Hundreds brave cold to ring in new year on Plaza

Santa Fe brought in the New Year in a new way this year, celebrating on the city’s downtown Plaza with music, little piñon bonfires (known as luminarias) and a giant Zia symbol hoisted into the air from the roof of the Catron building.

This was the first time city officials have organized a public celebration for New Year’s Eve, and the City Different was set on doing things a little different from its neighbors. Las Cruces dropped a lit-up red chile at midnight, while Albuquerque also lowered a giant red chile on Nobb Hill and raised a balloon in the Duke City’s civic plaza.

In Santa Fe, the 8-foot by 8-foot red Zia symbol bordered with multicolored lights rose slowly beginning at 11:59 p.m. until it crested above a lit-up 2016 sign at the top of the building. The crowd counted down aloud as the seconds ticked off a digital clock on the building. Organizers had hoped the revelers would sing “Auld Lang Sine” and then “Las Mañanitas,” a beloved Spanish song about the coming of a new day, but only a few tried.

A few hundred bundled up people, from toddlers to the elderly, endured temperatures that plummeted to 19 degrees before midnight, clutching cups of hot chocolate or dancing around to the music of Alex Maryol and his band.

About two dozen propane-powered restaurant heaters and a warming tent helped stave off the cold while people waited for the big event.

Santa Fe natives Richard and Merry Rivera were there with their children, nieces, nephews and friends at 7 p.m., though the event wasn’t set to start until 9:30 p.m. “We’re waiting for the food trucks,” Richard Rivera said. “We usually stay at home for New Year’s, but we decided this was a nice way to all celebrate together downtown with other people.”

At least two men used the occasion to propose to their girlfriends. One of the men, Jonathan Cde Baca, 25, knelt on one knee on the bandstand and proposed to his girlfriend of four years, Leslie Rodriguez, 21, as the crowd cheered.

“I had no idea he was going to ask me,” said a delighted Rodriguez. Cde Baca said he had been planning the moment for a month.

The Santa Fe couple have a 2-year-old son, Bryce, and another baby on the way.

City staff ran around an hour before the event began, turning off the propane heaters as fast as people turned them on. “I’m sorry,” said one staffer, turning off a cheerily lit heater under which half a dozen people huddled. “We only have three hours of fuel.”

Sergio and Rosanelly Hernandez of San Antonio, Texas, stopped by for the festivities. They were waiting for the band to start playing so they could warm up while dancing. “My favorite thing about 2015 is that I went back to school,” said Sergio Hernandez, who hopes to teach high school next year. His wife said her favorite thing about the old year about to pass “is that I retired.”

Mayor Javier Gonzales said prior to the New Year’s Eve festivities on the plaza that he hopes it will become an annual tradition in the City Different and another event to enliven Santa Fe’s nightlife.

City Arts Commission Director Debra Garcia y Griego and Ray Sandoval, who organizes the popular Zozobra event each year, came up with the idea for raising New Mexico’s state symbol.

Sandoval said the Zia symbol represents morning and the rising sun. The Zia symbol is practically synonymous with New Mexico, colored red in the middle of the state’s yellow flag. The symbol was created by and is sacred to Zia Pueblo.

Earlier, people were invited to attach wishes and glow sticks to biodegradable balloons that would be released at midnight. But Tom Jervis of the Sangre de Cristo Audubon Society and other conservationists asked the mayor to reconsider. The balloons pose a hazard to wildlife and would litter the landscape, he said in a letter to the mayor.

The balloons were not part of the festivities.zia

The Bachelor in Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a historic city in northern New Mexico rich with multi-cultural beauty and tradition. It is a spiritual city. Couple that with the natural beauty of the high desert and Sangre de Cristo mountains and you have a place that everyone must visit in their life-time. But The Bachelor made sure we had inaccurate and brief visions of Santa Fe. The show perpetuated some unfortunate stereotypes.

If it’s too good to be true

Longtime IACA Member Jackson Clark of Toh-Atin Gallery recently wrote a piece that hits home for every IACA member. This is a great piece, and we thought it was worth sharing Jackson’s observations with each and everyone of you.

If It’s Too Good To Be True…

Something I have alway disliked and never understood very well is the “discount mentality” that a person often encounters in the Indian jewelry business.

Anyone who has stayed in a hotel in the Phoenix area has walked by a gift shop with a sign in the jewelry case that says, “50% off Indian Jewelry.” Airports are notorious for these discount signs. We have all seen them. In some parts of Santa Fe, there are now 20 plus stores, all owned by the same people, that post these types of signs. In addition they post “Going out of Business Sale” and “Moving Sale” signs. And, in fact, they rotate the signs from store to store!

A month ago, in La Jolla, California, one of the wealthiest communities in the country, I saw that the same trend has hit the fine jewelry stores.

