In Santa Fe and the surrounding towns, are homes, galleries and workshops where traditional Spanish arts and crafts have been handed down through the generations. I’ve traveled to the wood carvers’ village of Cordova in northern New Mexico to visit award-wining carvers. I’ve visited weavers in their adobe workshops and shopped for tinwork in a small alley workshop. In July each year these artists and artisans gather in Santa Fe to celebrate their art and their culture. It is an exciting time for collectors to see and purchase art that may not be seen anywhere else. The color and culture will wow you. Santa Fe Spanish Market is not to be missed.
Viva La Cultura–Santa Fe Spanish Market Week of Events
¡Viva La Cultura! is a week of cultural experiences around Santa Fe. You’ll find lectures, tours, music, culinary events, movies and more culminating with the Santa Fe Spanish Market, July 29-30, 2017. Visitors will find out that New Mexico has a Spanish-based culture that is different from what you’ll find in Mexico.
Look for music and dance on the stage in Santa Fe’s historic Plaza and food vendors featuring such delights as colorful fruit refrescos.
You’ll learn about both Colonial and contemporary Spanish arts through artist demonstrations and books on Hispanic culture. A special Santa Fe Spanish Market preview will be held at the Museo Cultural (Railyard District) on Friday evening, July 28th.
Traditional Santa Fe Spanish Market
When you visit Santa Fe for Spanish Market weekend you’ll find two types of markets linked together by the historic Plaza. On July 29-30, 2017 at historic Santa Fe Plaza you’ll be welcomed to the 66th Annual Traditional Spanish Market put on by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society.
Approximately 250 Spanish Colonial Artists from New Mexico and Southern Colorado will take part in this colorful event, bringing families known for woodcarving, tinwork, colcha embroidery, hide painting, retablos (religious paintings), straw appliqué, furniture and furnishings, weaving, jewelry, filigree, pottery and ironwork to downtown Santa Fe.
The Spanish Colonial Art Society of New Mexico features authentic artistic traditions traced back over 400 years. The Society has a strict vetting process for these artists. They must be of Hispanic heritage and their art must be of a quality and traditional accuracy to meet the Society’s standards.
All adult market artists are juried into the market. The youth must be mentored by a current market artist in their category to be eligible to participate.
When you enter the market, you’ll first notice the bright colors. As you wander from booth to booth, you’ll see skeleton art and religious motifs. This is part of the culture. Ask the artists about their work. You’ll learn about the stories behind the symbols. Some of the artists who sell retablos (paintings on wood) and bultos (carved figures) have been commissioned to provide religious art to local churches.
In other booths, you’ll be drawn to mirrors and intricate cut tinwork. Ornamental tinwork originated in the mid-1800s in New Mexico. Food in tin cans was shipped over the Santa Fe Trail providing materials to the area's tinsmiths. Tins that once held such products as lard, kerosene, and oysters became both useful and ornamental items.
Woodcarving is also a New Mexico Spanish art. Many of the wood carving families live in Cordova north of Santa Fe. They carve both religious subjects and items from the natural world such as birds and plants.
Contemporary Santa Fe Spanish Market
While clearly based in tradition, the local Hispanic artists who make up the Contemporary Spanish Market have pushed the envelope with their innovative, sometimes edgy, art. Yes, there will be traditional looking paintings on wood. But in the Contemporary Spanish Market on Lincoln Street, you may find skeletons driving low-riders or see political figures as the subject of paintings on wood.
I found the sparkling work of Goldie Garcia worth a stop. Goldie started making bottle cap art with pictures of saints surrounded by glitter. She soon expanded to full size altars, all with a contemporary twist and tons of glitter.
Spanish Market Sunday
Just about two blocks from the Plaza, you’ll find the Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis, the religious center of Santa Fe. It’s a beautiful church with exceptional music. On Sunday morning of Spanish Market, many artists will attend a mass especially dedicated to them. They bring with them a special piece of art to be blessed.
As the mass progresses, they are invited to the altar for the blessing and when the mass is over, a beautiful procession of artists holding their work walks slowly from the church to the Plaza. Visitors are welcome to attend the mass. Others may wait outside the church anticipating the opening of the doors and the procession of art. Either way, it’s a traditional part of the market weekend that is worth experiencing.
When You Go to Santa Fe Spanish Market
The Spanish Market is held Saturday, July 29, 2017, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, July 30, 2017, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (although I have found the market to open a bit later on Sunday). For total immersion in the experience, consider staying just off the Plaza at a traditional Santa Fe hotel like La Fonda on the Plaza or La Posada de Santa Fe. Check out more on visiting Santa Fe online. The Santa Fe Spanish Market is definitely filled with wow moments and a look into the art, color and culture of New Mexico.