Taos and Picuris Pueblo

Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
Trip End Oct 20, 2006

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Though it's only been one day in Taos, the indian jewelry I don't need is beginning to call to me and Taos Pueblo is closed for three weeks, so we decide to head out. We opt for a scenic route that takes us past Picunis Pueblo, one of the numerous indian pueblos between Taos and Santa Fe.

We're wary and nervous as we drive in, since the visitors' guide has mentioned "appropriate modes of conduct" and we're not sure exactly what this means. After paying the administrative fee to tour the pueblo and take pictures, we snap some shots of the Catholic mission-style adobe church that stands prominently in the center of the plaza. We walk up the dusty road that makes its way up the hill past run-down, crumbling single-story adobe abodes and continue on to the old circular kiva perched at the crest of the hill. Wind and weather has worn small pockmarks in the kiva's mud and hay walls and I'm surprised at how much the adobe feels like cement.

I breathe in as I turn 360 degrees to take in the view and woner what this land has meant to generations of its people. A young woman I recognize from the hostel is making her way toward us with an indian man, and we gladly join them when he motions us over.

Our guide, who I'll call Mark, is a short man with brown skin, a hawkish nose that sits solidly on his face, and long greased back black hair. With a bouncy yet grounded style that often trails off or changes topic he tells us about the land of his people. Both his father and his grandfather lived here, and after spending time in other places, Mark had returned to live here, too.

He took us to the current kiva and showed us where they hold their ceremonial dances, pointed out the "scalp room" (we chuckled at this, though not sure if we should be), and pointed out the new adobe building that's being built by the National Park System to protect the pueblo's treasures. "That's not real," he said with disgust. "This is real," he said, gesturing to the kiva and dancing grounds.

He told us a story about an eagle that landed on the mountain we could see in the distance and how the eagle had created the cleft at the mountain's top. He mentioned that his grandfather had been a inger for the ceremonies, and suddenly Mark launched into a full-throated Pueblo Indian song that sent chills up my spine. Suddenly this small, gentle man seemed to tower over us and had the voice of four men. I stood, just taking it in, listening to the ancient sound as it ricocheted off the surrounding adobe walls.

Our tour finished back at the Catholic church, which he said 99% of the indians had never been to outside of funerals.

As it turned out, Mark was heading the same direction we were, so during our ride to Santa Fe, where he was paying a surprise visit to his girlfriend, we learned that he had recently been to Vegas where he stayed at Caesar's Palace, partied like a maniac, and that he used to have a rock band that played Journey cover songs when he lived in Albuquerque - all of which helped to deconstruct all of my romantic projections about this still surviving indiginous culture. We said our goodbyes and continued on to Roswell, NM in search of aliens.

As we approach Roswell, lightning was flickering in far off thunderstorms against the dark night sky. We stayed in town long enough to snap a photo of the spaceship-shaped McDonald's and savor the all-you-can-eat ribs at Farley's before setting up camp again in the back of the SUV at Bottomless Lake State Park just outside of town.

Success! This time we were plenty warm, slept peacefully, and after washing our clothes at the laundromat, we're off to Carlsbad Caverns!
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