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Our Trip to Acoma Pueblo

05/24/2011


My family finally got out Albuquerque after being here for almost 3 months.  We’ve been really busy house hunting that all of our weekends were tied up.  We’ve been out and about in the town, and did Sandia Peak, but nothing really outside of the city.  My wife had told me about Acoma Pueblo before and it sounded neat.  So we decided that our first day trip would be there.  It is 70 or so miles West of the City and maybe an hour and a half by car.
First off, the speed limits out here on I-40 are 75MPH!!!  That is incredible to me.  I actually didn’t feel like going that fast with my daughter in the car, so I kept the cruise control at 70 even.  The landscape is beautiful.  I really like the scrub and the ruggedness here.  I don’t mind that brown is the major color scheme, it is so different from the North East that I like it.  Here are some pics of the drive out:

You do pass a different Pueblo on the way to Acoma, Laguna.  They are related to the Acoma linguistically and culturally.  Here is a picture of Old Laguna and the mission there:

Once you get off of I-40 by the Sky City Casino (the nickname of Acoma too) it’s still another 20 minutes until you actually see the mesa that the city sits on.  It is truly a breathtaking site.  You go around a bend in the road and a valley opens up in front of you and a few miles away is the Acoma mesa and some other huge rock formations.  The scale is very hard for your mind to grasp at first.  And the houses on Acoma mesa are hard to pick out because they blend in fairly well with the surrounding landscape.  We finally ended up at the visitor’s center where we bought our tickets for out tour and walked around a tiny art gallery.  The art gallery is worth visiting because it shows some work by Acoma artists that is beautiful, much more than pottery too.  There is also a short video basically telling you not to disturb any ruins or take any artifacts home with you.

After riding the tour bus to the top of the mesa we exited into Acoma proper.  The history that is surrounding you is very heavy feeling.  This is the longest continually inhabited city in North America.  People have lived here for over 1000 years. Some of the houses have had the same families living in them for that long.  The giant mission church is more recent.  It was built the 1600s by the Spanish which used the resident Indians as slave labor.  It was built on the largest Kiva on the mesa in an attempt to subvert the local old religion. The dirt and materials to build the mission were hauled up the 300+ feet from the valley floor and took many years and lives to build.  The huge timbers had to be hauled from Mt. Taylor which was over 15 miles away.  There is a cemetery in the courtyard of the church that is 4 levels deep.  Each level being comprised of a row of bodies and then 10 feet of dirt.  There are only 4 spots left until the cemetery is full and no more people will be interned there.  The spots are reserved for the village elders and for Acoma military veterans.  I won’t get into any more details of the construction of the mission.  But I will say that is horrible how it was made and that I can’t understand why the majority of Acoma are Catholic today.

But the tour of the village was very well done.  You get to see lots of the old buildings and the surrounding land.  You also meet some of the 40 or so year-round residents who are selling pottery and food.  We split a cherry pie that was really good, my daughter really liked it.  She also got to meet some children who were there.  The guidelines for the photography permit were that you didn’t take any photographs of the cemetery, the inside of the church or any of the residents or their artwork.  So I couldn’t capture some really cute pictures of my daughter and some kids her age saying hi to one another.  She also played peek-a-boo with an old woman around the corner of a house.  A really great time.

This tour was an amazing introduction to New Mexico and its history.  We plan on visiting more of the Pueblos in the future, but Acoma was a fantastic place to start.  I encourage everyone to make the trek there.  Please visit my Flickr page for many more photographs by clicking the photo below. Thanks!

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