Sunday, February 21, 2010

Follow the Sante Fe Trail. From Voice of America.


Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.

An Example of Adobe Architecture.
VOICE TWO: And I'm Steve Ember. This week on our program, we take you to a city in the American Southwest: Santa Fe, New Mexico.



We begin at the Santa Fe Trail, or what remains of it. The ground still shows the path cut deep into the earth by the wheels of thousands of wagons. The Santa Fe Trail began in the state of Missouri, the nineteenth century gateway to the wild and largely unexplored West. The trail ended about one thousand two hundred kilometers away, in Santa Fe.

Map of The Sante Fe Trail

Wagons traveled the Santa Fe Trail from eighteen twenty-two until a railroad replaced it in eighteen seventy-nine. No one kept a total. But records from eighteen fifty-eight show that as many as one thousand eight hundred wagons made the trip that year.


Wagon Wheel Traces

The Santa Fe Trail was an important international trade route. It carried goods south into Mexico and north into the United States. But traders were not the only ones who traveled it.

Settlers, government officials, hunters, gold seekers, soldiers and American Indians all used the trail. So did storekeepers, hotel workers, lawyers, blacksmiths -- all the people needed to expand the young nation. They found places to live and work along the trail.

The National Park Service says that in eighteen twenty-two, trade along the Santa Fe Trail totaled fifteen thousand dollars. By eighteen sixty, it was more than three million. Today that would be worth fifty-three million dollars.


The Santa Fe Trail dates back to eighteen twenty-one. A businessman named William Becknell believed he could earn a lot of money by moving trade goods from Missouri to Santa Fe. He was right.

He began his first trip in September of eighteen twenty-one. He carried his goods on the backs on mules. He reached the center of Santa Fe in November. The next year he used wagons so he could carry more goods to sell.

Eighteen twenty-one was also an important year in the history of Mexico. That was the year Mexicans got their independence after years of revolt against Spanish rule. Spain had protected Mexico's borders with laws barring trade with the United States. With the coming of Mexican independence, the Santa Fe Trail became the major trade link between the two countries.

Diego Rivera's Mural of Mexican Independence


American Indians have lived in the Southwest for thousands of years. The area surrounding the Santa Fe Trail included the hunting grounds of the Cheyenne, the Kiowa, the Comanche, the Arapaho and the Apache. It was also the homeland of the Osage, the Kaw, the Ute and the Pueblo Indians.

Early relations between the Indians and the settlers moving West were mostly peaceful. But misunderstandings and conflicting values led to violence as more people came. Mexican and American troops rode with the wagons to provide protection.

Wagon Train Mural


Wagon trains -- groups of wagons -- rode in four lines across the land when they passed through dangerous country. If attacked, the wagons could quickly form a circle for defense.

An average wagon train included twenty-five to thirty-five wagons pulled by oxen. They traveled about twenty-four kilometers a day. The trip in each direction could take fifty days or more.

Mules were faster. For example, in eighteen fifty-seven a stagecoach pulled by six mules took twenty to twenty-five days to travel from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe. The distance was one thousand two hundred kilometers. Later, a stagecoach could make the trip in thirteen to fourteen days by moving day and night and changing animals often.

Whichever kind of animal pulled the wagons, moving along the Santa Fe Trail was generally unexciting. Travelers mostly had to deal with mud, dust, insects and heat. But there was the danger not just of attacks but also floods, fires, winds and storms.



One result of the continued expansion of United States territory was the Mexican-American war. It began in eighteen forty-six. A force known as the Army of the West used the Santa Fe Trail to protect American traders. It also used the trail to take control of an area that is now New Mexico and part of California.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American war in eighteen forty-eight. It gave the United States nearly all of what is today the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

The government built a series of bases in the New Mexico territory to protect the settlers and goods moving along the Santa Fe Trail. The largest was Fort Union, about one hundred twenty kilometers from Santa Fe.


The area of the Santa Fe Trail around Fort Union was also involved in the American Civil War. By eighteen-sixty-two, the trail was the main supply line for Union forces in the Southwest.

Confederate forces moved into New Mexico from Texas. They wanted to seize the territory and Fort Union in an effort to find paths to the Pacific Ocean and to the gold fields of Colorado. But they never reached the fort.

Union forces defeated them on the Santa Fe Trail at Glorietta Pass in New Mexico. The battle secured control of the supply line for Union forces. It also ended Civil War activity in the Southwest.

