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About Santa Fe

 About Santa Fe

With a population of 70,000, Santa Fe, which means Holy Faith in Spanish, is New Mexico’s fourth largest city. Residents are primarily Hispanic, Anglo and Native American people.

Situated at 7,000 feet in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe is the highest and oldest capital in the U.S. Founded between 1607 and 1610, it’s America’s second oldest city.

In 1912, New Mexico officially achieved statehood. Today, its unique offerings of art, culture and ancient traditions make it a world-class destination, drawing more than 1 million visitors each year.

In 2005, Santa Fe became the first U.S. city to be chosen by UNESCO as a Creative City, one of only nine cities in the world to hold this designation. This creativity is at the heart of the community and is a core value for most local businesses.


Over its 400 plus year history, Santa Fe has been a commercial center, a place where goods and services were made and traded. Following sporadic trade with settlements such as French New Orleans and Spanish Texas, the town really opened up in 1821, when the first trading caravans completed the 900 mile journey from Missouri. In 1821 New Spain declared independence from Spain, and the new nation officially sanctioned commerce, exchanging the riches of the Mexican silver mines for cattle and wagon loads of textiles, clothing, buckles, buttons, tools, implements and liquor. The six decades of the Santa Fe Trail cemented Santa Fe’s reputation as the commercial capital at Mexico’s northern border, and following New Mexico’s incorporation as a US State in 1911, Santa Fe became the state capital.

Today Santa Fe is the sum of its powerful history, with many families tracing their roots back several generations, a small-town atmosphere and an international reputation for artistic and architectural sophistication.

Santa Fe’s history may be divided into six periods:

Preconquest and Founding
(circa 1050 to 1607)

Santa Fe’s site was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages with founding dates from between 1050 to 1150. Most archaeologists agree that these sites were abandoned 200 years before the Spanish arrived. There is little evidence of their remains in Santa Fe today.

The “Kingdom of New Mexico” was first claimed for the Spanish Crown by the conquistador Don Francisco Vasques de Coronado in 1540, 67 years before the founding of Santa Fe. Coronado and his men also discovered the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains on their New Mexico expedition.

Don Juan de Onate became the first Governor-General of New Mexico and established his capital in 1598 at San Juan Pueblo, 25 miles north of Santa Fe. When Onate retired, Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed Governor-General in 1609. One year later, he had moved the capital to present day Santa Fe.

Settlement Revolt & Reconquest
(1607 to 1692)

For a period of 70 years beginning in the early 17th century, Spanish soldiers and officials, as well as Franciscan missionaries, sought to subjugate and convert the Pueblo Indians of the region. The indigenous population at the time was close to 100,000 people, who spoke nine basic languages and lived in an estimated 70 multi-storied adobe towns (pueblos), many of which exist today. In 1680, Pueblo Indians revolted against the estimated 2,500 Spanish colonists in New Mexico, killing 400 of them and driving the rest back into Mexico. The conquering Pueblos sacked Santa Fe and burned most of the buildings, except the Palace of the Governors. Pueblo Indians occupied Santa Fe until 1692, when Don Diego de Vargas reconquered the region and entered the capital city after a bloodless siege.

Established Spanish Empire
(1692 to 1821)

Santa Fe grew and prospered as a city. Spanish authorities and missionaries – under pressure from constant raids by nomadic Indians and often bloody wars with the Comanches, Apaches and Navajos-formed an alliance with Pueblo Indians and maintained a successful religious and civil policy of peaceful coexistence. The Spanish policy of closed empire also heavily influenced the lives of most Santa Feans during these years as trade was restricted to Americans, British and French.

The Mexican Period
(1821 to 1846)

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Santa Fe became the capital of the province of New Mexico. The Spanish policy of closed empire ended, and American trappers and traders moved into the region. William Becknell opened the l,000-mile-long Santa Fe Trail, leaving from Franklin, Missouri, with 21 men and a pack train of goods. In those days, aggressive Yankeetraders used Santa Fe’s Plaza as a stock corral. Americans found Santa Fe and New Mexico not as exotic as they’d thought. One traveler called the region the “Siberia of the Mexican Republic.”

For a brief period in 1837, northern New Mexico farmers rebelled against Mexican rule, killed the provincial governor in what has been called the Chimayó Rebellion (named after a village north of Santa Fe) and occupied the capital. The insurrectionists were soon defeated, however, and three years later, Santa Fe was peaceful enough to see the first planting of cottonwood trees around the Plaza.

Territorial Period
(1846 to 1912)

On August 18, 1846, in the early period of the Mexican American War, an American army general, Stephen Watts Kearny, took Santa Fe and raised the American flag over the Plaza. Two years later, Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceding New Mexico and California to the United States.

