Thinking of coming to Santa Fe this fall for the 12th Annual Santa Fe Film Festival? Visitors are surprised to learn New Mexico has been host to over 150 feature films, and they don’t all star John Wayne, either. In fact, the history of motion pictures in New Mexico dates to the very beginning.

Oh sure, Thomas Edison made a movie in New Mexico, in 1898, but New Mexico film tourism goes back before the invention of the camera. I’m talking about the beginning of this country.

Rewind to when Francisco Velasquez de Coronado became New Mexico’s first tourist. When he visited Pecos Pueblo, it was one of the largest settlements in North America north of Mexico. Its history is waiting for you to explore at Pecos National Historic Park. There, you will see architecture of early civilization, artifacts left behind by the Spanish explorers and soldiers of a nearby Civil War battle, plus loads of extraordinary relics from lives of prehistoric people.

So what does this have to do with movies in New Mexico? Movies were in a fetal stage of development in places exactly like Pecos Pueblo, which housed many kivas. These were among the earliest movie theater prototypes. A kiva is an underground sanctuary where rituals are performed to the sound of drums and chants. Down those dark ladders, stories are told to bring people together, affirm their values, and show them a collective point of view. Hmm. Put the story on a screen, the soundtrack on some speakers, and presto, it’s a movie.

So, if you do come to Santa Fe this October for the film festival, try to leave some room in your schedule. The cottonwoods and aspens are all aflame that time of year, and check out one of our funky roadside stands bursting with produce and goodies. You might even go so far as to catch a Corn or Elk Dance up at Nambe Pueblo. Then, since you’re halfway there, you could drive through the scenic splendor of Abiquiu where Georgia O’Keeffe gained much inspiration for painting. On your way back to town, might as well have a soak and massage over at Ojo Caliente Hot Springs.

I could spend days designing different excursions, in and around Santa Fe that would provide you firsthand experience of why we are The Land of Enchantment, but rest assured, even if you do none of these things while you’re here, even if you’ve been here before, this place is still going to surprise you. If you just land in Santa Fe, watch a bunch of great films, browse our unique galleries and shops, and eat some unforgettable meals, you’re going to feel our mind-blowing history and culture and a bit of its magic is going to rub off on you.