Spanish Market: a Santa Fe tradition

Santa Fe Spanish Market San Francisco Street

Spanish Market on Saturday morning before the crowds and while it’s still cool, photo/Steve Collins

New Mexico was settled over 400 years ago by people of Spanish heritage who came up from Colonial Mexico. As money and goods were scarce, the colonists used locally available materials to create their everyday necessities and religious art. These deep artistic roots are celebrated by the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, founded in 1925. They held their first Traditional Spanish Market in Santa Fe the following year, but they were not an annual event until 1965. Santa Fe Spanish Market always takes place on the last weekend in July on and around the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

Santa Fe Spanish Market

The categories of traditional art  showcased here include:

Santos: depictions of devotional figures in the form of bultos (carvings in the round) retablos (paintings on wooden panels), and gesso and wood relief-carved panels
Straw Appliqué: crosses, chests and boxes decorated with hand-cut straw
Textiles: hand-woven on looms using handspun and naturally dyed yarns
Furniture: usually made of pine using mortise and tenon joints
Hide Paintings: devotional images painted on deer or elk hide
Colcha: unique regional embroideries employing the colcha stitch
Tinwork: decorative and utilitarian objects of cut and punched tin
Ironwork: tools, fastenings and household objects forged from iron
Precious Metals: silver and gold jewelry, utilitarian and devotional objects
Pottery: hand-sculpted bowls, pots and other ware made from micaceous clay
Bonework: decorative items, anillos (rings) and tool handles carved from animal antlers and bone
Ramilletes: decorative paper garlands

Youth Spanish Market

Straw applique by youth artist Matthew Flores won a prize at the 2012 Market, photo/Steve Collins

These artistic traditions have been passed down for generations and young artists, aged 7 to 17, are an important part of Spanish Market. There is a separate section devoted to them, featuring over 100 emerging artists.

A new category was introduced in 2011. Innovations Within Tradition, encompasses “contemporary interpretations of the traditional arts” Market artists who have been participating for two or more years may create and sell hand-made works of art that are updated and reinterpreted for modern sensibilities yet “remain grounded in the artistic expressions of the past”.

Contemporary Spanish Market

Assemblage by artist Darlene McElroy at the 2012 Contemporary Hispanic Market, photo/Steve Collins

Contemporary Hispanic Market, held the same weekend, gives New Mexican artists of Spanish descent working in mediums outside the scope of the Spanish Colonial arts a place to showcase their works. It takes place on Lincoln Avenue north of the Plaza. The first contemporary market was held in 1988. On sale at the event: painting, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and more.

Mariachi at Santa Fe Spanish Market

Tired of shopping. Check out the entertainment. A Mariachi band on the bandstand, photo/Steve Collins

Besides art and great people watching, there are food booths and entertainment on the Plaza’s bandstand.

Both events allow collectors and art lovers to meet the artists and perhaps discover a relatively unknown talent. Come out and join the fun. Bring money! You never know when a beautiful object will call to you and want to be taken home.

Traditional Spanish is open from 8am to 5pm on Saturday and 9:30am to 4pm on Sunday. Contemporary Hispanic Market is from 8am to 5pm on Saturday and 9am to 5pm on Sunday. There’s is no admission charge to either. If you want to get an early start on the events, both offer Friday previews.



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