Diamonds filled the windows of five “upscale” jewelry outlets with big discount signs.

Here is a secret:

There are only two ways to sell something with a declared high value for deep discounts like this, and stay in business.

The first, which is really pretty common in the jewelry business, is to sell fake stuff. If the jewelry you are selling was made in the Far East, or with fake turquoise, or with nickel silver or any combination of the above, your cost is a lot less. Awhile back, the famous Navajo jeweler, Tommy Jackson, was amazed to find work with his name on it in a Santa Fe store. It was being offered at deep discounts. Of course, it wasn’t his work! He camped out at the New Mexico Attorney General’s office until they finally closed the store down for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. This doesn’t happen often enough.

And fine jewelry? Don’t kid yourself that all of those diamonds are real!

The other way to offer huge discounts is to mark everything way up, and then sell it at a big discount. In La Jolla we walked into a store that had a large sign outside and one in every case offering an 80% Off Sale!

The woman behind the counter was very nice. She and her family had been in the jewelry business in Gallup, NM for years.

Like most of these discount stores, the cases were filled with real Indian jewelry, mixed in with fake Indian Jewelry and mixed in with costume jewelry. The walls had a few Navajo rugs, quite a few Mexican knock off rugs and some sand paintings. This store was in a very high rent district.

I saw a pendent in the case made by an artist that I represent, with beautiful Royston Turquoise. I asked if I could see it up close and it was gorgeous!
“How much is it?” I asked.

Without batting an eye or looking at a calculator, she replied, “It is $1250.00 but we are having an 80 percent off sale and your price is $250.00.”

I have sold this man’s work for years. His jewelry is also sold at some of the top galleries in the country. This beautiful small pendent should sell for about $250.00!

Believe me, you don’t own a store in Santa Fe, La Jolla, Sioux City, Big Fork or Durango and pay for your rent, utilities, taxes, payroll, insurance, upkeep, supplies, travel, advertising and all the other things you have to pay for, and survive very long if you sell at huge discounts.

Ask yourself this: “If the place I am buying this piece from is willing to tell me it is worth five times more than it really is worth, what else are they willing to tell me to sell me something?”

Here are the rules: Buy from people who are well established and are members of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, the Antique Tribal Arts Dealers Association, the Better Business Bureau or other established organizations. If you are shopping while on vacation, ask locals who they recommend. Be certain to get a receipt and a guarantee of authenticity.

There is no law against selling something for more that it is worth, so, if you don’t know or trust the dealer you are working with, do your research. Of course, there are real reasons that a good store sometimes puts items on sale, but it won’t last for 365 days a year!

The bottom line is to work with galleries and stores that you can trust.

If it is too good to be true, it generally is.

Jackson Clark

New rules for street performers

Cue the sad trombone.

Street performers in Santa Fe face new restrictions on when and where they can perform and more regulatory oversight after the City Council approved changes to the busking ordinance Wednesday night.

Complaints from some Plaza vendors and businesses that street performers can be a nuisance, with unwelcome clamor and sometimes aggressive and illegal antics, were the impetus for the changes. But some street performers, also known as buskers, see increased city regulation as an obstacle to their livelihoods, if not an infringement on their civil rights and an insult to their art.

A letter to the city from the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the measure could impose restrictions that encroach on the musicians’ right to free speech; nonetheless, the City Council adopted the changes on a unanimous vote. The changes take effect May 12.

Licensed busker Angele Kunkowski, a guitarist and singer, was among the half-dozen artists who spoke out against the new ordinance.

“Reconsider what Santa Fe really is,” Kunkowski said. “Is it a commerce center, or is it a center of cultural inclusivity?”

Plaza vendors, such as Leigh Murphy, co-owner of the Kernels’ Kettle Corn stand, welcomed stricter oversight of the buskers. Murphy said the street performers are getting a free ride that others doing business on the Plaza are not, and they’re not being held as accountable as the vendors.

“It’s still a mystery to me that aside from the buskers, everyone else must have a permit specifically for the Plaza,” Murphy said.

Under the new ordinance, buskers applying for a license from the city must declare what type of performance they intend to put on — juggling, music or dance, for instance. They must have a photo identification available while performing. They must stay at least 50 feet away from each other and other vendors. They must not be audible at a distance of 50 feet, and sound amplification can only be used between 1 and 3 p.m. daily and never on the Plaza.

Every two hours, street performers will be required to move at least 100 feet, and those on the Plaza must leave after two hours of performance. Performing on the Plaza bandstand is prohibited, and so is use of public power outlets or portable generators. Performances involving fire, spray paint or aerosol are banned.

During scheduled festivals on the Plaza, such as Indian Market, Spanish Market, arts and crafts fairs, the Fiesta, and midday or evening performances at the Plaza Community Stage, buskers will only be allowed to perform with written permission from the event’s sponsor.

