The Myth of Santa Fe: Creating a Modern Regional Tradition

Chris Wilson, Author University of New Mexico Press $75 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8263-1745-2
Contrary to popular belief, the term Santa Fe style was not coined in the mid-1980s. It was first used after New Mexico achieved statehood in 1912 as a conscious effort by Santa Fe's civic leaders ""to make the city itself into a tourist attraction."" Wilson, who teaches in the architecture department at the University of New Mexico, deftly describes the process by which Santa Fe has developed its distinctive regional identity. He argues convincingly that ""Santa Fe has methodically transformed itself into a harmonious Pueblo-Spanish fantasy through speculative restoration, the removal of overt signs of Americanization, and historic design review for new buildings."" His arguments take three tacks: cultural when describing the city's historical emphasis on, and rhetoric of, ""triculturalism"" (""Indian, Spanish and Anglo""); social when documenting changing attitudes (and racial identities) among residents; but, especially, architectural when illustrating, with the aid of many wonderful historical and contemporary photos and drawings, the changes the buildings have endured during successive ""revival"" periods. Obviously well researched (there are 50-plus pages of notes to back up his claims) and engrossingly written, anyone with an interest in the Southwest will enjoy Wilson's thoughtful analysis. No matter what one's opinion of Santa Fe, after reading this book it's easy to agree with the author when he says, ""In a world infatuated with maintaining historical traditions and ethnic identities, Santa Fe has created an unusually successful illusion of authenticity."" (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
Paperback - 420 pages - 978-0-8263-1746-9
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