__People have been creating plazas in New Mexico for over a thousand years. With its three distinct cultural traditions, the state may well have the most varied set of community spaces in the United States.
__As early as 700
AD, ancestors of Pueblo Indians built compact villages with community
spaces, and, by 1000, included clearly defined plazas. Spanish colonists
brought their own urban design tradition, and from the founding of
Santa Fe in 1610 to La Union in 1882, and in dozens of settlements
between, they laid out plazas as the beginning point of new
communities. Even in Anglo-American towns that clustered along
commercial Main Streets after the arrival of the railroad in 1879,
civic boosters avidly developed courthouse squares like those of the
South, Midwest and Plains states.
__Each of these
three town planning traditions include both a public space form and
particular building types that shape the uses of those spaces. Terraced
residential blocks and ceremonial kivas mark Pueblo plazas as
primarily domestic and religious spaces. A prominently located church
and surrounding courtyard houses imparted a similar character to the
earliest Spanish and Mexican communities, while business blocks
surrounding a courthouse and its square reflected the growing
importance of commerce and government in Anglo-American.
__Each cultural tradition, likewise, reinforced community identity with characteristic celebrations. Ritual dances to ensure bountiful crops and hunting at the Pueblos. Religious processions asserting Catholic beliefs, and folk dramas recalling local conquest history in Spanish plazas. Fourth of July and Old Timers Day parades around Anglo courthouse squares celebrating national and local identities.
__As people sought to establish and sustain their communities, these ensembles of open space, special building types, and community celebrations provided a vessel into which they could pour their energies, aspirations and shared dreams.