July, 2011 Archives

We just returned from our second trip to New Mexico and third trip to the Southwest in four years.  New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment – is the 5th largest state in square miles and the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S. state.   We stuck to the more populous areas: Santa Fe (with a mere 75,000 residents) and Albuquerque (with half a million residents).    In fact, about ¼ of New Mexico’s population lives in Albuquerque.   They say that New Mexico has more sheep and cattle than people.   They also say that Santa Fe has one of the largest (second largest) concentration of art galleries in North America.  Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is the oldest and highest capital city in the U.S. – high as in 7,000 feet above sea level.   One website boasts that Santa Fe has more than 225 restaurants, 250 art galleries, 70 jewelry shops, 13 museums and one world-famous opera.  Albuquerque, on the other hand, is home to the state’s single largest employer – the University of New Mexico.   Albuquerque – where the high desert abuts the swimming pool.  It was 100+ degrees in Albuquerque.  The hiking trails and parks were closed from Albuquerque to Santa Fe due to the drought and “extreme” fire risk.  We could see long brownish smoke plumes from a forest fire in the distance.  So far, in 2011, Albuquerque has seen less than 2/10 of an inch of rain.

A pit stop on the “Turquoise Trail,” or route 14, a 50-mile highway that connects Santa Fe to Albuquerque.

The Acoma Pueblo is located 60 miles west of Albuquerque off Interstate 40 and about 12 miles from the (Acoma) Sky City Casino. The historic pueblo village is geographically a small part of the reservation. Much of everything else is desert vista with sporadic, magnificent mesas. While we were photographing, the Acoma (sovereign nation) Police paid a visit (with lights flashing). Our permits ($10 each) were checked and we were sternly warned not to step off (literally) the road. Permits were only valid if your feet were firmly planted on pavement and tripods were not allowed.

Acoma Pueblo, also known as "Sky City", was built on top of a 367-foot sandstone mesa. Settled around 1100, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. They say about 50 Acomans live there year round and other Acomans (that still own their ancestral clan homes) return for ceremonies and festivals. The view from the Acoma Pueblo was stunning.

Acoma Pueblo has a guided tour that is (in my opinion) well worth the price of admission. It is lock step and tourists are not allowed to wander off. The village has no electricity or running water. Largely interconnected, multi-layered, added-onto adobe structures make up the central village. The edge of the mesa is lined with brightly colored porta-potties. I can’t help but imagine a teenage prankster employing an irresistible shove to tip over and send his little brother on an unexpected porta-potty bobsled ride down the mesa.