One of the ruins at Fort UnionVOICE TWO:

Today, Fort Union is preserved by the National Park Service as an outdoor museum on the Santa Fe Trail. Visitors can explore the ruins of the buildings and the ruts made by wagons. And they can follow the path of the trail over a modern highway. A stone marker shows the spot where the Santa Fe Trail ended in the city's historic central plaza.

New Mexico became the forty-seventh state in January of nineteen twelve. But Santa Fe has a longer history of serving as a capital city than any of the other capitals of the fifty states.


Santa Fe was the capital of the Spanish kingdom of New Mexico beginning in sixteen ten. It was the capital of the province of Nuevo Mexico when Mexico became independent. And it was the capital of the New Mexico territory before the territory became a state.

The seat of government in Santa Fe for the Spanish, the Mexicans and the American territory was a building called the Palace of the Governors.

The Palace of the Governors on the central plaza is the oldest continually occupied public building in the country. Today it houses the state history museum. Local Indians sell jewelry and other handmade goods along the front of the building.

Most of the buildings in Santa Fe are low and earth colored, a mixture of Spanish and native styles. These buildings are made of adobe brick. Adobe is sun-dried earth and straw.



Santa Fe means "Holy Faith" in Spanish. All around is mountains and desert. The city is more than two thousand meters above sea level, near the southern Rocky Mountains in northern New Mexico. Magazines in recent years have listed Santa Fe among the best places to live in the United States.

Santa Fe is known especially for art. More than two hundred fifty galleries and dealers make it one of the largest art markets in the country. In two thousand five Santa Fe was named a UNESCO Creative City -- the first American city to get that honor.

City officials estimate the population at seventy thousand. The United States Census Bureau says two percent are American Indian and about half are Hispanic or Latino.

The two biggest employers in the area are government and the hotel and food service industry.


Each year more than one million people visit Santa Fe. But, like many places affected by the recession, the numbers were down in two thousand eight. A city report says economic activity last year totaled almost three billion dollars, a four percent decrease from two thousand seven.

The report says spending remains flat or in decline in the local economy. A spokesman for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Steve Lewis, says economic activity last month was down five percent from February of last year. He says hotels have been reporting cancellations, which is rare for Santa Fe.


Santa Fe is preparing to celebrate its four hundredth anniversary. Sixteen ten was when it became the capital of Spanish New Mexico. Activities will start this September over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Three nights of concerts are planned. Leaders from Spain, Mexico and the United States have been invited, along with American Indian leaders.

The celebration will continue through two thousand ten. Organizers say they need all that time to include all that needs to be remembered about the history of Santa Fe.



Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.


And I'm Steve Ember. Be sure to join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

This Video from You Tube sees the Sante Fe Trail as ultimately leading to an exchange of three cultures: Spanish-Mexico, Native American, and European. Sante Fe itself is a meeting ground for these three cultures.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Maya Lin's Works Are Her Answer to the Beauty of the Natural World, From Voice of America.


I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the work of the American artist and building designer Maya Lin. She is best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. which was completed in nineteen eighty-two. Throughout her career, Lin's monuments, buildings, and sculptures have been influenced by the natural world.

Her art also expresses her interest in environmental activism. This spring, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. opened an exhibit called "Systematic Landscapes." This interesting show features some of Maya Lin's recent works.


Maya Lin's 2006 work "2 x 4 Landscape"

The first large sculpture that greets visitors to the exhibit "Systematic Landscapes" is very surprising. A huge form that looks like a hill or wave takes up an entire room of the museum. The work is called "2 x 4 Landscape." It is made of more than fifty thousand pieces of cut blocks of wood. The highest point of the softly curved hill measures about three meters tall, while the lowest point is only a few centimeters thick. Visitors can explore the work from three sides. The sculpture looks like it would be fun to walk on.


At first it might seem very unusual to see a natural form like a hill inside a museum. But this surprise is part of Maya Lin's aim. Her work explores how people experience landscape in a time of increased technological influence and environmental awareness.


"Water Line"
is another sculpture that takes up an entire room. It is a line drawing made out of aluminum wire that looks like a wavy net floating in mid-air. The lines represent a mountainous underwater area in the Atlantic Ocean.

Maya Lin worked with ocean scientists to develop a three dimensional image of this part of the ocean. Then, she recreated that image in a smaller sculptural form. The very top of the wire drawing represents the only part of the ocean landscape that can be seen on the surface of the water: It is Bouvet Island, one of the most isolated islands in the world.

From Maya Lin's "Atlas Landscapes"

But not all of Lin's sculptures are huge. In one room, visitors can see a series of works called "Atlas Landscapes". For this series, Maya Lin turned a series of map books into sculptures. She carefully cut into each page of the book to create small canyons and formations.

Her series called "Bodies of Water" is like an artistic geography lesson. These works are also about unseen underwater landscapes. Maya Lin cut out the shapes of three bodies of water using thin layers of wood.

One work is done in the shape of the Caspian Sea, another in the shape of the Black Sea, and the third takes the form of the Red Sea. The many layers of wood in each sculpture become thinner towards its base, or the area that relates to the deepest part of the sea.

Another series called "Fractured Landscapes" looks like drawings of rivers and streams. But these drawings were made by pressing paper against broken sheets of glass covered in ink.

Maya Lin has also made a sculpture for the United States Embassy in Beijing, China. Her "Pin River-Yangtze" is made of about thirty thousand small metal pins stuck into the wall. The many pins take the shape of one of the longest rivers in the world.

Pin River-Yangtze


Maya Lin was born in Athens, Ohio in nineteen fifty-nine. Her parents had each fled China in the late nineteen forties. They met and married while living in the United States. Later, both parents taught at Ohio University. Her mother, Julia, was a literature professor. Her father, Henry, was a ceramist, an artist who makes objects out of clay. As a child, Maya would play with clay in her father's studio. She was also influenced by the wooded hills near her home as well as by local Native American burial hills.


Maya Lin studied building design at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. At the age of twenty-one, she won a national contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Her design was very different from other war memorials. It was very modern, simple, and expressive. Her design is made up of two long black granite pieces that meet at an angle. The wall is set below ground level. Cut into the wall are the names of the more than fifty-eight thousand Americans dead or missing in the Vietnam War. Maya Lin purposely called for the granite to be shiny. Visitors experience a link with the monument by seeing their reflection in the stone.

A view of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Maya Lin has said that death is a private and personal matter. She says this monument is a quiet place for people to come to terms with loss caused by the war. Many people had criticized early plans for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They thought it was not heroic. But once it was built, family members of the dead, Vietnam veterans, and the general public accepted its beauty and strong emotion. The memorial has become one of the most visited places in Washington.



Maya Lin has designed many other memorials. These structures combine elements of nature such as earth and water with written language to express meaning. Her Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama was completed in nineteen eighty-nine.

Civil Rights Memorial
The black granite sculpture has a circular surface like a table. A thin layer of water runs over this surface. It is cut with a list of important events marking the civil rights movement of the nineteen sixties.


Lin made another "water table" sculpture out of green granite for an outdoor area at Yale University. The surface is cut with numbers representing how many women attended Yale through history. Completed in nineteen ninety-three, the sculpture honors the many women who have studied there.

Maya Lin has said that her work exists on the boundaries -- somewhere between science and art, art and architecture, public and private, east and west. She says that she is always trying to find a balance between these opposing forces to find a place where opposites meet.



Maya Lin has also designed many buildings. In nineteen ninety-nine, the Children's Defense Fund hired her to build a library on a farm it owns in the state of Tennessee. By modernizing an old farm building, she skillfully combined old and new building traditions. She also created an environmentally friendly design. This organization later hired Miz Lin to design its religious center. The building looks like an artist's version of a wooden boat.

Maya Lin also designed a private home known as "The Box House" in Telluride, Colorado. Her aim was to make as simplified a form as possible -- a wooden box. This very modern building was made to give its owners a beautiful view of the nearby forest and mountains.

The Box House

Maya Lin's "Ecliptic" outdoor area in Grand Rapids, Michigan features water in its three states: liquid, gas and solid. The park has two fountains, one with flowing water and another that releases a fine mist. An ice skating rink has lights built into the floor. The small lights make up the exact pattern of stars in the sky on the day the park opened in two thousand one.


Lin's design for the new Museum of Chinese in America building in New York City is to open this summer. She has said that the design for the building is modern. But the inside space of the museum will have links to traditional Chinese architecture. She says that this is the first building she has worked on that is related to the subject of China. Lin says this project means a great deal to her. And she says it is important to her that her two daughters know about that part of their background.


One of Maya Lin's most recent memorials, "What is Missing?", is to be completed later this year. The project rejects the idea of memorials as a single unmoving object. This memorial will exist in several different places and forms at the same time. The aim of "What is Missing?" is to bring attention to the number of animals and places that have either disappeared or will disappear in our lifetime. The memorial is to exist as a video project, a Web site and as a book.


Maya Lin has said that she does not believe that anything she creates can compare to the beauty of the natural world. But she says her works are her answer to that beauty. Visitors who see her work can enjoy experiencing both the beauty of art and the natural environment.



