Historic Route 66 once passed right through the heart of downtown Santa Fe. Often referred to as the “Mother Road,” Route 66 was established in 1926. It began in Chicago and ended in Santa Monica, California. Crossing through New Mexico, the famous roadway introduced the world to Native American and Hispanic culture. The original Route 66 connected with the Old Santa Fe and Pecos Trials that led right into the Santa Fe plaza. It was on this road that people experienced the food, language, music, art, and architecture of Santa Fe as they traveled west. Today, a historic marker indicating the route’s location be found at the corner of Water Street, one block off the Santa Fe plaza.
Santa Fe was later bypassed on Route 66 for the city of Santa Rosa which provided a more direct link through Albuquerque. Some of the New Mexico cities along Route 66 included:
- Santa Fe
- Santa Rosa
- Clines Corners
Tucumcari was the first major stop in New Mexico along Route 66. The city provided a cultural snapshot for the weary road warriors heading west. In restaurants along the route travelers got their first taste of the region’s bountiful chile dishes.
John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, immortalized the lure and lore of Route 66. Droves of humanity passed through Santa Fe as they sought a better life out west. For the people of Santa Fe and other cities in New Mexico Route 66 supplied a steady stream of employment for shop owners, road crews, innkeepers, and others in the service industry. Just as the characters in Steinbeck’s book sought to build a new life, Route 66 provided an avenue for a different life for the people of Santa Fe and New Mexico.