Press: Santa Fe Shopping

by Lesley King
in Frommer's Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 10th Edition

Each time I head out to shop in northern New Mexico, I'm amazed by the number of handcrafts, pieces of art, and artifacts I find. There's a broad range of work, from very traditional Native American crafts and Hispanic folk art to extremely innovative contemporary work. Some call Santa Fe one of the top art markets in the world. Galleries speckle the downtown area, and as an artists' thoroughfare, Canyon Road is preeminent. Still, the greatest concentration of Native American crafts is displayed beneath the portal of the Palace of the Governors.

Any serious arts aficionado should try to attend one or more of the city's great arts festivals -- the Spring Festival of the Arts in May, the Spanish Market in July, The Indian Market in August, and the Fall Festival of the Arts in October.

Fetishes: Gifts of Power - According to Zuni lore, in the early years of human existence, the Sun sent down his two children to assist humans, who were under siege from earthly predators. The Sun's sons shot lightning bolts from their shields and destroyed the predators. For generations, Zunis, traveling across their lands in western New Mexico, have found stones shaped like particular animals. The Zunis believe the stones to be the remains of those long-lost predators, still containing their souls or last breaths.

Today, in many shops in Santa Fe you, too, can pick up a carved animal figure, called a fetish. According to belief, the owner of the fetish is able to absorb the power of that creature. Many fetishes were long ago used for protection and might in the hunt. Today, a person might carry a bear for health and strength or an eagle for keen perspective. A mole might be placed in a home's foundation for protection from elements underground, a frog buried with crops for fertility and rain, a ram carried in the purse for prosperity. For love, some locals recommend pairs of fetishes -- often foxes or coyotes carved from a single piece of stone.

Many fetishes, arranged with bundles on top and attached with sinew, serve as an offering to the animal spirit that resides within the stone. Fetishes are still carved by many of the pueblos. A good fetish is not necessarily one that is meticulously carved. Some fetishes are barely carved at all, since the original shape of the stone already contains the form of the animal. When you have a sense of the quality and elegance available, decide which animal (and power) suits you best. Native Americans caution, however, that the fetish cannot be expected to impart an attribute you don't already possess. Instead, it will help elicit the power that already resides within you. Good sources for fetishes are Dewey Galleries Limited, 53 Old Santa Fe Trail, second floor (on the plaza; tel. 505/982-8632) and Keshi, 227 Don Gaspar (tel. 505/989-8728). Expect to pay $25 to $50 for a good one.