The diversity of this vast country never fails to impress the traveler from afar and nowhere is it more striking than in the capital of a state that blends so many racial strains. Thanks to a wise city ordinance requiring conformity with the adobe architecture, you can believe that Santa Fe was a going community when the Spanish friars made their way across the desert long before Plymouth Rock was part of the national scene.
The blue, cloudless dome of the sky, a brilliant sun reflecting the warm brown of the city that nestles under the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountains, that is the New Mexico of an ancient past and a flourishing present. It is a Georgia O'Keeffe landscape, part of the province of the distinguished artist who lives near here and who has put this glowing country on canvases that are now in museums everywhere.
Santa Fe boasts more art galleries than any community of its size and it is easy to believe this boast, strolling throught the streets and around plaza where Indian women sell turquoise and silver jewelry, hand-woven rugs and other wares out their heritage. The galleries offer everything from far-out art to the painters who draw on the Indian background.
The International Folk Art Museum with the extraordinary folk collection that Alexander Girard has given the city is unique. Nearby at the edge of the town is the Wheelwright Museum of Hopi Indian Art, which in its scope is also unique.
A transplant from the East is taking hold. St John's College Santa Fe is modeled after St. John's College Annapolis in Maryland and they share the same top-level direction. the handsome campus, in the same warm adobe color, is set against the green foothills of the Sangre de Cristo.
The curriculum is based entirely on the classics. Freshmen begin learning classical Greek and reading Sophocies and Aristophanes in the original. They advance to Hume, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Madison and the works that are the intellectual foundation of the American form of government.
St. John's has been criticized for concentration on the classics and failing to give students a vocational goal. But President Richard Weigle, talking in his light, cheerful office that looks out over the city, points to the broader objective of the college. If, he says, we succeed and our graduates are thinking, versatile persons, they will be ready for any career. They will be better prepared than if they had majored in biology or some other specially since they will have acquired the heritage of Western man.
Seminars in Plato and Aristotle in this high country so far from the ancient centers of classical culture may seem odd. But after all it was here that Father Lamy, the central figure in Willa Cather's moving "Death Comes for the Archbishop," set the earliest standard in the new world for philosophic thought.
While the setting is so different, politics here is much the same as it is elsewhere. On the ballot in the recent election was a constitutional amendment which would have provided a salary for day they are paid for each day they serve here in the capital. It was defeated.
A Democrat, Bruce King, won the race for governor by 5,000 votes. King was a former governor. But his Republican opponent, Joe Skeen, has refused to concede, charging tampering with the voting machines in heavily Republican districts in Albuquerque, New Mexico's only large city. The U.S. attorney has been asked to investigate possible voting-rights violations for Skeen and several candidates for the legislature. In heavily Republican neighborhoods, Skeen got 3,000 votes, as against the 12,000 that had been projected.
After nearly 400 years of human transgressions, beginning with the violence and cruelty of the early conquistadors, this must seem a minor pecadillo. Having known the frailties of ancient Greece, Aristotle would understand.
Against the cloudless dome of the sky, the sun turning the aspens and the poplars to gold, the mountains dark against the horizon, elections are a passing, one-time thing. Santa Fe has kept the spirit of the past for all the in-roads of the ubiquitous motor car. The lesson of the zoning law with its building restrictions was useful for Annapolis when visitors from St. John's on the other side of the continent saw what had been done here and helped to impose limits restricting the development of that capital.
The pressure of builders, developers, exploiters of every breed, can work quick damage and transform the best of the past into the worst of the present. Fortunately that has been forestalled in this old city.