Street Art of Santa Fe, New Mexico


For me, Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is a hotbed of creative art,  where the central area of the city is filled with statues.  The art in the area, in fact many areas I’ve visited out west, tend to confront, or at least, illustrate the history of the area.   Heaven knows I am no art expert, but I do understand that art as a visual language, can be more powerful than the written word.  After all the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” shows that everything within a painting has meaning.  The emotions of the artist via the use of colors and the hierarchy of symbol placement is important extremely important.   In other words, a painting has the ability to showcase what the artist deems important and even aids in assisting the viewer to know what the author wants out of life – his or her dreams.

For me, this scene is a portrait of Latinos from the 1910-1929 time period.  I base this view because of the truck with the home constructed on the bed of the truck.  Some of the information that comes to mind for me are the following:
1.  The people who designed the home that sits upon the truck bed are very inventive.  The design was such that it would carry a family.
2.  The family is moving to a new area, probably New Mexico.  Since the painting is located in Santa Fe, my assumption  is that the area is probably New Mexico.
3.  The area is rural.  It is early in the development of the automobile,  and our modern day transportation system – the roads are not paved.
4.  I see two groups of people.  One group on and in the truck, which indicates wealth.  After all it took much money during this time to be able to own such a conveyance.  And, a second group appear to be walking.
5.  Now this is the  tricky part of my interpretation.  When I photographed (from a distance of about 50 ft and behind a six-foot high chain-link fence) this painting, I didn’t notice the white man standing behind the group of people on the right.    It wasn’t until I took my digital magnifying loupe to the photo that I noticed the lettering PD (Police Department?) on the white man’s hat –  is this person a member of the police?
6. Is this police officer rounding up people he deems to be illegal migrants.  Is he basing this “round-up” that they may be “poor,” because they are walking ?  Maybe they are walking because not everyone can fit in or on the truck and it is their turn to walk.
7.  Maybe the group of walkers are not part of the group with the truck.  Maybe the people in the truck, just happened to come upon the scene as the policeman was rounding-up the walkers.

I have not talked with the author of this painting and my interpretation may not be what was intended to be shown.  But it is the interpretation I put to it.  Others will probably interpret this particular painting differently

There can be many different interpretations of art based upon the life experience of the viewer.  One of the more powerful examples I used with my university students was the interpretation of the following illustration:

Tracks in the snow (Learning Science Process Skills. 1985 H. James Funk, et al. Kendal/Hunt Publishing Co.

The purpose of the exercise with the illustration was to teach the basic science process skill of formulating inferences from observations.  However inferences are heavily tied to one’s life experiences.  In this particular exercise students were to make two observations for each position and assign an inference to that observation.  However one aspect that was never explored when students developed their interpretation was the time factor.  This aspect was also not explored by the authors of the book.  Everyone assumed the prints were made at the same time.  No one explored the possibility that the prints were made at different times.  Thus for me, making an interpretation is not only based upon what I can physically observe in the painting, but my interpretations are also based upon my life experience.  Thus inferences can be highly subjective.

History of the area

The area of Santa Fe was originally occupied by the indigenous Tanoan peoples, who lived in numerous Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande. One of the earliest known settlements in what today is downtown Santa Fe came sometime after 900 CE.  A group of native Tewa built a cluster of homes that centered around the site of today’s Plaza and spread for half a mile to the south and west; the village was called Oghá P’o’oge in Tewa[9] The Tanoans and other Pueblo peoples settled along the Santa Fe River for its water and transportation.

The river had a year-round flow until the 1700s. By the 20th century the Santa Fe River was a seasonal waterway.  As of 2007, the river was recognized as the most endangered river in the United States, according to the conservation group American Rivers.

Don Juan de Oñate led the first European effort to colonize the region in 1598, establishing Santa Fe de Nuevo México as a province of New Spain. Under Juan de Oñate and his son, the capital of the province was the settlement of San Juan de los Caballeros north of Santa Fe near modern Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. New Mexico’s second Spanish governor, Don Pedro de Peralta, however, founded a new city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1607, which he called La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís, the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi. In 1610, he designated it as the capital of the province, which it has almost constantly remained, making it the oldest state capital in the United States.

Discontent with the colonization practices led to the Pueblo Revolt, when groups of different Native Pueblo peoples were successful in driving the Spaniards out of the area now known as New Mexico, maintaining their independence from 1680 to 1692, when the territory was reconquered by Don Diego de Vargas. Santa Fe was Spain’s provincial seat at outbreak of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. It was considered important to fur traders based in present-day Saint Louis, Missouri. When the area was still under Spanish rule, the Chouteau brothers of Saint Louis gained a monopoly on the fur trade, before the United States acquired Missouri under the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The fur trade contributed to the wealth of St. Louis. The city’s status as the capital of the Mexican territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México was formalized in the 1824 Constitution after Mexico achieved independence from Spain.

When the Republic of Texas seceded from Mexico in 1836, it attempted to claim Santa Fe and other parts of Nuevo México as part of the western portion of Texas along the Río Grande. In 1841, a small military and trading expedition set out from Austin, intending to take control of the Santa Fe Trail. Known as the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, the force was poorly prepared and was easily captured by the Mexican army.,_New_Mexico

Santa Fe Railyard during weekend Market Day.

The following link highlights many of the murals found in the Railyard area of Santa Fe Click here

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: