A new statewide mask mandate goes into effect Friday, Aug. 20, across New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is also mandating vaccinations for anyone attending the New Mexico State Fair in September. She urged officials with the upcoming Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to take similar precautions.But reporter Shaun Griswold raised concerns about another iconic New Mexico event -- Santa Fe Indian Market.
It takes place August 21 and 22 and typically draws 150,000 people according to the market organizer, the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA). He’s with a new local outlet from the States Newsroom launching later this month.
SHAUN GRISWOLD: The public health order taking effect on the first day of market, it's significant because it's a quick turnaround to ensure the safety of artists and visitors. And I was wondering if it'll give the state any idea about how to safely have large events as possible precursor to the State Fair and Balloon Fiesta. And then the other thing that was significant to me is that the market brings in artists that are citizens of many sovereign nation who are in close contact with visitors from neighboring states and around the world. So there's this dynamic of bringing communities from different backgrounds together, when we're all still trying to fight this virus at the same point, and some of these tribal communities are doing it at a way that's different, somewhat stricter than where some of these visitors will be coming from.
Tribes in New Mexico have already started to increase protocols and limiting access to their communities. Many require citizens who are routinely in and out for work to have proof of vaccines. How does this affect the market? SWAIA says it brings in artists from more than 220 tribal and First Nation communities across North America. So a lot of it is really going to be dependent on where these artists are from, the guidelines they're receiving from their home communities, and the comfort that they have when determining their risk and in terms of the precautions they've made to alleviate some of the risks that they may be taking.
KUNM: And tourists come from all over the world for this market. Santa Fe is already hopping this week, right? What have you heard from vendors about their concerns this weekend, either about their health or the mask mandate.
GRISWOLD: Artists I've spoken with already had a heightened sense of caution, and many are still choosing to attend market. Some are choosing to scale back public appearances or any plans they may have had outside of the vending space. One told me they were excited about the mask requirement because they had planned to wear one at their booth, but had some anxiety that it could offend some tourists with a different attitude, which could ultimately affect a sale. There's still a hesitation and a concern as to how the response will be from people who are coming in from different places.
KUNM: Is the market a big part of the income for artists and vendors? What kinds of decisions are they facing?
GRISWOLD: SWAIA reports that the market brings in $100 million to the city of Santa Fe. Artists depend heavily on market and events like it in Phoenix, Indianapolis and other cities as their base of income. And some of these events didn't happen last year or moved online. So this year, it's a big time to catch up for people. Artists are put in a position to determine their comfort, risking public health in order to make money. It's tough for some people.
KUNM: You mentioned SWAIA, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts which puts on the market. How is it responding to these concerns?
GRISWOLD: So SWAIA should be given credit for preparing this year's Indian Market to be safe as possible. The new public health order didn't actually change much for event organizers. For the first time, the event is ticketed with designated times for visitors. This was done to assist with contact tracing, and to keep crowds smaller. SWAIA usually admits 800 artists and this year that was cut down to 500 artists. Artists were also given the option to participate in the virtual market if they didn't want to attend in person. They'll have hand washing stations, there'll be vaccine tents and testing stations will be available for any visitors. Most of the events that are typically held indoors will be held outside.
KUNM: Are there any best practices for visitors who come to New Mexico for the market so they can be sure to protect the health of the vendors and the other attendees?
GRISWOLD: It's ultimately about being respectful. People should be vaccinated if possible. If not, wear a mask and don't make anything uncomfortable for the guests and artists. Really respect the way that we respond to the virus in New Mexico. And you know, it might be different, it might be more strict than what some visitors are experiencing at their homes. But this has been the reality for New Mexicans and people who are also sovereign citizens and for the tribes in New Mexico. And for those people who live on tribal lands, some of them have had experiences with stricter protocols than even the state of New Mexico.
KUNM: Is the state planning any additional precautions or contact tracing for tourists?
GRISWOLD: The ticketing system was set up to assist with contact tracing, but it's ultimately going to come down to personal responsibility. If a person gets sick, are they going to report that to the state? Are they going to report it to SWAIA or to their local health service from where they're from? Otherwise, we may not know the full extent of what happens at Indian market this weekend related to COVID.
KUNM: Well, thank you so much, Shaun Griswold for talking with us today.
GRISWOLD: You're very welcome. Thank you