"Adopting one child won't change the world: but for that child, the world will change."
State 26: New Mexico - January 3, 2017
We woke up in a Love's Truck Stop in Albuquerque having had a restless night sleep. Truck stops are typically very noisy places, but it was our only choice last night! We were awoken all night long from the sound of slamming truck doors and screeching air breaks! This was all behind us now. Today we drive 64 miles Northeast to Santa Fe to tour the New Mexico Capitol building.
Santa Fe is a very old city predating America's existence. Although the city was founded in 1610 by Spanish colonists, for thousands of years Native Americans built villages on the land where Santa Fe currently stands. Santa Fe is the oldest city in New Mexico, and the oldest state capitol city in the United States. Today 69,204 people call this city home. Santa Fe's main industries are tourism, government, and a thriving arts culture. Unfortunately, the aforementioned does not equate to a well-diversified economy.
The most noteworthy aspect of Santa Fe, is the single architectural theme throughout the city. In 1912, the city imposed a unified building style in the Spanish Pueblo Revival consisting of: exposed beams that extrude through supporting walls, rain spouts cut into walls around flat roofs, and earth-toned adobe exteriors reproduced in stucco. All buildings within Santa Fe were required to be built using these elements. As we drove into Santa Fe, we felt as if we had entered another country. I have never seen so much stucco in my entire life! Even the Walmart and McDonald's were stucco!!! Please see the pictures below.
While I am a huge fan of historical preservation, Santa Fe has taken the concept too far. The city is so stuck in the past it is failing to keep up with the times. Despite the states ample sun, there was not one solar panel to be found. Literally all of the food was still being cooked with lard, which made it impossible for us to eat out anywhere. Historical preservation is usually a good trait, but not when it slowly turns your city into a dinosaur.
After parking Rosie, we made our way to the New Mexico Capitol Statehouse. The external construction of the capitol was one of the most unusual we have encountered on our cross country trip. There was no external rotunda, the entire building was cylindrical shaped, covered in stucco, and a massive depiction of the seal of New Mexico hung above the main entrance. Albeit atypical of past capitols, I am an outside-of-the-box thinker, and appreciate others who possess this trait. With an open mind and excitement for what lays ahead, I entered the front doors to the New Mexico Capitol! There was no search waiting for us at the front doors, which is always very welcoming! However, there were no guided tours of the capitol, which is always very unwelcoming! We began our self-guided tour in the capitol's central room where the flags of the 39 counties of New Mexico hung high from the 4th floor balcony. A very large depiction of the state seal was inlayed in marble on the floor of the central room. Please see the pictures below.
Surrounding the New Mexico state seal on the floor of the central room was a large Zia Sun Symbol. The Zia are Native Americans indigenous to the land we now know as New Mexico. To the Zia, the sun is a sacred symbol, which they depict on pottery and in ceremonies as a hollow red circle. The number 4 is also sacred to the Zia, and is represented by 4 rays radiating from the 4 sides of the red circle. Each of the 4 groupings has a significant meaning. The four points of the compass: North, South, East and West. The four seasons of the year: spring, summer, autumn and winter. The four periods of each day: morning, noon, evening and night. The four seasons of life: childhood, youth, middle years and old age. The Zia Sun Symbol is on the New Mexico license plate, and on the state flag.
Next, we viewed both the Senate and House via their respective observation balconies, and both chambers were largely unremarkable. One noteworthy feature was a group picture spanning the entire back wall of each balcony of every elected Senate and House dating back to 1912 when New Mexico became a state. Please see the pictures below.
One thing we instantly noticed setting the New Mexico Capitol apart from all others was the magnificent works of art throughout the entire building. The capitol features over 650 pieces of original art in every medium and genre imaginable. As I wandered around the building for over 3 hours, I actually forgot I was in a state capitol building. I literally felt as if I was in an art gallery! We meandered through all 4 floors, and actually in and out of offices where people were hard at work! Everyone welcomed us in, and was very friendly! Please see the pictures below for a selection of the art from the New Mexico Capitol.
Our favorite piece of art on display depicted a taxidermy buffalo head created with everyday household items. The mane of the buffalo was paint brushes, the hair on its head was old rolls of film, and it had fishing spools and plastic spoons for eyes! It must have taken a very creative person with a huge junk draw to come up with this clever design! Please see the pictures below!
From the receptionist at the front door to the Governor's secretary, this was a capitol which actually embraced an open door policy! We literally just walked right through the front door of the governor’s office, and had a nice chat with the secretary who invited us to wander around! The current governor of New Mexico; Susana Martinez, is not only the first female Governor of New Mexico, she is also the first female Hispanic Governor in the United States! In 2013, Governor Martinez was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world! What an inspirational woman!
I have toured over 22 Governor's offices on my cross country trip thus far, and most feature wood paneling, a state flag, and paintings of past Governors hanging on the wall. Adoring the walls of the New Mexico Governor’s office was pictures of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. However, these kids were not models or movie stars. They were the children of the New Mexico Foster Care System, and were searching for a family to call their own. Please see the pictures below.
To understand how these kids came to grace the wall of the state’s highest office, we must first look back 17 years into the past. Back in 2001, it was Diane Granito's first day of work at the New Mexico Children Youth and Family Department. As she poured through the stacks of case files on her desk of children waiting for adoption, she made a very disturbing discovery. The quality of the children’s photos were deplorable! Granito felt at the very least these children deserved to have a picture with a better quality than that of a driver’s license photo! Granito, reached out to a local professional photographer and adoptive mother; Cathy Maier, whom agreed to donate her time and her talents to a cause very near to her heart. They would first photograph older children and sibling groups who are the most difficult to place in adoptive families. Soon thereafter, Granito’s office was full of professional pictures of the children, which now needed a venue to be displayed. One day while walking through downtown Santa Fe, Granito walked into an art gallery to discuss displaying the foster children’s pictures. Soon thereafter, the photos were featured in a special exhibit called “The Heart Gallery”. In the 17 years since this first exhibit, “The Heart Gallery” has been featured in People, the NY Times, The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, World News Tonight, and the Today Show. Today, over 100 Heart Galleries have opened in 48 states, including the office of the New Mexico Governor, and over 5,000 children have finally found their forever homes! It is for the above reasons, Diane Granito, founder of “The Heart Gallery of America”, was chosen as the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Person" for New Mexico.
Seeing the pictures of these eager little faces who want nothing more than a loving home tears at my heart strings. My mother Mary, pictured to the left, was a foster child after her birth mom died when she was just a toddler. When my grandmother took my mom in, she was a sad, lonely, sick, skinny, and malnourished little girl, who was lovingly called “Pinky” by those who cared for her. My grandmother couldn’t have children of her own, and felt very blessed to have this little girl in her life. With a lifetime of love and nurturing, my grandmother raised my mom as her own, and by choice, they lived together their entire lives until my grandmother died at 89 years old. They were inseparable! My grandmother absolutely adored me, and I loved her so very much! I was her “Cookie”, and she was my “Nana”. My mother and I were incredibly blessed to have Nana in our lives. Thank God my grandmother decided to be a foster mom, and that the two of them got to experience such a strong and special bond. This is just one example of how adopting and becoming a foster parent can change a family’s life forever! Diane Granito’s “Heart Gallery” has resulted in thousands of children finding a forever home, and the positive impact she has made on the world will never be fully understood! I encourage all my readers to consider adopting, or becoming a foster parent. Please see the pictures below of "Nana", "Pinky", and "Cookie".
After departing the New Mexico Capitol, we drove across town to a Walmart where we slept for the night.