This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Faith Lapidus. To see pictures of Maya Lin's work, visit our Web site, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. Maya Lin is best known for designing ___________________________ .
a. a landscape made of blocks of wood
b. a pair of fountains in Michigan
c. the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
d. a three dimensional image of an ocean landscape.

2. For a series of sculptures called "_______________", Maya Lin cut into each page of a map book to create small canyons and formations
a. Atlas Landscapes
b. Geography Lessons
c. Fractured Landscapes
d. Pin-River Yangtze.

3. A sculpture Maya Lin made for an embassy in China is named after the ______________ River.
a. Amazon
b. Mississippi
d. Yangtze

4. In her work, Maya Lin mostly shows an appreciation for _____________.
a. urban landscape
b. a variety of different colors
c.the natural world
d. political realities

5. Maya Lin's design for the Veteran's Memorial was criticized because people felt it wasn't _____________ enough
a. tall
b. heroic
d. complex.

6. Maya Lin designed a house in Colorado called "___________ ". Its design was very simple and it gave residents a fine view of hills and forests.
a. The Chinese Museum
b. The Ecliptic House
c.The Box House
d. The Black Granite House.

7. As a sculptor, Maya Lin was probably most influenced at a young age by ______________ who was a ceramist.
a. her father
b. her Yale Art Professor
c.her mother
d. civil rights leader, Martin Luther King.

8. In addition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Lin created another memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. This memorial, made with black granite that had a thin surface of water flowing over it, was known as the ______________
a. Civil Rights
b. Civil War
c.Chinese Immigrant
d. Tea Party

9. Another name for this article could be " ______________ ."
a. Maya Lin's Chinese Landscapes
b. The Technique of Creating Large Sculptures
c.Versatile Sculptor, Maya Lin
d. A Fantastic Journey Through Bizarre Landscapes

10. This article is mainly about ________________ .
a. the Civil Rights and Vietnam Veterans Memorials
b. an inspired sculptor with great compassion and understanding of people and the natural world.
c.the daughter of two refugees from Communist China
d. the art of landscape culture and its origins in the art department at Yale University

More about Maya Lin at Wikipedia: click here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Vatican Museums" from Voice of America.


I'm Barbara Klein.


And I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. The Vatican in Rome, Italy, is the world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. But the Vatican is more than a religious center. Over the centuries, church leaders gathered priceless objects including cloth textiles, books, documents, paintings and sculptures. Come with us now as we join the millions of people every year who explore the Vatican Museums.



The doors to the Vatican Museums by Cecco Bonanotte

As you enter the Vatican Museums, you pass through large sculptured doors. When the light shines just the right way, bronze squares in the doors seem to catch fire. The artist Cecco Bonanotte created the doors in nineteen ninety-nine. He produced them for the opening celebration of the new entrance to the Vatican Museums in two thousand. But other works here are much older.

There are containers with beautiful artwork created more than two thousand years ago. Statues and paintings show heroes of ancient Troy and Athens. Paintings and cloth textiles reproduce the world of the sixteenth century.

Sometimes experts remove objects to repair and restore them. And some objects may be loaned to other museums. But there are always many interesting and beautiful objects to see at the Vatican Museums.


The Gallery of the Maps

It is almost impossible to visit all the Vatican collections in one day. There are more than twenty museums and public art centers. Today we tell about a few of the most interesting works of art.

The Gallery of the Maps is a good place to start. Forty wall areas contain maps of the world as Italians believed it looked like in the sixteenth century. Ignazio Danti of Perugia painted the maps in the fifteen hundreds.


Another museum, the Gallery of the Tapestries tells picture stories in wall hangings. These tapestries are made of the materials silk and wool. They were designed from drawings by the artist Raphael and possibly his students. Works by Raphael deeply influenced painters of the Italian Renaissance. The period represented a rebirth of artistic development. There are more works by Raphael in other Vatican areas.

But at this moment, a border tapestry by Flemish artist Pieter van Aelst picturing the four seasons captures your interest.

The artist represents spring with two young people in love. A woman holding wheat is summer. Van Aelst sees fall as small boys climbing grape vines. The image of a seated person almost fully hidden by clothing captures the cold and loneliness of winter.



Roman Catholic Church leaders established several of the Vatican Museums during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For example, Pope Gregory the Sixteenth established the Vatican Egyptian Museum in eighteen thirty-nine. Objects created long ago fill its nine rooms. The artworks were found in and around Rome. They had been brought from Egypt.

The first room in the Egyptian museum welcomes visitors to the world of the pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt. You see a statue of Ramses the Second. He sits on a throne, a king's chair. He looks very much like a powerful ruler.

