Old Town is the original town site of Albuquerque, New Mexico, established
in 1706 when a group of spanish colonists settled on the site near the Rio Grande River.
The town was laid out in traditional Spanish colonial fashion, with adobe buildings forming
a square around a central plaza. A church was constructed on one side of the plaza.
The original township is listed on the New Mexico State Register of
Cultural Properties, and the district contains about ten blocks of historic adobe buildings
around the Plaza. San Felipe de Neri Church stands on the north side of the plaza.
Contemporary Old Town has a large number of restaurants, shops and galleries and is popular
with local residents as well as tourists. Old Town is lively all year round, but especially
at Christmas with additional festivities and luminaria displays.
I paid numerous visits to Old Town, having lived in Placitas and Edgewood for several years. The plaza is bounded by Romero Street NW on the west, San Felipe Street on the East, and North Plaza and South Plaza Streets on the north and south, respectively. I took random photos of various businesses over the years that are presented below to give the reader a flavor of Old Town. We'll start on Romero Street and work our way counterclockwise around the plaza ending at San Felipe de Neri Church. (The side streets off the plaza square also have many intresting shops and boutiques, but they're not included in this photoessay).
Romero Street NW
Many of the shops on Romero Street are not contiguous with each other. This gives Romero Street a much more open look compared with the rest of the square.
South Plaza Street NW
South Plaza Street contains shops with a LOT of souveniers and curios. A covered walkway runs along the front of the stores for most of the length of the plaza.
San Felipe Street NW
To me, San Felipe Street is the most interesting to walk down with its secluded corridors off the main street containing additional little shops. There are also pathways leading to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. One thing I regret is that I have no photos of the plaza traders. They are Navajos or Pueblo Indians who display their wares (mostly turquoise and silver jewelry) along the covered walkway that borders San Felipe street. You can often get some smokin' deals.
San Felipe de Neri Church
San Felipe de Neri Church, located of the north side of Old Town Plaza (North Plaza Street), was built in 1793. It's listed on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register of Historic Places, and has been in service for over 200 years. The church was remodeled during the Victorian Era with the addition of bell towers, a new pitched roof, and interior decorations. This combination of elements from different time periods gives the church an interesting architectural twist.
Albuquerque Museum (of Art and History)
The Albuquerque Museum (of Art and History) is located at the corner of Mountain Road and 19th Street (2000 Mountain Road NW) adjacent to Old Town. The museum first opened in the Albuquerque International Sunport in 1967 and moved to its current location in 1979. The museum's permanent exhibits are dedicated to art in New Mexico, and the history of Albuquerque and the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The museum contains thousands of artifacts of Spanish colonial life in New Mexico, including include early maps, conquistador armor and weapons, and weavings. The museum hosts changing exhibits and educational programs, contains galleries of contemporay art and photo archives, and has a museum store and small cafe. It also has an excellent outdoor sculpture garden. Most of the following photos are of sculptures in that garden.
"La Jornada" by Betty Sabo and Reynaldo "Sonny" Rivera
This sculpture is made up of several pieces that depict Don Juan de Oñate leading the first group of Spanish colonists into New Mexico. The sculpture was commissioned to celebrate the 1998 "Cuarto Centenario", the 400th anniversary of the founding of New Mexico. It was contentious from the get go. On one side you had the New Mexican Hispanics who view Oñate kindly as the founder of New Mexico, and on the other side were the Native Americans who hate Oñate for his treatment of the Pueblo Indians. Anyway, the city council arrived a less than adequate compromise with Betty Sabo (Anglo) and Sonny Reynaldo (Hispanic) sculpting "La Jornada", and Nora Naranjo Morse (Native American) creating an earthwork, “Numbe Whageh”, consising of native flora and carved rocks and boulders from nearby Pueblos. I don't believe either was completed in time for Cuarto Centenario. This was back in 2004. Things came to a boil on June 15, 2020 when a group of protesters tried tearing the sculpture of Oñate down and one of them was shot by a member an opposing militia group. The Oñate sculpture was removed on June 16 as a "temporary" solution.
There are lots of fun things to do and places to go in Albuquerque during the Christmas holiday season, and Old Town is right at the top of the list. There are lots of events and other fun stuff, and of course the famous luminaria displays. For those of you unfamiliar with a luminaria, it's a small paper bag filled with an inch or two of sand into which a candle is stuck. When the candle is lit the sack glows. Cool. (I have to apologize for the quality of the photos, but they're the only ones I had for this section).
Background information obtained mainly form Wikipedia.
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