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buttonmapJust WHERE are Jemez Mountains and why get married there? The Jemez Mountains are a very large volcanic caldera, one of the biggest on Earth as a matter of fact. Well, THAT, in addition to the Rio Grande Rift zone, may be attractive to a geologist. But why go get married THERE? Perhaps because New Mexico is one of the most unique and remarkable areas of the United States. Perhaps because New Mexico has everything (all right, almost everything) one could wish for. See for yourself: distinct cultural diversity, Native American architecture, arts and crafts, classical music festivals, deserts, mesas and canyons, snow-capped mountains, skiing, hiking, biking …and, of course - hot food! We consider Santa Fe, along with New Orleans and Prague, to be among the most architecturally unique cities in the world.

buttonSandia Peak thumbnailWe considered two scenarios for getting married. It was either going to be a ceremony in the Czech Republic in a medieval castle with knights in armor and sword battles, or an indian ceremony in the American Southwest. For a number of (mainly logistical reasons), we decided to elope to New Mexico. Our wedding took three days and two separate ceremonies: one civil one (to take care of the necessary papers), and a quasi-Anasazi ritual-filled ceremony two days later.
      Could anyone wish for a better wedding hall backdrop than the 10,378-foot (3164 meter) Sandia Peak in the background?

buttonSanta Fe mountainsMany people are surprised when they learn that New Mexico is such a skiing paradise. Santa Fe is just south of the 36th parallel. That corresponds to the Straits of Gibraltar in Europe, or to northern Iraq in Asia. (Southern Spain is not exactly known as a skiing hotspot. Likewise, nobody goes to ski in Saddam's backyard.) However, Santa Fe is nearly 7,000 feet (2100 meters) high; higher than the 1601-meter Snezka, the tallest mountain in the Czech Republic. The Sandia and Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of the Rio Grande reach over 11,000 feet. The Jemez Mountains west of the Rio Grande are about the same.
Sandia tramway      Sandia Peak sports the world's longest aerial tramway, which spans the 4,000-foot vertical ascent to its summit. From the top are 11,000 square miles of panoramic views across the Rio Grande Valley, south to the mountains rising from the plains of New Mexico and west to Arizona. Every year, almost ten and a half feet (three and a quarter meters!) of snow blanket the Sandia Mountains from December to March.
      Sitting 7,000 feet high, Santa Fe reaches for the desert sun and clear blue skies. Just above, the 12,000 foot mountain peaks circle this high desert city. The Santa Fe Ski Area's base is at 10,350 feet (3155 meters). One starts skiing at the top of the mountain another 1650 feet higher.

buttonJemez State MonumentIn addition to its striking rugged beauty, New Mexico is also a remarkable cultural Mecca, especially in the Santa Fe-Albuquerque area. Consider the rich Native American heritage mixed with Hispanic and Western cultures. One such example is the Towa pueblo and the Spanish mission ruins at the Jemez State Monument near Jemez Springs. Six hundred years ago, the Jemez people built villages in the narrow mountain valley and on the tops of the steep, sculptured mesas, naming one valley village "Giusewa" for the many hot springs in the area. In the 17th century, the peace was interrupted when the Catholic mission was built in Giusewa during Spain's colonization of New Mexico. (An interesting historical parallel is that the Jemez people were screwed out of their land by the Spanish Conquistadors roughly at the same time the Czechs got their backsides kicked by the Germans in the Battle of the White Mountain in 1648 at the end of the Thirty Year War.) In time, the people abandoned the site, and religious activities became centered at what is now Jemez Pueblo. The massive ruins of the church of San Jose de los Jemez are among the most impressive in the Southwest. (Above photograph c Massimo Cassulini, 1993.)

buttonPalace of the Governors thumbnailThe Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe was built in 1610. Santa Fe has been the seat of government since. It has witnessed first-hand much of New Mexico's colorful history. As the oldest public building in the United States, the Palace is the history museum of the State of New Mexico.
      Close to Santa Fe in the spectacular Frijoles Canyon, cut deep into the slopes of the Jemez Volcano, Bandelier National Monument is the site of 12th Century Indian cliff dwellings and surface villages. The Tsankawi Section of the Monument, a large unexcavated ruin on a high mesa, has miles of self-guiding trails leading to cave structures and many interesting petroglyphs (rock carvings).
      20th century history also left profound marks on New Mexico - chiefly the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project, the Trinity Test (the first explosion of an atomic bomb), and Operation Crossroads (the 1946 atomic bomb tests in the Bikini Atoll) all have roots in the Santa Fe - Albuquerque area. Among many others, Oppenheimer, Fermi and Einstein worked here.

buttonGeorgia OKeefeBut not only nuclear war shaped New Mexico of the 20th century. Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams worked here. Born in 1887, Georgia O'Keeffe made her first visit to Santa Fe in 1917 and lived and worked full-time in New Mexico from 1949 until her death in 1986. In the vanguard of American modernist painting, she was a pioneer both as a figurative artist and as an early proponent of abstraction. She felt a special affinity to the vast, austere landscape of the Southwest and explored the essence of her chosen subjects through a subtle balance of poetic allusion, intense color, and linear precision. In 1924, O'Keeffe married the photographer and modern art world impresario, Alfred Stieglitz, and counted artists such as Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Paul Strand among her friends and colleagues. O'Keeffe moved from her principal home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico to Santa Fe several years before her death in 1986 at age 98. Her studio in Abiquiu, less than 50 miles from the O'Keeffe Museum, is operated by The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation.








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Last Updated on February 24, 1999
Photographs by Ron Costell, Radim and Lisa Kolarsky
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