On the Road in Albuquerque, Part 1

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julie francois via Compfight

We are now on the road to Albuquerque. The bus ride is a long one – eight hours to Amarillo – a stop over of three hours and another five hours to Albuquerque. The time change is kind of confusing. In Texas we were on Central time making it two hours later than California. New Mexico is on mountain time. We had to turn our clocks back – one hour difference!

We arrived in Albuquerque at about 2:30 pm and found a motel near the bus station and the zoo. I am so glad that I planned the maps and tour guides so carefully because we really in each case were close to where we wanted to be. It was too late to go to the zoo so we took a walk to “Old Town”. This is where Albuquerque really started. We walked over and found a charming group of old buildings which now house art galleries and other interesting shops. We walked into one gallery and spoke to the manager. She herself is an artist and she is married to a Navajo Indian. They both have degrees in anthropology and spent twelve years on an Indian Reservation. He wanted to help his people, but four years ago there were no jobs available, so they left. As she said, it is only the older members of the tribe that are keeping up the tradition. The younger members want washing machines, running water and the comforts of life. As a little aside, I find it interesting that today in the year 2015 many of the young American Indians are trying to reclaim their heritage. This memoir as I write was in 1978 the year I went to Louisville for the National Speaker’s convention.

We walked into a Safeway to buy food and as we were walking back down came a deluge – lightning – thunder – the whole bit. As the rain cleared I looked up and could not believe what I saw—three rainbows in the sky- two of which were almost criss-crossing each other! Never in my life had I seen such a scene. The young lady in our hotel told me that this does happen during the month of August. They don’t know whether it is a combination of heat and moisture that does it. I don’t think I have ever seen so many beautiful skies as I have seen here in New Mexico. The cloud formations are simply exquisite.

Incidentally, it was so interesting to see the landscape change as we left Texas and rode into New Mexico. I loved the Texas landscape with its beautiful skies and vast green fields. As we came into New Mexico we were greeted with a different kind of beauty – red sand and rocks resembling Zion National Park and very interesting plateaus that appeared here and there, breaking up the rather stark landscape.

However, I would say we really did not see New Mexico until the next day when we took an all day Gray-line tour from Taos through Santa Fe and covering the hinterlands. I had thought about renting a car but the bus trip for both of us was only $32 for the day. When I figured that renting a car, paying for the gas etc. would cost more than that, $32 was a good deal.

The bus ride covered many things (it was seven hours). We were taken to exquisite back wood areas where I saw scenery that reminded me a little of the beauty of the Salt Lake Canyons that I had seen previously, huge pine trees – gorgeous high mountains, then beautifully manicured farms. We were taken to a fruit farm and what a joy to buy fresh fruit! Fresh fruit is something not too often seen on a bus trip. Potato chips, hot dogs, the typical America junk foods are all you see and although I searched in many of the areas we stayed – very little was available. My mouth literally salivated when I saw fresh plums, peaches and apples. Later as part of the trip we were taken to the biggest pueblo in that area – three miles outside of Taos. It is hard to say how much of the terrible poverty you see there is real and how much a front – possibly as one of our group said “for political purposes” . I have mixed feelings about it because I had been told of the great poverty that remains on the reservations. There are mud huts dating back several hundred years. There are 1,700 people living in these brown mud huts without running water. They take their water from the river and none of it is hot. They bake their bread in round mud mounds as they did many centuries ago.

I bought some of the bread and some little trinkets from them, but the scene really made me depressed when I think of the great wealth that exists in this country and then one sees this terrible poverty. After the pueblo we came into Taos and were allowed two hours to roam the city. Frankly, Taos to me was a disappointment and I found it was also to my husband. He had known about it for many years and we had been told it was an artist’s paradise. To us it was not that, but rather a tourist trap. Nowhere except Kit Carson’s home which did not interest me, did I see anything resembling history. It is true that the houses are all brown adobe and have the look of old times, but everywhere you see commercial art galleries, and many of the artists are not living there at all, but rather in Canada and other places.

