Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online

August 28, 2001

This morning I got up about 5 a.m., as usual, and went through the routine of getting ready for my walk. I usually stretch a little, holding my arms over my head for the count of three, then bend my knees about 15 degrees a couple of times. Then I head out.

My neighbor, who usually joins me, had been out of town visiting an uncle in Montana, and I assumed he was still gone. When I went to bed last night he was not home, but when I stepped out of the house at 6 o’clock, there he was, waiting for me. He was looking at his watch as if to say, "I don't think Stan gets up and walks when I'm not in town." Well, we were both surprised—I that he was back in town, he that I got up.

Just before leaving the house I called to check the temperature, which was 61 degrees. As the two of us took off, the skies looked like rain was a real possibility. Here in Santa Fe, that is always a blessing, and as we walked, we hoped that it would rain—but that it wouldn't happen until we were through with our walk.

The smell of rain in the air is special in Santa Fe, as I'm sure is true in any area that normally has low humidity. It’s a pungent aroma that seems to perk up everything and everybody. All the pressures that many of us feel seem to temporarily disappear.

Not too many years ago, when Indian Market, which occurs on a weekend in mid-August, ended, the tourist season in Santa Fe was pretty well over. Indian Market is a gathering of Native American artists who come together to sell their work on the Plaza. It is Santa Fe’s biggest tourist weekend of the year. Usually about 100,000 people come to view and buy the art. It's an event well worth attending, but if you plan to come, make your hotel reservations early, because there will not be one room available that weekend.

Anyway, 10 days had passed since Indian Market, but as my neighbor and I walked by the various hotels in downtown Santa Fe, there was still noticeable evidence of many tourists being in town. Some of our city's visitors were also doing an early walk around the Plaza, and we greeted each other as we met.

I guess the combination of the smell of rain and the tourists reminded of a time when Santa Fe was much quieter in late August. In those days, Fiestas, on the Labor Day weekend, was our last big event of the year. Although some tourists and visitors came to it, Fiestas was really a local celebration, commemorating the peaceful reconquest of Santa Fe by the Spaniard Don Diego de Vargas after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After Fiestas, we Santa Feans reclaim the town for ourselves.

Fiestas was a three-day affair, and the whole town got in good spirits for it. Fiestas started on Friday noon, which usually called for my friends and me to go to the Plaza and start our celebration by eating a green chile hamburger. At this time of year the chile is harvested and the pods are green, and it is the only time of year when you can eat fresh green chile. The green chile is generally roasted before it is eaten, but many of the food stands on the Plaza during Fiesta simply chop up the green pod and put it on the hamburgers without cooking it. It is like eating green apples.

After eating the green chile hamburgers, we usually went to the La Fonda hotel, which is on the southeast corner of the Plaza, and had a margarita or three to start off our Fiesta weekend right.

On Friday evening, a large crowd gathered at our high school football field to watch the burning of a large effigy called Zozobra. It is a doll, maybe 50 feet tall, made of white paper with a painted face. It looks something like a monkey and is surrounded by fireworks at its base. After much growling and carrying on, it is set on fire and the fireworks explode. With Zozobra’s demise, all of your sins are gone for the year, and therefore you have a cause to celebrate. With that in mind, the crowd headed down to the Plaza to make the most of their cleansed souls.

In those days, any person you encountered on the Plaza after Fiestas was almost always another Santa Fean. The time after Fiestas was a celebration in itself, because we Santa Feans came out of our shelters and “reconquered” our town, just like Don Diego de Vargas. Now the tourist season lasts all year long.

After finishing our walk, my neighbor and I stopped at the Farmers Market for a cup of coffee and some wonderful pastry. Walking through the market, we passed a stand selling green chile. With memories of Fiestas gone by fresh in my mind, I bought a small basket of green chile, with the anticipation of making hamburgers at home this evening. Hey, what’s wrong with getting a little head start on this year’s Fiestas?

Have a great day.


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