Albuquerque and the Zia Pueblo

A view at sunset from Tamaya Hyatt, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Eric photographing petroglyphs

August 15, 2011

August 15
Albuquerque and the Zia Pueblo

I have been in Europe on August 15. It is the feast of Asumption. What that means theologocially – you go me, what that means to an American vacationing in Europe is this;
You can ‘t buy breakfast in the Parisean bakery next door because it’s closed or you can”t book a passage on the ferry from Crete to Pireus- because all of Greece is on holiday and they have booked every available ticket.
Europe closes down on August 15.

But we were in Albuquerque this year on August 15, so I didn’t think about it. We went first to see the Petroglyphs at the National Historic Petroglyph site. We climbed a rather impressive mound of stones and inspected the various carvings of animals and birds, human figures and geometric shapes.

A bird petroglyph

And then we descended, With plenty of the day left we were off to find the Pueblo Cultural Center in downtown Albuquerque. I ashamedly admit that I expected to find a glorified gift shop with some culturally relevant information interspersed with shlock. Let me apolgize unconditionally to the Pueblo People because what I found couldn’t be farther from what I anticipated. The first class center was a mix of exhibits of material relevant to the Pueblo. The initial exhibit was titled Indi-visible and about the historic relationship between African Americans and Nativie Americans. Eric and I stood and read a story posted on one wall about a Blackman and his Indian wife who revolted against their master a William Hallet who lived on the tip of Long Island near Hell’s Gate. We know well , Hallet’s cove on the East River right next to the Hell’s Gate (the waterway between Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan) William Hallet, Hallet’s Cove- Conincidence – I doubt it,

The next two exhibits featured artwork of living Pueblo artists, the first a collection that consisted mostly of textiles and pottery. The second exhibit was a collection of paintings of the patron saints of the Pueblo by Charles Carillo. Paintings of the Saints or Santos, figures of the patron saints of each Pueblo village painted on gesso coverd boards was a traditional art form. These santos were originally designed by earlier Pueblo artists to adorn the mission churches until cheap plaster statuary from Europe and train travel in the American West suplanted the alter displays with, well, cheap plaster saints. The museum exhibited the work or modern artist who resurrected this lost art form and made paintings of each of the current Pueblo’s patron saint. Along with the display was an attempt to explain and justify the relationship of the Pueblo with the Catholic Church. The history of the Southwest with its colonization of the Native People’s land, the Indian Revolts and the subsequent domination of the Native Cultures to no small degree by the missionaries can lead one to question  why the Pueblo, a free people today, choose to practice the religion of the captors,. But, the guide explained to us the nineteen Pueblo villages today consider themselves devout Catholics.

And they celebrate Feast Days.
So on August 15, these middle aged Jews were again reminded it was the Feast of Assumption. We drove past our hotel up Highway 550 to the Zia Pueblo, There were no signs on the road announcing the celebration, but in the landscape devoid of human structures for miles on end the parking lot jammed with cars was visible miles ahead.

When we got there the sun was strong, the dirt path up to the main part of the village was lined with chotckes and junk food booths, no different than any street fair, but unlike other fairs, the drum beats throbbed. We climbed to the plaza.. There crowds under umbrellas, open to block the ferocious sun, watched as several hundred people in traditional dress danced to the beat of the center stage drum circle.. A large white cross stood in the middle of the dance area. There were clearly marked signs everywhere that photography and even sketching was prohibited so we watched from behind the only corner of shade we could grab. It was under a jewelery seller’s booth ( I bought a $65 necklace just to be polite). We watched the Zia dancers do a series of dances in native costumes, while the weather turned from burning sun to cold rain. There were no signs connecting anyone to any specific ethnicity, but I would guess we were one of the few non-Native Americans there.

Sometimes you plan your trip to Paris for months only to find it is shut down for a religious holiday, and sometimes you find yourself in the middle of an Pueblo Feast Day.

Back to the hotel for one more night at the Tamaya Hyatt were there are no prohibtions on photography so I took picture after picture of the sunset.

Sunset at Tamaya Hyatt

Sunset at Tamaya Hyatt


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