Market unveils Native American work

Native American jewelry is on display at an outdoor market in Santa Fe, N.M.
Courtesy Photo

If you are looking for a cultural experience or the perfect set of turquoise earrings, there is no better place to visit than the Santa Fe Plaza; home to the Palace of the Governors.  

Thought to be one of the oldest government buildings in the nation, Palace of the Governors has been turned into a museum that also supports the traditional Southwest Native American arts and crafts.  

Rain, snow, winter or summer, when you enter the plaza you will see a whole strip of Native American artists lined up outside the palace with their traditional designed jewelry and pottery arranged perfectly in front of them waiting to be bought.  

For most of these Native American artists, this is a trade that has been taught down from generation to generation. Ceslie Aguilar, from the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico, proudly spoke of her role there.

“This is our job; it is one of the main things we do,” she said.  

Aguilar explained how in order to obtain a spot on the strip to sell your product, your name is pretty much put in a system just like the lottery

“There are around 71 spaces that we can occupy, but there are also a total of around 100 artists looking for a spot,” she said. “You also won’t always be in the same spot. You can end up moving all over.”

From generation to generation, Aguilar said the trade of jewelry making and using other Native American art techniques is passed down. She learned the art of making turquoise jewelry from her aunt and mother, who have been occupying the Palace of the Governors strip for years.

“For me, I have only been here for about three years. My aunt and mom are artists as well. They have been here longer, for about 25 years,” Aguilar said.

One woman, who asked not to be named for fear her Pueblo may get upset with her, talked about where the turquoise from her jewelry came from.  

“Miners bring beautiful cerillos turquoise from Arizona and I handmade it right at home,” she said.  

Back before modern technology, it would take an hour to drill a perfect hole through the stone with the tools her ancestors used. But now she explained, power tools have turned a long process into a quick step.  

This outdoor market is filled with the history and culture these people have long preserved. From beadwork to weaving, the Palace of the Governors continues to support the production of Native American art.


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