Twinned with its name sake in New Mexico in the States, Santa Fe is a small town near Granada in Andalucia. I’ve lost count just how many times I have driven past this rather unassuming as I drive towards Granada.
So, the other day, coming back from a party with friends in Sierra Nevada, we decided to take the exit from the highway and discover the town.
It is considered the ‘Cradle of the Hispanity’, constructed by the Catholic Monarchs, marking their success in the Reconquest of Spain, and also the place where the Monarchs confirmed the finance for Columbus’ voyage that discovered the Americas. These complex contracts, giving Columbus around 10% of the wealth he discovered, are known as the ‘Capitulations’.
This major part of Spanish history is marked each April 17th in Santa Fe.
The town has great potential to be a real visitor treat but the truth is, it has a slightly sad energy. A town, down at heal, lacking in the enthusiasm, self confidence and resources to reach its potential.
Potentially striking period buildings are falling into decay, whilst ugly modern day architecture encroaches on the historically significant old town and its central plaza. Sadly this is much to do with the economy in southern Spain and the total lack of local consumer demand for high quality bars, restaurants and hotels. The foreign tourist season is too short in this type of small town to sustain the kind of visitor experience you might have in the UK or other advanced economies.
Yet despite these challenges, the town is worth the small detour from the main highway. There is a museum and cultural centre dedicated to the town’s role in the Columbus story of discovery, as well as a permanent collection of art and cultural artefacts relating to Latin America
The neoclassical church of ‘La Encarnacion’, was built on the site of an original mosque is fascinating.
The Sagario Chapel is charming and around the main nave of the church are elaborately decorated confessionals, each topped with crossed keys and mitres.
Like some many places in Andalusia, Santa Fe boasts a regional delicacy, the Pionono.
It’s a rich cake, originally created by Ceferino Isla (honoured with a sculpture in Santa Fé) towards the end of the 19th century. Made with eggs, cinnamon and honey, they make a perfect treat when visiting the town. (The original Andalusian cakes differ considerable from variations in Latin America).