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Museum Hill...and Back to the Plaza

So last time I was nattering on about politics, James McMurtry, and country and western music. It was fascinating. I’m just certain it was. I mean riveting. Okay. Maybe not. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, we were at the La Fonda Hotel. After a longish wait, our Lyft ride appeared and whisked us back to the hotel. We had a quick snack and then went off to bed.

The next morning we got up bright and early. We grabbed breakfast at the hotel and then headed out. We had a goal that day. It was Museum Hill. (1)

What’s that? Ah, so glad you asked. Santa Fe is a city full of museums--art, history, science. Many of these are right downtown, right off the Plaza. But there’s also Museum Hill, which is a collection of museums just South and East of downtown. It’s located on (surprise, surprise) a hill. These are state museums and include the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (, the Museum of International Folk Art (, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian ( Also on the Hill is the Santa Fe Botanical Garden ( and an extensive outdoor sculpture garden.

About the Photos: Several today. First, three of the Alebrijes we saw on the hill. Playful, colorful, and fun. Second, another of Martha at the concert...but without the blue neck-thing was supposed to keep us cool. But, well, didn’t quite.

All of these are decidedly worth a visit, and I suggest you give them a try when you’re in Santa Fe. Though, be warned, they can be a bit overwhelming. You may not be able to see them in a single day or even a single visit. We try to hit one or at most two museums each time we’re in Santa Fe.

On this particular trip, we managed the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, which is probably our favorite. There were several exhibitions on tap that day. The two I remember were “Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery,” and “ReVOlution,” a collection of the work of Virgil Ortiz, whose work (here quoting the museum’s webpage) “...combines his Pueblo culture with sci-fi, fantasy, and apocalyptic themes.” The museum goes on to add, “Ortiz is known for mixing Star Wars-like themes with historic events such as the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.”(2)

Ortiz’s work is, indeed, a wild combination. I actually first encountered him back when we were still living in Albuquerque. He had an exhibition at the Museum of Art in Old Town. Actually, truth be told, I preferred his exhibit there, in Albuquerque to the one here in Santa Fe. It seemed more, well, challenging. For instance, it very prominently featured images from his series, “Blind Archers,” which are quite impressive.(3) Still, maybe that’s just me. Others would probably prefer the works on display that day on the Hill. (4)

After that we stepped outside. The Museum of International Folk Art was having a special display of “Alebrijes” on the patio. I had never heard of such things, but I’ve learned since that they “are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures.” (5)

And a remarkable crew they were, too. We saw things that were sort of like dragons, things that were sort of like mutant wonder-dogs, things that were sort of like giant super-bunnies. I will post some pictures of them in this piece. (I do wish we’d had the grandkids along. They would have loved the beasties.)

After that, we thought about going for lunch. There’s a cafe on the Hill and we usually go there when we’re visiting The Hill. We’ve had rather good meals there.

Today, though, was not fated to go well for us. We walked over to the cafe and presented ourselves at the desk. No one was there. And no one came for ages. We looked at the menus and it seemed that the prices were higher than we recalled them being. Martha, whose Scottish blood was coming to the fore, looked aghast at some of the numbers in front of the decimal points.

Finally, a man appeared and asked what we wanted. I said we wanted to be seated, please. Two for lunch if possible. He looked us up and down, “Really?” he said, disbelieving. Finally, he took us back to a table and dumped two menus in front of us.

We waited. And waited. And waited. No server came to ask us about what we might want to eat or drink. Several did go past us. But none stopped by for a chummy visit. We did get a few examples of The Look. You know. The Look you get when someone has decided that you’re a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, peasant from East Toepicker, Wyoming. I know it well. Seen it often.

Finally, we threw in the towel. We knew when we were beaten. We quietly picked up our stuff and headed out with empty stomachs and heavy hearts.

Ah well. Maybe it was just the day. Maybe they were extra busy. Or maybe I was looking particularly plebeian that day. And churlish. Maybe even extra churlish. With a side order of loutish on the half shell. Maybe next time will be fine. But...until then...(6)

We took our petite bourgeoise selves back down the Hill and drove back to the Plaza for lunch.

More to come.


1. The Hill has its own webpage here: Also useful is The Santa Fe Insider’s “The Insider's Guide to Visiting Museum Hill” which you can find here:

3. For example, “Virgil Ortiz: Find Your Warrior Spirit. Special Edition Fashion Feature: Blind Archers by Virgil Ortiz,” on the Indigenous Goddess Gang website:

4. Okay, full disclosure. It probably doesn’t hurt matters that the Blind Archers include beautiful indigenous women in tight clothing. But, hey. Give me a break. I’m a 67 year old straight guy. Ya gotta take the good along with the bad.

6. Actually, truth be told, I’m guessing that Class really did play a role in our reception. The rest of the crowd was, shall we say, a bit higher on the haute couture continuum than we were. Both Santa Fe residents and outsiders will tell you that this is rather par for the course. The city attracts its share of celebs and the wealthy and so things can get complicated when the various populations mix. But that’s fine. As my father used to say, I’ve been kicked out of better places than this.

Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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