friends from their seminary days in France, and it tells why the cathedral was Romanesque rather than "southwest" in style, excellent read for anyone with interest in the city's history