ECHO OF THE ALHAMBRA
Santa Fe abounds with real and fictive links to Latin America and Spain, perhaps none more colorful than the city’s Scottish Rite Center, built in 1912 in a Moorish Revival style. The center echoes the Alhambra, the palace of the medieval Islamic emirs of what is now the Spanish city of Santa Fe de la Vega, Granada. The main entrance of the Scottish Rite Center was modeled on the Alhambra’s Gate of Justice. And the center’s pink hue was intended to remind viewers of the Alhambra’s buildings at sunset. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30, a group of musicians and friends of the Scottish Rite Center (463 Paseo de Peralta) gather to present a multimedia celebration, “Alhambra-Scottish Rite: From Granada to Santa Fe.” The event celebrates the history of the Scottish Rite Center as well as the historical and cultural links the structure represents.
This fall, historians submitted a thorough report on the Scottish Rite Center to the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), housed at the Library of Congress. The HABS survey is a public and scholarly recognition of the building’s significance in the history of architecture in New Mexico and the greater U.S. In the course of the survey, measured drawings were prepared, new photography was commissioned, and historical records were scrutinized, resulting in many new discoveries, including the unfortunate fact that the light fixtures in the center’s ballroom were not made by Tiffany & Co. While the entire report will eventually be posted online at the Library of Congress, the curious are invited to the center for the Dec. 30 event to hear a lecture about the building’s history by local Scottish Rite mason George Watson.
The lecture is followed by a short documentary produced in Spain about Washington Irving’s contribution to preserving the Alhambra. Irving was in Spain in the late 1820s working on a biography of Christopher Columbus. After visiting the Alhambra, he lived there for one summer, and his stay informed his 1832 Tales of the Alhambra. The work directly contributed to the preservation of the Alhambra by Spanish authorities. It also put the palace on the radar of Euro-American writers, artists, and architects. Indeed, as the event’s organizers assert, it is possible that there would be no Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe had it not been for Irving.
The celebration includes musical performances by Fernando Barros Lirola and Carlos Lomas, the former a native of Granada, and the latter a fixture of Santa Fe’s flamenco music scene. Barros Lirola, who runs a flamenco school in Santa Fe, selected musical compositions that reflect the three cultures that contributed to Granada’s culture before 1492, when the last Islamic ruler, Muhammad XII, surrendered to the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. That event is commemorated in the large 1915 painting by Chicago artist J.G. Vysekel that hangs over the proscenium in the Scottish Rite Center theater. Music from the medieval Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions will be performed, including works composed for the oud, an archaic stringed instrument that was common in Spain up to the late 1400s, when Muslims and Jews were expelled from the country or forced to convert to Catholicism.
People today have to travel to North Africa and elsewhere in the Islamic world, not to Spain, to hear oud music. But leave it to New Mexico to attract oud musicians, in the persons of the Iraqi Rahim AlHaj and Carlos Lomas. Santa Fe de la Vega is one of the sister cities of our Santa Fe, and that cultural historical fellowship can be traced in the Scottish Rite’s architecture as well as in the sights and sounds to be experienced at this event. Get tickets ($20) at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2475193 or at the door. — Khristaan D. Villela
Panoramic view of the Alhambra, Santa Fe de la Vega, Granada