Santa Fe and Spain have shared an intertwined history for centuries, and their long relationship remains vibrant today in Santa Fe's unique Spanish colonial architecture, traditional Spanish Colonial art and culture, and the classical cuisine of Spain served by chef and owner David Huertas at El Mesón.
The Kingdom of New México was claimed for the Spanish Crown in 1540 by conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who led an expedition into the region. In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate brought a group of settlers to the region, establishing Santa Fe de Nuevo México as a province of New Spain with a capital near Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, 25 miles north of Santa Fe.
But New México's Spanish Governor Don Pedro de Peralta moved the capital when he founded a new city in 1608 at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. He named it La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, or The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi. Santa Fe remained the provincial seat of Spain for 200 years, until the Mexican War of Independence in 1810.
The Spanish designed the new town based on the Laws of the Indies, which King Phillip established in 1573 to ensure that towns were constructed around a central plaza with a grid of streets centered around this plaza.
Santa Fe Spanish Market
The Palace of the Govenors is located one block from El Mesón Restaurant, Santa Fe.
Monesterio de los Angeles
The philosophy behind this design was it a centralized plaza would be easy to protect against invaders. The north side of the plaza contained the Palace of the Governors, built in 1610 as the seat of government for the Spanish colony of Nuevo México. A National Historic Landmark, this colonial-style building became New México's first territorial capitol after New México was annexed as a U.S. territory in 1850.
Down the street from the plaza lies the San Miguel Mission, a Spanish Colonial mission built between 1610 and 1626 that is believed to be the oldest church in the country. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when a group of Pueblo Indians retook Santa Fe from the Spanish settlers, the church was damaged, but following the Spanish reconquest, it was rebuilt.
Santa Fe's Spanish Colonial heritage continues to thrive. Every summer, the city hosts the annual Spanish Market, where hundreds of artisans gather on the Santa Fe Plaza to sell their traditional Spanish Colonial art work, including santos (hand-carved and painted wooden images of saints), tinwork, furniture, weavings, jewelry and more. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art exhibits the Spanish Colonial art of New México, and Rancho de las Golondrinas is a living history museum devoted to the Spanish Colonial and Territorial way of life on a 200-acre ranch outside of Santa Fe.
Santa Fe takes its official name from St. Francis de Assisi, the Catholic friar and preacher who founded the Franciscan order devoted to poverty and chastity in the early 13th century. El Mesón and David Huertas share a connection to this revered saint. His great grandfather had a "meson," or inn, in Hornachuelos (Village of the Ovens), a tiny mountain town that once was a Roman colonial outpost devoted to smelting silver ore from nearby mines. Then located 40 miles from the nearest road, this meson neighbored the Monasterio de Los Angeles, which is the center of the Franciscan order that founded Santa Fe, as well as the city of Los Angeles.
A visit to Santa Fe will steep you in Spanish art, culture, architecture and cuisine. The city is a gateway to Spain's ancient past as well as its contemporary lifeways, a living testament to a rich history between two fabled lands.