Thursday, May 26, 2016

Relations Come to Visit from Way Out West

We've had a few folks over to visit since we moved to New Mexico full-time some four-five years ago. Not a lot, to be sure, but enough to keep things interesting for them and for us.

The past few days, we've been hosting/enjoying the company of Ms. Ché's cousin and her husband from Carson City, Nevada. It's opened our eyes somewhat to our own place in this Land of Enchantment, and it's also reminded us of how much of interest there is to explore, and how the time just flies.

The only places we've been with these most recent visitors are Taos and Santa Fe, showing some of the sights, eating, walking around yakking. One of the things I'm grateful for is that I can walk and actually keep up most of the time. A year or so ago I couldn't have done that due to sciatica, and a few months ago, I wouldn't have wanted to due to the pain and aggravation of RA. Thanks be, I can get around pretty well for a gimpy old geezer, and medication has been effective enough keep me from having massive amounts of pain even after a full day of clamoring about.

We started by going up to Taos the day before yesterday. There was a time I hated going to Taos, because I felt I couldn't breathe there. Well, that time has passed and I actually enjoy it quite a bit now  -- as long as it isn't too full of tourists. And movie stars. And war criminals like Donald Rumsfeld.

We went out to the Rio Grand Gorge Bridge first... It's one of Ms Ché's favorite sights in New Mexico, and we hadn't been there for a while, and we had not actually gone out on the bridge previously.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos, NM. Clickage will embiggen. (Wikimedia Commons)

Well, we did this time and -- oh my. The Rio Grande River flows about 600 feet below in a deep-deep cleft in the plateau under Taos Mountain on which the town of Taos and the Pueblo are situated some ten miles away or so.

You hardly expect the gorge is there until you come upon it, and then it takes your breath away. It's much smaller and less varied than the Grand Canyon, but because you're so close to it -- in fact, you can walk right over it on the Bridge -- it feels almost as stunning and in some ways is more exciting.

Vertigo is a definite hazard -- as is suicide. How many people have thrown themselves from the bridge in the fifty or so years it's been there is something I don't know, but it must be quite a few given the number of padlocks memorializing the dead which have been attached the bridge along its entire length. In fact, when the bridge was renovated a few years ago, it was suggested that barriers be put up to keep people from jumping off. That wasn't done, but suicide hotlines were installed at each of the viewing platforms to help talk down some of the potential jumpers.

The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed every minute there. But we had to leave to go visit the Pueblo. Ms. Ché and I had never been to the Pueblo of Taos, the international heritage site of the room blocks beneath the sacred mountain, the oldest continuously occupied village in North America.

Of course we were familiar with it from pictures and stories from way back, but being there and hearing the stories from our very-well-spoken and informed guide was the experience of a lifetime. We stayed only a couple of hours, but those hours were rich and full, not just with sight-seeing but with a definite sense of shared heritage and humanity.

One thing I was particularly struck by were the ruins of the original San Geronimo church beside the Pueblo. I knew the story of what had happened there in 1847, but seeing it for myself, surrounded as it is by the graves of countless Indians massacred by US militia in revenge for the assassination of Charles Bent, appointed governor of the recently conquered New Mexico Territory, was a moving experience.

(Curteich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone) Vintage postcard depicting the ruins of an old Indian Mission, Taos Pueblo. The back of the postcard has this caption: "The Mission of San Geronimo, built in 1635 by the Franciscan Fathers, was constantly in service under this order until destroyed in 1847 by Col. Sterling Price, who shelled it during the Taos Indian uprising and massacre."
Perhaps 150 were killed in the bombardment of the church -- mostly old men and women and children who'd taken refuge there when the troops came to the Pueblo on a "punitive expedition" after Bent's killing. Another 200 or so rebels and Taosenos were killed in the foothills of Taos Mountan where they'd run off to escape what would certainly be a massacre. Another dozen or so were captured and hanged in the Taos Plaza pour encouragé les autres. It was a bloody mess that still (of course) resonates on the Pueblo, and those who know the history of what happened are taken aback by the violence and horror of it all. But then, Donald Rumsfeld had a vacation time share in Taos, and I imagine he relished the history of what happened in 1847.

We were planning to go to the Taos Art Museum and the Harwood, but time flew the way it does, and after we had a few snacks and looked around the Pueblo for a while, we headed back to town and a brief visit to the Mable Dodge Luhan house where Ms Ché had attended a writers workshop a couple of years ago and then drove back to Santa Fe for dinner at Harry's Roadhouse.

It was more than a full day.

Yesterday, we "did" Santa Fe, starting at the campus of IAIA where Ms. Ché is an Honored Elder and a full-time student. We ran into and yakked for quite a while with some of her friends and with a fellow from Haskell there for a educational conference. He was fascinated with the campus and the whole framework of the IAIA concept and experience. It struck him as very different from the Haskell experience. But their histories are very different, too.

We then went to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture where I was able to introduce our guests to the director, Della Warrior -- who had previously been president of IAIA. We talked a bit about some of the challenges of mounting the current Lloyd Kiva New exhibit and how the Cherokee Nation essentially ignored it -- despite the fact that New, a co-founder of the Institute of American Indian Art, was a very prominent and at one time very well-known Cherokee.

The exhibits at MIAC were almost overwhelming for our guests, and basically we only had time to see about half of what they show -- we skipped the Turquoise, Water and Sky exhibit  altogether.

We had to get to the New Mexico Museum of Art downtown, to check out their exhibits. Then it was off to the Dan Namingha Gallery and then the Allan Houser Gallery where we yakked for quite a while with David Rettig, the general factotum of the Gallery and the Allan Houser art park -- and the keeper of the legacy of the artist.

Finally, it was off for some ice cream and then... home.

Today, our guests are off to Bandalier Monument and then they say they'll be coming by our place in the afternoon. So. What fun.

What we've all discovered is that there is way too much to see and do in New Mexico in a brief visit of a few days. It would take much more time....

We've been exploring New Mexico for over 30 years, and we've barely scratched the surface ourselves.

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