Some of the art we saw in the two galleries we visited was beautiful, but because of the enormous competition of so many galleries, both Dan and I felt that there is no way that an artist could make a living. It made both of us sort of depressed and we decided not to return to Taos. We had planned to spend a full day there after the bus ride. I think we were lucky we found out in the tour that it is not for us. I liked Santa Fe very much and decided to return there.

On the tour we also visited the church in Chermoya – the oldest church in New Mexico. It has the fame of Lourdes – many healings, and the earth is supposed to be healing. There is a hole in the ground and I saw people kneel and put their hands in the earth. All around the church were crutches thrown away after the healings. It was interesting to hear the priest tell us that he did not believe the earth had anything to do with the healings, but rather it was the faith of the people in Christ that did it. To me it was exactly the same as visualizing yourself well using the power of the mind. If it works, that is what matters!

The next day we had another interesting experience. We had planned to spend several days in Albuquerque because I was very interested in the Indian Culture I had read about. I wanted to explore that before we went to the zoo. We met a young woman and in the course of conversation I told her that we were going to the Pueblo Indian Cultural Foundation. Frankly I was wondering how we were going to get there when she said that she was going also. Imagine my delight when she offered to take us. We had lunch there enjoying the Indian food and then watched the dancers. There were three sets of dances and we watched all three. The building is beautiful and decorated on the outside by well-known Indian artists who produced the murals. We later met Mr. Toledo, an artist who did one of the murals and someone I know I would like to know better. They announced after the dancing that a docent would take a group around the museum for a tour. I jumped at the chance. She was obviously not an Indian and I asked her where she came from. Turned out she is a retired science teacher from New York, who has a great interest in the Indian People. She was extremely knowledgeable and gave me a perspective I had not had although I have great empathy with the philosophy of the Indian people. She told us that only the land on which this building was built was given to them. They had to raise all of the money for the construction of the building . Nineteen tribes of Pueblo Indians were contributing. Originally there were sixty two but only nineteen remained – the rest having been decimated.

This building was built for the express purpose of giving the Indians point of view – very different from what you will read in a history book). She said the Indian woman shared equally in the family – were not relegated to the role of slave as is often depicted. She said they believed in small families (generally two children) so that each child could be properly cared for. They practiced their own birth control using for centuries an herb which is used in the birth control pill of today.

I asked why so many Indian men are taken to drink and she said it was because of world war two in which many fought and found themselves treated worse than dirt. Suddenly they found that all of the philosophy that they had been taught was not used in the white man’s world and they were totally unprepared to handle themselves. She said that the CITA program gave many of the young Indians an opportunity to learn many of the skills of their ancestors (being paid while they learned) and with this they started to rebuild the pride in their heritage.

In the museum is a room of the various ancient crafts they are learning (beautifully executed). They are now building a group of lawyers and other professional people among them so that they can learn to fight their own battles. I asked her if the poverty that I saw at the Taos Pueblo was real and she said “yes”. She said that the Navajos are very wealthy because uranium was discovered on their ground. But that is not so of the Pueblo Indians. She said that the Pueblos are no longer accepted as I had been led to think. They used them only for stores and the people live in small homes in the reserve. The men farm and the women make jewelry and bread to sell, but she said there really is a great deal of poverty. Today most of the money is made in the tourist trade. I have great feeling for their philosophy of life – with their reverence for life and their belief that man is part of mother earth as are all creatures. Their recognition of the interdependence of man and animals and plants is what so appeals to me. Of all of the philosophies I have heard , theirs seem to be closest to my thoughts. We were also shown some artwork being done by Indians today and it is fine. I think they are finally on the upgrade.

We also visited a fine weaving shop and someday I would love to own one of their rugs. All in all it was a wonderful day and gave us a fine feeling of the great beauty that exists in New Mexico. When I planned the trip my entire focus was on the visits to the zoo. I am so glad we were not rigid in our plans. We had a wonderful feeling about New Mexico. Now we were anxious and ready to visit the zoo.