New Mexico’s history is ancient and that history is maintained through the practice of the cultural traditions of the people, who continue to remember and honor their cultural diversity. There is no place like, “The Land of Enchantment” and I’m proud to call New Mexico my home.
I have lived in New Mexico for all but five of my fifty-five years. Even when I lived in Colorado, I was only a few minutes away from the New Mexico line. I married an “easterner” but he not only fell in love with me, he fell in love with New Mexico and he made my home his. My husband loves the sunshine but what I love most about New Mexico is the number of diverse cultures that continue to thrive in what many call the ”Land of Enchantment“.
I was born in Santa Fe in the original St. Michael’s hospital, near the downtown Plaza. The city of my birth is an ancient city with a history unlike any other city in the United States. It is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in North America. The Pueblo Indians are thought to have lived here as far back as 10,000 B.C. These people still live north of Santa Fe at, Nambe. Coronado explored this region on 1540,while searching for those famed cities of gold. Finding none, the Spaniards instead, took the land and enslaved the Pueblo Indians. They made Santa Fe the capital of the Spanish Colony in 1610 and of course, gave the city its name. In 1680, the native people revolted and drove the Spaniards back to Mexico. They celebrated by re-baptizing themselves in yucca juice, to wash away the baptism that the Catholic Church forced upon them. Their freedom was short-lived and the Spanish retook Santa Fe in 1692. A long succession of Mexican Governors ruled in Santa Fe until the end of the Mexican/American War. My great-grandfather came to New Mexico during the “Open Range Act” in the late 1800′s and worked as a cowboy. In the early 1900′s, he went back to Missouri, married, had children, and then returned to New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail. He bought land on the Santa Fe Railroad in Stanley, New Mexico and built a hotel and livery stable. The rest of my family came during the “Enlarged Homestead Act” which gave 600 acres of land, taken from the Patron’s during the Mexican American War, to anyone who promised to raise cattle. Even though my family has been in New Mexico for six generations now, we are still gringos (newcomers) by comparison to those who settled here long before.
The Pueblos have been here since the beginning and their influence on New Mexican culture is predominant. From the architecture to the food, that which is called, New Mexican has its roots in the culture of the Pueblo Indians. Our traditional dishes are a blend of Pueblo and Mexican food that is unique in the Southwestern United States. It is our love of chili that unites all the cultures of New Mexico as one. The Pueblos first used adobe’ (mud bricks) to build their early condominium style cities and the Spaniards and other Europeans that came when New Mexico was a territory, each added their own flare to this indigenous form of construction. I think of the Territorial Style Adobe’ as my people’s contribution, to the over-all culture of New Mexico that remains uniquely, its own.
I have a special place in my heart for the Pueblo known as Tamaya, or Santa Anna. As a run-away, throw-away teenager, it was a family from Tamaya that took me in and made me one of their own. I met them just before I turned 17. I was working as a hotel maid and met a young woman who was also, working there. I was a country girl living alone in the big city, totally, out of my element. If you grow up close to the land, it leaves its mark on your character and I believe that it was that common mark of rural life in New Mexico that drew us together. I was not allowed to live at Tamaya because I was not Tamaya but I visited there more than I actually lived in the old house I was renting. I felt very safe sleeping in my friends ancient adobe home, on a feather-bed, near the adobe’ fireplace in the corner. They taught me their customs and they changed my life. I took part in family preparations for feasts and dances and even now, when I read in the Bible, that we should do all things to the glory of God, I think first of my friend’s mother. Everything she did, whether baking bread for a feast, or making beaded jewelry, or lecturing me (spoken in her native tongue)for the way I was living at the time, she did in honor of the Great Spirit. It is her example that taught me the difference between faith and religion. She was one who lived her life by the revelation of God in Nature. This family blessed me as no other people have ever blessed me. I know I could not have survived that time in my life without them. They not only fed and housed me, they loved me, and helped me to grow as a person. Because of what they taught me, I began to make better choices and developed a different view about what was important in life. Because of them, I began to seek spiritual truth.
New Mexico is very different today. Hollywood discovered Santa Fe and it will never be the same. The city of my childhood has been surrounded and swallowed by a modern city that caters to the very rich. The small,humble, adobe’ homes that once characterized the city, have been replaced by very expensive imitations. Yet, the indigenous people remain, making a living by working for the rich or by selling pieces of their culture to the tourists. The larger the global village grows, the more homogenous our cities and cultures become. New Mexican culture is not the only culture in danger of being consumed by the global beast; but I can’t help but feel sad and hope something happens to reverse that which threatens what I love most about New Mexico. If the diverse aspects of New Mexican culture is not protected by those who inherit it, “The Land of Enchantment” will lose much of what produces that enchantment. However, New Mexico is not only the “Land of Enchantment” created by its rich, cultural past but it is also, the “Land of Manana” and none of us know what manana may bring.