How the Horse Began to Define the West

A segment on “60 Minutes” recently had a feature on the deluge of wild horses around the country. What a difference a few centuries make. When Christopher Columbus returned from his first voyage sponsored by Spain he reported to Queen Isabell and King Ferdinand that there was no domesticated lifestock in the new world. Starting with his second expediton, the horses, cattle, sheep, even the chickens arrived from Spain. Most people associate the American Indian in the west with horses, when in fact, the equine factor begins with Spanish colonization. I always point out this historical tidbit when I’m doing my historical walking tour of Santa Fe.

Horsehead Image in the Sange de Cristo Mountains

The photo above is a natural occuring image of a horse’s head in the snow taken by my dear friend Robert H. Martin. When WWII began Robert H. Martin joined the army and became the photographer for the Zenith Radio Corporation, one of the major defense contractors for the government. In 1946 he became the official photographer of this nation’s top-secret nuclear projects at Los Alamos. The Chicago native married Manuelita Ortiz y Pino, a member of one of New Mexico’s most prominent Hispanic families.

Documenting Santa Fe History

In addition to his work at the Lab, Robert H. Martin spent decades documenting Santa Fe culture and history. He retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1970s when he came down with cancer from the radiation that he had been exposed to during his work there. At that time, Martin was believed to be one of the longest survivors of radiation-exposed cancer. He died in Santa Fe in 2004 at the age of 83. Rober H. Martin was buried with his beloved camera.

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