Friday, December 20, 2019

What's in a Name?

(Originally written February 2019)
Santa Fe and Albuquerque both made TripAdvisor’s list of “20 of the Top Places to Visit In the U.S. In 2019.”  Just sayin!

Seeking some New England comfort food we celebrated Super Bowl Sunday with "Grandma Lynch's Boston Baked Beans" – recipe supplied by our dear Wethersfield friend Roberta in the Wethersfield Family Heritage Cookbook, which Marsha assisting in compiling and editing for the historical society.  Thankfully the game – aka 3 1/2 hours of our life we will never get back – effectively ended in time for us watch the latest episode of Victoria on PBS

Well, Punxsutawney Phil isn't the only one reawakening this time of year.  In Santa Fe the lecturers have also come out of their winter hibernation.  

This past Tuesday UNM professor & historian Dr. Richard Melzer spoke about his latest book, "Captain Maximiliano Luna, the Rough Riders, and New Mexico Statehood."  One-third of Teddy Roosevelt's 1,000 Rough Riders came from the Territory of New Mexico, which was having difficulty becoming a state partially because of doubts about the loyalty of its Hispanic residents to this country.  Maximiliano Luna was a Captain in the NM National Guard who volunteered to accompany TR in Cuba to help prove the patriotism of NMers.  He was unjustly accused of cowardice in battle, so later re-upped for the U.S. war in the Philippines where he died heroically.  Two side notes: (1) the Rough Rider's horses were color-coded by division to facilitate re-organizing during battle. (2) Maximiliano's father and uncle were successful sheep ranchers and leading Republican politicians.  All of the sheep had names – and they all voted.

Thursday we heard author David Morrell – Santa Fe resident, Penn State alumnus, tenured Professor of Literature at Univ. of Iowa, and creator of "Rambo First Blood" speaking about Thomas De Quincey – 19th century English essayist, best known for his "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater."  De Qunicey took the drug regularly for over fifty years in the form of laudanum – widely used by the Victorians as a narcotic painkiller.   
De Quincey invented the concept of the subconscious; created the modern true-crime genre; and wrote the first modern memoir among other books. Morrell has penned four historical-fiction-mystery novels featuring the Englishman and his daughter as the crime solvers – all of which we both have enjoyed reading.  The talk was put on by Santa Fe non-profit called Renesan – a place for former academics to continue to do research and share their knowledge.

Both speakers were amusing, entertaining, easy to understand, and informative. Far different than the profs we had in our collegiate days.  Maybe presentation techniques have gotten better over the years.
What's in a Name?

Stories of a town’s past can sometimes be gleaned from the names of its thoroughfares.  Witness “Hang Dog Lane” in our former hometown of Wethersfield, Connecticut.  The legend goes that back in colonial times, some of the original New England patriots hung the mutilated body of a local British sympathizer's pet pooch from a tree in that area.
It is pretty hard to top that one.  But some of the avenues in our new place of residence do have their own interesting etymological history – beginning from back when Santa Fe, New Mexico was pretty much a one-street village.
That singular roadway was The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro ("Royal Road of the Interior Land") – a 1,600-mile long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico that passed through Santa Fe.  Travelers on the trail entered the city via any of three routes (one of which likely ran across our housing community of Rancho Viejo) and continued northwest toward town where the route narrowed to street-width becoming the “Calle Real” into the Santa Fe Plaza.
After winning independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico renamed the highway “Camino Nacional”  – removing its reference to the rejected European monarch.  However, hardcore Santa Fe old-timers continued to use the original name into the early 20th century.
In the mid 1800s, after the its takeover of New Mexico, the U.S. in turn retitled el Nacional as Agua Fria Street – a name borrowed from the small community just south of Santa Fe.  A late 20th century movement to return to the original historic name failed after opposition by local residents and businessmen.  The new Anglo occupiers also renamed Calle Real as San Francisco Street in honor of Santa Fe's patron, St. Francis.
In spite of the Camino Real’s possible cart tracks on its land, our community’s “Rancho Viejo” name itself does not seem to have any local history attached to it.   However one of its streets, Chili Line Road in the Windmill Ridge section, traces its etymology back to the ambitious plans of Denver and Rio Grande Railway founder William J. Palmer for a 2,400-mile north-south narrow gauge train line from Denver to Mexico City.
“The Chili Line” was the nickname given to the 125-mile portion of the route that connected Antonito, Colorado, to Santa Fe  – referring to both its cargo of New Mexico chile peppers, and to the eating habits of its patrons at both ends of the line.  (“Chile” is the Spanish and New Mexican spelling. However, “chili” is far more common – e.g. in Colorado.  Hence the chiles were transported on the Chili Line.)  This section of railway was particularly important to the subsistence farmers of Northern New Mexico who were now able to get their goods to more markets, quicker.
The line ran from January 1887 to September 1941, and in spite of local outcry and national media attention was completely dismantled in 1942.   In naming the street in the early 2000s the developers of Rancho Viejo averred that the RR’s route could have passed through (or at least close to) that portion of the community – although most railroad historians disagree.
So, what’s in a name?  A Santa Fe County ordinance mandates that any “driveway with four or more separate addresses or plots of land” must have a street name, which if possible, the residents get to select. And, other than no repeats, there are few actual rules.
As a result “Muscle Car Lane” sits on the outskirts of town, just up the road from “Camino Del Mi Angel.”  Jessica Henninger’s father gave her the choice of naming their road, which she described as being “12 miles into fields.”  She decided on “Goa Way.”  “People just don’t believe you when you give them your address or directions.”
Brilliant Sky Drive itself, where we now reside, seems to have no explanation other than being a pretty accurate description of the normal celestial conditions above it.  Theories put forth by some of you that the venue was thusly entitled in honor of renowned Polish pastry chef Radoslaw Brilliantski have proven to have little basis in fact.
Nonetheless we thought that, in the spirit of the above resident-generated appellations, another even more accurate moniker might be in order for our home street.  Given the frequency with which cats and small dogs are reported missing in on our somewhat rural community, we were thinking maybe “Calle Coyote Café.”

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