Nestling in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is the beautiful city of Santa Fe. This noted arts and cultural centre is North America's oldest state capital but bears little resemblance to other seats of government. This is no city of steel and glass. A 1958 ordinance calls for new buildings to be in a Pueblo or Spanish Territorial style, which blends in marvelously with the sun-baked surrounds. Few houses are higher than two storeys which means that the mountain peaks and rolling hills appear to frame the city.
Santa Fe was, for millennia, home to the Native American Pueblos. The coming of the Spanish in the 16th century ushered in centuries of turmoil, which culminated in 1846 with the Mexican-American War and New Mexico becoming a U.S. territory. It finally became the 47th state in 1912. Today, visitors arriving on cheap flights to Santa Fe can expect a city of contrasting influences. The Pueblo, Spanish and Anglo cultures have blended over time to form a rich mosaic that informs the arts, culture and cuisine.
In the central plaza, visitors have the chance to soak up the 400-year-old atmosphere and perhaps pick up some authentic Santa Fe souvenirs. Southwestern furnishings and cowboy hats, Navajo silver and turquoise jewellery are on sale in the high-end boutiques. Testament to Santa Fe's rich artistic heritage are its more than 200 galleries that exhibit and sell museum-quality art. The city's art market is the third largest in the U.S. after New York and Los Angeles. Perhaps most famously, it's the home of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, said to be the only museum in the world dedicated to an internationally known female artist.
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