Sunday morning came early again – my uncle and I were both up around 6:30 AM, even though we knew we were going to take our time heading out to the Acoma Pueblo. It was another gorgeous day in New Mexico – I tell you, I could get really used to the weather there! Like the day before, we took our time drinking coffee and eating breakfast before eventually getting showered, dressed, and ready for our next destination.
As we headed out on I-40, we realized our gas was getting a little low, so we had to stop to fill up – the highlight of which was riding along historic Route 66. I was so excited to actually be on the road. I thought I took a picture of a sign proving my presence there, but I guess I didn’t since there wasn’t one on my camera. You’ll just have to take my word for it, I guess. :-)
Another highlight of the trip out to the pueblo was seeing the freight trains in the distance. We could see the entire length of the train from engine to caboose – all laid out in one straight line. Out here on the east coast, we’re lucky if we see 5 cars without being broken by the landscape. I wasn’t able to capture it on film because we were driving and I don’t have a wide-angle lens, so again, you’ll have to take my word for it. Seeing entire trains like that was amazing. The big open skies of the west really get to me and make me wish we lived there in the worst way.
Getting to the pueblo was like unwrapping a gift inside a group of beautiful boxes, each one more beautiful than the last. The landscape kept getting prettier the farther we drove – the mountains and mesas appeared seemingly out of nowhere as we happened upon them. Just when the vistas really started taking my breath away, I reached for my camera – but then we happened upon a sign that stated a camera permit was needed to take any photos. What the heck? There was a guy in a security car right where the sign was posted, too, so I adhered to the rules.
All was not lost, though, we purchased a camera permit once we got to the visitor center and I was able to get a lot of great shots. We arrived just in time for the next tour bus up to the pueblo – the village sits atop a high mesa where the only allowed access is via their tour buses. While we waited for the bus to depart, we visited some of the Native’s stands where they were displaying their pottery – very nice stuff.
I learned so much about pottery while I was there. I can spot the difference between traditional and modern methods of pottery making. The traditional method of making a pot is to form it all by hand, but some potters are now using pre-made forms to speed up the time to make their pots. The traditional pots are much more interesting in appearance and they’re also worth more. There is also importance placed on the potter and their family line. The matriarchs of the family pass on their knowledge and methods to their daughters (traditionally) and there are books available that outline the family line of potters. This piece is one my uncle bought on his last day – it’s from the Acoma tribe and is 50 years old – it’s a traditional.
Seeing how the Acoma Indians live high atop their mesa with no running water was simply awe-inspiring. Acoma is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States with its inception dating back to around 1150 AD. Here’s a great site that gives more information about the city, its history, and its inhabitants. Through the majority of the tour, most people were silent; there really were no words that could have been spoken.
Walking through the outsets of their cemetery into the San Esteban del Rey Mission (their church) was a moment I’ll never forget. I felt so close to God and to everything spiritual. The feeling that we’re all connected – those who were standing in the ancient church with me on that day, those who stood there and everywhere in the past, and those who have yet to come – was overwhelming. It was very cool inside the mission and our tour guide told us that it’s always that temperature, even in the midst of their extremely hot summers. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the cemetery or inside the mission, so I made sure to really stand there in peace and take it all in. I vowed to commit it all to memory since I knew I wouldn’t have physical evidence of how it looked or felt once I left. There were brightly painted parrots on both sides of the altar that really spoke to me. The parrot has significant meaning to the Acomas – as it symbolizes rain and rainbows. I spent several quiet moments in meditation inside the mission and felt a peace descend upon me that remained through out my entire stay in New Mexico.
As we walked around the city for the rest of our tour, the people who live there – and God bless them all, they have no running water and have to bring the water up via trucks – set up little tables outside their homes to sell their wares. I loved being able to meet and connect with the various artists and potters and even see where it was all made. We were shown their outdoor kiln where all the pottery is fired. Directly across from the kiln is their water reservoir – a large, shallow ditch they carved out of the clay to capture rain water. The reservoir was bone dry – and this is their rainy season – so I could understand why our tour guide said they pray for rain every single day. I ended up buying a beautiful double-sided cross from one of the residents. I still need to take pictures of it to show you all. On one side it’s got turquoise stones and on the other it has 5 different colored stones – it’s just gorgeous and is very meaningful because it was made by an Acoma Indian right in Acoma. I’ll treasure it forever. I also bought two pottery quails that I need to take pictures of as well.
We had the option of walking back down to the visitor’s center or taking the tour bus back down. Initially we planned to walk, but by the time we were done the walking tour, it was awfully close to lunch and I was hungry. We took the bus and ate our packed lunch in the car. Afterwards we went through the museum. It was small, but very interesting. I’m in complete love with the Acomas now and can’t get enough of their stories.
Our drive back to Albuquerque was just as beautiful as our drive in – only this time we were able to take photos. This picture is of a monolith they call the Enchanted Mesa. What’s funny is that the formation is actually a butte and not a mesa, but I guess the Acomas don’t care about being all that technical – and there probably wasn’t a distinction between the two when it was named hundreds of years ago. It’s definitely enchanting, though – as you can see – it’s reminiscent of Devils Tower in Wyoming, which is neat because there’s been reports of UFOs over top the Enchanted Mesa over the years. ::Cue Closed Encounters of the Third Kind music::
I was sad to say goodbye to Acoma, but all good things must come to an end (and all bad things, too, thankfully!). The entire Acoma valley is truly a special, sacred place and I’ll hold it dear to my heart always. Once we got back to our hotel room, we crashed for a bit and then made dinner in, if I remember correctly. That evening we drove around some – going to see more of Route 66 and the Route 66 Diner. On our way back to the room, we stopped to take photos of an amazing sunset.
Here are the rest of my Acoma Pueblo pictures.