The option of buying a 30-day busker’s license for $10 was eliminated, and now only the $35 license for one calendar year remains.

Penalties for violating the ordinance have not changed. A violation is punishable in municipal court by a fine of up to $500, and buskers could lose their licenses.

The council will review and consider the impact of the new ordinance within six months.

Contact Patrick Malone at 986-3017 or

Plaza proposal is not “ready”

Most Santa Fe residents who sounded off at a Monday night hearing about Mayor Javier Gonzales’ proposal to close the downtown Plaza to motorized traffic oppose the idea. The city Public Works Committee ultimately made no recommendation on the resolution, which Gonzales amended to say that vehicles should be banned only between Memorial Day weekend in late May and the Monday after the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe in early September, a peak period for tourism and Plaza activities.

The resolution, which had been endorsed by two other city committees, now heads to the city Finance Committee and the Mayor’s Committee on Disability before consideration by the full City Council. “This resolution is not ready,” said City Councilor Ron Trujillo, who chairs the Public Works Committee.

The other four councilors on the panel — Patti Bushee, Bill Dimas, Carmichael Dominguez and Chris Rivera — unanimously agreed, raising questions about who could benefit from the closure without hurting those who use the Plaza the most. Gonzales, who did not attend the committee meeting, issued a statement that said he would continue to strive to work with the community. “I’d like to thank the councilors and the public for sharing their opinions on the Plaza,” he said. “I am committed to working with the Council to find a compromise and consider ways to make the Plaza more safe and inviting for everyone.”

In announcing his proposal earlier this month, Gonzales had couched it as part of a “People to the Plaza” initiative aimed at making the historic square more inviting. But the idea surprised some residents who complained that the newly elected mayor hadn’t publicly discussed the proposal.
Earlier experiments with blocking streets adjoining the Plaza park have ended with all but the Palace Avenue side of the Plaza being reopened to traffic.

The idea of again barricading other streets has drawn mixed responses. Some downtown merchants have expressed fear that business would shrivel. Some local residents have said blocking traffic makes the Plaza seem more tourist-oriented rather than a place also easily accessed and visited by locals. But others have praised the measure as a way to make it safer and easier for pedestrians to walk through the Plaza. Those sentiments were again on display during Monday’s public hearing at City Hall, where seats in the City Council Chamber were mostly filled.

Gloria Mendoza, a self-proclaimed community activist, said she has twice opposed closing the Plaza to motorized traffic and continues to do so. She said bikers and walkers already have plenty of trails to use around town, and that the Plaza should belong to locals. “We don’t have any business closing the Plaza,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with driving. You know I want you to let us feel that we own part of the city here downtown.”

Clarice Coffey, who gives tours in an open-sided vehicle, said closing the Plaza would “cripple the tram tours.” Coffey said older tourists, above 56, are typical of visitors to the city and that they often have mobility issues. “They wouldn’t be able to get the Plaza otherwise,” she said. However, Vince Kadlubek, an artist who is part of local collective Meow Wolf, said he conducted a straw poll via Facebook and found that 56 of his peers, with ages from 18-40, were in favor of closing the Plaza to motorists. Only three, he said, were against closing the Plaza.

“It’s a lopsided issue when you talk to anyone under the age of 40,” he said. “I am a local, too. They’re locals also. Our generation is seeing a pull to non-vehicle usage. It’s a symbolic step for us to take.” Leigh Murphy, co-owner of Kernels’ Kettle Corn stand on the Plaza, said the mayor’s proposal ought to be given a chance to succeed or fail. She said she believes the measure would hurt her business, but there may be a lot to gain on a community level. Murphy also said she sees a lot of animosity between motorists and pedestrians, and that banning vehicles might calm the area.
“We don’t know what it would be like,” Murphy said.She did say she was sympathetic to tour operators and that some aspects of the plan need to be “fleshed out” better.

Others called for a compromise, such as leaving the Plaza open during the day, and closing it to traffic during summer evenings or special events such as the free Santa Fe Bandstand musical performances. City officials do close the Plaza during special events such as the Spanish Market, the Indian Market and the Pancakes on Plaza event on July 4.

The resolution has been scheduled for consideration by the full City Council at its May 14 meeting, which would allow a traffic ban to take effect May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day. However, Monday’s committee discussion left some doubt about how the debate will play out. City officials in early 1984 did close two streets next to the Plaza, but they were reopened a few months later. In 1990, the city used flower boxes to block streets during the tourist season, but people complained that the boxes weren’t aesthetically pleasing. So the city tried concrete planters to limit traffic. The barriers were later removed.

And in 2002, a couple of accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles on streets near the Plaza eventually led a city committee to recommend the current year-round closing of Palace Avenue in front of the Palace of the Governors while keeping the other streets available to motorized traffic.
Contact Chris Quintana at 986-3093 or