In 1851, Jean B. Lamy arrived in Santa Fe. Eighteen years later, he began construction of the Saint Francis Cathedral. Archbishop Lamy is the model for the leading character in Willa Cather’s book, “Death Comes for the Archbishop.”

For a few days in March 1863, the Confederate flag of General Henry Sibley flew over Santa Fe, until he was defeated by Union troops. With the arrival of the telegraph in 1868 and the coming of the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880, Santa Fe and New Mexico underwent an economic revolution. Corruption in government, however, accompanied the growth, and President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Lew Wallace as a territorial governor to “clean up New Mexico.” Wallace did such a good job that Billy the Kid threatened to come up to Santa Fe and kill him. Thankfully, Billy failed and Wallace went on to finish his novel, “Ben Hur,” while territorial Governor.

(1912 to present)

When New Mexico gained statehood in 1912, many people were drawn to Santa Fe’s dry climate as a cure for tuberculosis. The Museum of New Mexico had opened in 1909, and by 1917, its Museum of Fine Arts was built. The state museum’s emphasis on local history and native culture did much to reinforce Santa Fe’s image as an “exotic” city.

Throughout Santa Fe’s long and varied history of conquest and frontier violence, the town has also been the region’s seat of culture and civilization. Inhabitants have left a legacy of architecture and city planning that today makes Santa Fe the most significant historic city in the American West.

In 1926, the Old Santa Fe Association was established, in the words of its bylaws, “to preserve and maintain the ancient landmarks, historical structures and traditions of Old Santa Fe, to guide its growth and development in such a way as to sacrifice as little as possible of that unique charm born of age, tradition and environment, which are the priceless assets and heritage of Old Santa Fe.”

Today, Santa Fe is recognized as one of the most intriguing urban environments in the nation, due largely to the city’s preservation of historic buildings and a modern zoning code, passed in 1958, that mandates the city’s distinctive Spanish-Pueblo style of architecture, based on the adobe (mud and straw) and wood construction of the past. Also preserved are the traditions of the city’s rich cultural heritage which helps make Santa Fe one of the country’s most diverse and fascinating places to visit.


Many residents say the climate is so good they could never live anywhere else. With an average of 300 sunny days each year, Santa Fe has four distinct seasons, each enjoyable in its own way.

High in the desert mountains of the southwest Santa Fe boasts low humidity and pleasant warm summer days with refreshingly cool summer nights. Winters are beautiful with snow storms punctuated by sunny days. The colors of fall are bright with blooming chamisa and asters, yellow aspens and sweet, crisp air. In spring, the fruit trees bloom, and daffodils, tulips and forsythia sprout all over town.

With low humidity, it’s always comfortable to walk around town or to hike the trails close by. Average high temperatures go from 44 degrees in January to 86 degrees in July. Lows vary from 15 in January to 54 in June.

Quality of Life

Many residents say the climate is so good they could never live anywhere else. With an average of 300 sunny days each year, Santa Fe has four distinct seasons, each enjoyable in its own way.

High in the desert mountains of the southwest Santa Fe boasts low humidity and pleasant warm summer days with refreshingly cool summer nights. Winters are beautiful with snow storms punctuated by sunny days. The colors of fall are bright with blooming chamisa and asters, yellow aspens and sweet, crisp air. In spring, the fruit trees bloom, and daffodils, tulips and forsythia sprout all over town.

With low humidity, it’s always comfortable to walk around town or to hike the trails close by. Average high temperatures go from 44 degrees in January to 86 degrees in July. Lows vary from 15 in January to 54 in June.


Social Characteristics Estimate Percent U.S.
Average household size 2.55 (X) 2.61
Average family size 3.16 (X) 3.20
 Population 25 years and over 99,889     
 High school graduate or higher (X)  84.7  84.5% 
 Bachelor’s degree or higher (X) 38.1  27.4%
 Civilian veterans (civilian population 18 years and over) 11,538  10.3  10.1% 
 Household population  139,657    


Economic Characteristics Estimate Percent U.S.
In labor force (population 16 years and over) 78,507 67.7 65.2%
Mean travel time to work in minutes (County) 21.6 (X) 25.3
Median household income (in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars) 53,911 (X) 52,175
Median family income (in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars) 65,822 (X) 63,211
Per capita income (in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars) 31,501 (X) 27,466


