I have been all over the map in New Mexico and not a moment to sit down and update the ol’ blog. From Flagstaff to Gallup to Las Vegas, NM to Albuquerque and now Taos. Where on earth even to begin? It may be time again for just a highlight reel of a region of our country that has absolutely fascinated me.
- Las Vegas, New Mexico. Yes, New Mexico. The original wild west sin city, now a relaxing community of over 900 national historic register buildings and a handful of extremely friendly people. I could have spent days here just randomly walking neighborhoods to gaze at the newly renovated and gracefully crumbling old houses and storefronts and churches. The town was born with the Santa Fe Trail, a critical trade route that connected a very sparsely populated New Mexico with Mexico to the south and the United States to the east. This was a frontier town, a Spanish settlement, and many of the families that still reside in Las Vegas have roots that go all the way back to the Spanish conquistadors. Residents switch flawlessly from English to Spanish and back again. More historic neighborhoods abound from when the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1879. I stayed in a little building that was once a carriage house, just steps from the old Santa Fe Trail and down the trail from the historic Spanish-style plaza. If you wander the streets, you’ll see houses and churches from the 1840s, sites where all the major outlaws of the day (Doc Holliday, the Silva Gang, etc, etc) hung out, Victorian houses from the 1890s, a Fred Harvey hotel that was home to a group of the famous “Harvey Girls”, even a tiny Carnegie Library that still serves as the public library! If you’ve seen the TV series “Longmire”, then you’ve unknowingly seen parts of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
- Albuquerque – A sprawling urban zone that both frustrated and excited me. Think of it as a diamond in the rough. Plenty of run-down houses, rough-feeling neighborhoods, and graffiti, but also a vibrant university, a fascinating Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre, and Petroglyph National Monument right on the city’s doorstep. I took a city bus into the west suburbs, walked 5 minutes, and found myself in a volcanic jumble of soot black rocks and bluish-green sagebrush, peering into the sun to gaze at small, intricate petroglyphs on the rocks, some so delicate, it felt as if a breeze would whisk them away. I also wandered the series of acequrias criss-crossing the city – hand-dug ditches that for centuries have served the agricultural communities of the surrounding pueblos and Spanish settlers. These are community-governed water irrigation canals and at the heart of all water rights discussions and arguments in the American Southwest as droughts and growing cities have put pressure on water usage. The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at UNM had a fascinating exhibit on the intricacies of this irrigation system and the politics of water rights.
- Taos Pueblo – a community that has been lived in continuously for at least 1,000 years, its multistory adobe homes built of adobe bricks made of mud and straw still standing today. I hope to write more about this amazing community soon, but I’m running out of time! If you get the chance to visit, don’t hesitate to go.