Ramses the Second


A very tall statue of the mother of Ramses looks over another room in the Egyptian museum.


Mars of Todi dates to about 2400 years ago

The Vatican Museums also exhibit objects from an ancient land called Etruria. This area is now in northern Italy. Most historians believe that Etruscan society reached its height more than two thousand five hundred years ago. The Etruscans created fine art with terra cotta, or baked clay.

Pope Gregory the Sixteenth established the Etruscan Museum in eighteen thirty-seven. The collection includes containers called vases and objects of bronze and gold. It also includes statues of full human bodies and sculptures of heads. In addition, you can see objects that added beauty to the Etruscan religious centers, called temples. For example, a horse with wings once guarded a temple. The horse still shows some of the colors the artist created so long ago: red, black and yellow.



Augustus of Prima Porta

Next we visit the Chiaramonti Museum, established by Pope Pius the Seventh Chiaramonti. This museum contains almost one thousand ancient works of art, including statues of Roman gods. We see a statue called "Augustus of Prima Porta." The Roman ruler holds his right arm high in the air. Art experts say the Emperor Augustus was making a victory sign. Or, the statue may have once held a weapon. The statue was found in eighteen sixty-three in the ancient home of Livia, the wife of Augustus.


Now we are in the Pio-Clementine Museum, founded by Pope Clement the Fourteenth in seventeen seventy. It is filled with Greek and Roman sculptures. One interesting statue is the Laocoon.

The Laocoon

The subject of the statue is from the "Aeneid" by Virgil, the most famous poet of ancient Rome. The poem is about the ancient war between Greece and Troy. The sculpture shows the Trojan priest Laocoon and his sons being crushed to death by sea snakes. The artists have made the terrible pain of the dying man and boys look very real.


Some visitors believe the works of Raphael are the most beautiful in the Vatican Museums. In fifteen-oh-eight, Pope Julius the Second asked Raphael to cover the walls and ceiling of some of the Pope's private living areas.

Raphael's "The School of Athens"

One of Raphael's most famous paintings is "The School of Athens." It shows famous Greek thinkers and scientists. Raphael painted these people teaching and learning around the philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

Some experts say Raphael painted the image of the artist Michelangelo into this work. That may be true. Michelangelo was clearly in Raphael's thoughts at times. In a way, the two men competed. Pope Julius probably understood that the competition incited each man to the height of his greatness.

Julius so liked the work of Raphael that he told the artist to remove earlier paintings in the Pope's living areas. But Raphael understood the value of the work of others. He saved the work of great artists including Perugino.



We have saved the best for last. We enter the official private church of the popes, called the Sistine Chapel. It is the most famous part of the Vatican Museums. Pope Sixtus the Fourth had it built in the fourteen seventies. Major events involving Roman Catholic Church leaders take place in the Sistine Chapel. For example, in April of two thousand five, top church officials held a historic meeting in this center for prayer. They chose a new pope, Benedict the Sixteenth. But the chapel also is home to some of the finest paintings ever created.


Detail showing God's face in Michelangelo's panel "Creation of the Sun and Moon" in the Sistine Chapel

On the side walls are paintings by the greatest Italian artists. But when we enter the Sistine Chapel, we look up to see the most beautiful ceiling in the world. In fifteen-oh-eight, Pope Julius the Second asked Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The result was a series of paintings called "The Creation of the Universe" and the "History of Humanity"

"The Last Judgment."

The ceiling is an artistic wonder.
Michelangelo made more than fifty paintings that show more than three hundred people. The paintings show God creating Adam, the first man. They also show stories from the Christian holy book, the Bible. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling. He painted it while lying on his back.

The inside of the Sistine Chapel

Almost twenty-five years later, Pope Paul the Third asked Michelangelo to paint the wall of the Sistine Chapel above the altar. This is the structure where religious ceremonies are carried out. Between fifteen thirty-six and fifteen forty-one, he painted "The Last Judgment." This huge painting includes three hundred people. Christ is shown as the supreme judge of good and evil. The painting shows some good people rising to heaven. But bad people are condemned.

They are shown falling or being dragged by ugly creatures into hell where they are tortured forever. Some people find this work beautiful. Others find it frightening.

But many people believe that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the "Last Judgment" are the most famous works of art ever created.


Now it is time to come back to the world of the twenty-first century. There are many other wonderful works in the Vatican Museums. But they will still be there on another day, and many days to come.



This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Barbara Klein.


And I'm Steve Ember. Join us next week for another EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.