Housing Characteristics Estimate Percent U.S.
Total housing units 63,603    
Occupied housing units 54,671 86.0 88.0%
Owner-occupied housing units 39,474 72.2 67.1%
Renter-occupied housing units 15,197 27.8 32.9%
Vacant housing units 8,932 14.0 12.0%
Owner-occupied homes 39,474    
Median value (dollars) 296,500 (X) 192,400


ACS Demographic Estimates Estimate Percent U.S.
Total population 142,318    
Male 70,174 49.3 49.3%
Female 72,144 50.7 50.7%
Median age (years) 40.9 (X) 36.7%
Under 5 years 8,233 5.8 6.9%
18 years and over 112,111 78.8 75.5%
65 years and over 18,779 13.2 12.6%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2008 American Community Survey

Property Taxes

Santa Fe County is separated into four school/tax districts. The school districts are identified as: Moriarty, Santa Fe, Pojoaque, and Espanola. If you live in the Cities of Santa Fe and Espanola, you pay a mill rate to fund municipal operational and debt service of  the  school districts.

All properties in Santa Fe County are taxed at a third of their market value. For example, a single residence assessed at $150,000 has a net taxable value of $50,000. Certain exemptions maybe deducted from the taxable value. Please visit “ for more information

Average property tax for a $150,000 ($50,000 taxable) home $980
Average monthly electricity cost for a 2,000 sq. ft. home $66
Average monthly gas cost for a 2,000 sq. ft home $117.00
Average auto insurance for one car $850
Average one-way commute (City) 16.9 minutes


Elementary Schools

The Santa Fe Public Schools system has a total enrollment of 13,775 students, making it the third largest district in the state.  The district comprises 20 elementary schools, 4 junior high schools, 3 senior high schools and three charter schools. Average teacher salary in the district is $40,512.

In addition to public schools, the city is home to over thirty private schools, from pre-school through 12th grade. Prominent high schools include Santa Fe Preparatory School, St Michael’s High School, Santa Fe Waldorf, Santa Fe Girls School and Desert Academy.

Colleges and Universities

The roots of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design grow directly from New Mexico’s oldest chartered college, St. Michael’s College, which was founded in 1859 and granted a charter for higher education in 1874. Saint Michael’s College changed its name to the College of Santa Fe in 1966 and enrolled its first female students in that same year. On August 30, 2010, the name of the college was changed to Santa Fe University of Art and Design. The new name reflects the mission and vision of the school while also recognizing and upholding the reputation of the college, students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

Programs at the university combine practical experience with core theory, empowering students to develop a thorough understanding of their professional aspirations in contemporary music, creative writing, theater, art, graphic design, moving image arts (film/video), photography, business, and education.

This approach, a key part of the university’s interdisciplinary curriculum, puts students on the path to becoming well-rounded, creative problem-solving professional.

St. John’s College, which has a sister campus in Annapolis MD, has a curriculum based around the “Great Books”. St. John’s College is a co-educational, four year liberal arts college known for its distinctive “great books” curriculum. The course of study is based on the reading, study, and discussion of the most important books of the Western tradition. Students study from the classics of literature, philosophy, theology, psychology, political science, economics, history, mathematics, laboratory sciences, and music. St. John’s College is a community dedicated to liberal education. Such education seeks to free men and women from the tyrannies of unexamined opinions and inherited prejudices.

The Institute of American Indian Arts serves the Native American community across the US, with representation from over 140 different tribes. It offers associates and bachelor’s degree programs. IAIA Museum in downtown Santa Fe is home to the 7,000-piece National Collection of Contemporary Indian Art.

Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) provides the region with affordable high quality education and training and works with companies to develop specialized workforce training and education programs they may require. The Santa Fe office of the New Mexico Small Business Development Centeris also located on the campus.

Courses are presented through a variety of delivery methods and time formats, this includes basic skill programs; certificates and technical degrees; associate degrees with four year transfer potential, and personal enrichment courses both for credit and not for credit.

Each semester SFCC has around 5,400 students enrolled in the various associate degree programs or certificate or professional credential programs.

SFCC is also home to the Sustainable Technology Center which delivers education in sustainability, renewable energies technologies, environmental technologies, and certifications for energy raters. The Center is part of the national Advanced Technology Center network to develop and deliver curriculum in smart grid technology and green building construction.The college is also developing curriculum to add sustainability across all our educational programs including science, math, English, and history.

Southwestern College, devoted to the study of mental health, offers master’s degrees in counseling, counseling with a concentration in grief and loss, and art therapy.

Southwest Acupuncture College offers a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine.

Although not a college per se, the Santa Fe Institute “is devoted to creating a new kind of scientific research community, one emphasizing multi-disciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems.” It has an active campus and faculty, building on its worldwide reputation as the home of complexity science.






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