Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pueblos and Spain

Santa Fe students lives' are entangled with colonialism and neocolonialism. Many of them bear last names of the historic Spanish conquistadors like Narvaiz, Cabeza de Vaca, Aragon, Quintana etc.

New Mexico is a rich mix of Pueblo Culture which some date back to 9200 bc and even earlier in the Diné or Navajo tradition back 1000 years ago predated by the Clovis and Mogollan people.

The Spanish conquered the Puebloan people in search of  "God, Gold and Glory." My birthday is on the date of the Pueblo Revolt when Popé, a shaman, led the first armed revolt to expel the Spanish from the southwest.

Cruel subordination in religion, work, education and taxes caused the Pueblos to unite and revolt. Later in 1692 did the Spanish conquistador, Diego de Vargas, lead the colonists up the Rio Grande back into the region. Many Puebloans eventually died from smallpox brought by the Spanish.

Heidi and Jack
Heidi and Jack second couple from right
Anne and Meredith

Heidi and Jack celebrated their 50th anniversary on my birthday. Driving from Santa Fe about 1-½ hours with my friends Anne and Ray Romereau, we arrived in El Cerrito.  Heidi’s family from Hawaii and several people from El Cerrito and Santa Fe had also come.
El Cerrito, New Mexico

El Cerrito, population 50, is a village east of Santa Fe beyond Pecos and Villanueva toward Las Vegas (the New Mexico one). We passed beautiful red rock hills, the Pecos River, and up and down little canyons, tiny villages with signs like ‘grocer’ ‘local well’ and San Miguel. El Cerrito is part of the historic land grants of New Mexico. Given by the Spanish king to Hispanic settlers in the 1600’s, these tracts of land became areas settled by the Spanish colonists-families like Aragon, Quintana, and Tapia etc. In the town, you can see 100-year-old adobe houses of the long kind, which provided protection against raiding parties of Apaches.

Ray and Heidi with a Puebloan pot
Meli and Carol from Hawaii
Jack had built their house out of rock and adobe into the side of a hill. One side of the house is a giant greenhouse and the other the kitchen, bathroom built out of rock and the sleeping quarters. The house is living and breathing with acequias (irrigation ditches) running alongside it, a lovely garden with everything in bloom on cue. Dogs, chickens, cats and critters roam all over.

Ray Romereau

Jack and Ray
My friend Ray Romereau from the Pueblo of Pojoaque came bearing gifts, a small pot made by a cousin from the Santa Clara Pueblo, his mother’s home.  Ray said any couple who can stay married 50 years deserves such an offering.
Anne brought a salad and we feasted on vegetables from Heidi’s garden, calabacitas, green chile stew, heirloom tomatoes with basil and mozarella, chile con carne, bbq chicken. We topped it off with real apple and cherry pies.

Joe Aragon "Jose Luis Aragon"

Toward the end of the afternoon, Joe Aragon, a 4th generation Cerritoan took us on a tour of the town. Joe tells us that most of the families have died off and their heirs have little desire for taking care of family homesteads so far from the city centers. The village was established under the land grant system and the main settlers raised cattle and sheep and had crops along the Pecos River which runs through town. However, many families have emigrated to places such as Pueblo, Colorado and Las Vegas, New Mexico in search of steadier employment.

Buildings are decaying, one older lady was at home caring for her dying husband and many other buildings were abandoned. Work is hard to come by and so most residents have jobs in Santa Fe and Las Vegas and come to the village infrequently. While the town has a just a few families remaining, the church is maintained by the villagers. Joe had just come from assisting with the burial of his uncle. He said for $100 the priest from San Miguel will come to conduct funerals. Otherwise the townspeople are on their own except maybe once or twice a year. Joe personally had rebuilt the roof on the church because the building would not withstand the extreme weather we have been having: hail, rain, flash floods, terrible heat.

We headed home to a welcome rain shower and I celebrated my 63rd birthday in this very interesting and different part of the world.