How I found my kachina…

The Santa Fe Flea Market was a bust.  There were very few vendors present on the Sunday morning that we visited, so not much to look at.  While I was browsing a booth the owner struck up a conversation about not having a “smart phone”.  As we talked, I learned that she was 72-years-old and from Connecticut.  She still spoke with a strong East coast accent and was as white as me.  She must have been feeling rather bitter that morning, or perhaps she’s always angry, because she started a rant about how she’d worked all her life, 30 years at someplace somewhere, and now all she got was $700/month while all those “illegals” were getting handouts…  She may not have had a smart phone, but it was obvious to me that she had cable TV and that her favorite news channel is faux.  She ended her tirade with a line that lingered in my mind:  “I feel like I’m a minority here.”   My mouth opened to respond indignantly, but I managed to just look at her and say, “You Are in the minority here.” and walk away.

Among U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanic ancestry, at 47 percent. Natives account for about 10%  83 per cent of the 47 percent are descendants of the Spanish colonists who arrived during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  Among the Natives you’d most likely find Spanish/Mexican DNA, as well as in many light-skinned residents (called white Hispanics).. The percentage of white people with European ancestry is 24%.  The state is not officially bilingual, but a lot of business is conducted in “New Mexico Spanish” and in 1995 they adopted a bilingual state song –  New Mexico – Mi Lindo Nuevo México.


It’s hard to look at how the Natives have been mistreated by brown-skin and white-skin men alike.  At the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, there was a lump in my throat and my heart was pained as I walked through the living history of the Pueblo peoples.  Their civilization was like the Garden of Eden.  They were a peaceful people, though they would defend themselves if needed.  They were monotheistic and praying to the Great Spirit, The Creator, was central to their lives and ordered their seasons. They were successful farmers, hunters, and traders.  All of that came to an end when brutal, horrible Coronado came to town…

After touring the Cultural Center, we visited the Coronado Historical site in Bernalillo…which is really the ruins of the Kuaua Pueblo.

Kuaua Pueblo...most of these buildings were 4-5 stories tall.

 In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado—with 500 soldiers and 2,000 Indian allies from New Spain—entered the Rio Grande valley somewhere near this site.  Coronado was searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold.  Instead of treasure, he found a dozen villages inhabited by prosperous native farmers.  These newly “discovered” people spoke Tiwa, and their ancestors had already been living in this area for thousands of years.  Coronado called them: Los Indios de los Pueblos or Pueblo Indians.  He and his men visited all twelve Tiwa villages during the course of the next two years because they survived on food and other supplies that they obtained from them.  Without the assistance of the Tiwas (willing or unwilling), Coronado and his men very likely would have starved to death.

Kuaua was the northernmost of the twelve villages.  Its name means “evergreen” in Tiwa.  It was first settled around AD 1325 and was occupied by approximately 1,200 people when Coronado arrived.  Conflict with Coronado and later Spanish explorers led to the abandonment of this site within a century of first contact.  Today, the descendants of the people of Kuaua live in the surviving Tiwa-speaking villages of Taos, Picuris, Sandia, and Isleta.

In 1680 the tribes/clans got together and rebelled, defeating the Spanish.  While the independence of many pueblos from the Spaniards was short-lived, the Pueblo Revolt gained the Pueblo Indians a measure of freedom from future Spanish efforts to eradicate their culture and religion following the reconquest. Moreover, the Spanish issued substantial land grants to each Pueblo and appointed a public defender to protect the rights of the Indians and argue their legal cases in the Spanish courts. The Franciscan priests returning to New Mexico did not again attempt to impose a theocracy on the Pueblo who continued to practice their traditional religion.

In 1848, the Spanish sold New Mexico to the United States.  The United States government did not recognize the natives as people…seriously did not think they were human…and took away their land and their rights, including their right to continue speaking their languages and perform their ceremonies.   There was trouble.  Eventually, their land was sort of returned…not the same land, mind you, but there was some land granted.  They were finally allowed religious freedom in 1978…  They are the only Americans whose religious practice is covered by a law other than the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As we left the Kuaua ruins, there was a couple selling kachinas.  Raphael and Pauline Sarracino live in Jemez Pueblo and are of the Hopi/Jemez/Laguna tribes.  Raphael is an Elder and has studied with the Hopi.  He prays over each kachina doll before he carves it, praying to the Creator that his work will respectfully represent the Spirit of the kachina  that he carves.

Kachinas are not just dolls.  The Pueblo people believe they are supernatural beings that help and guide humans in many ways — there are over 500 kachinas!  They represent many phases and aspects of life. Many kachinas are animals or other aspects of nature.  Kachinas also represent intangibles such as happiness, strength, beauty, power, parenting, love, protection, abundance…there are many.  The ceremonial dancers dress as the kachina and their role in each is always to bring the community together for good, to celebrate the gifts of the Great Spirit, the One.

Raphael made it clear to me that the Natives do not worship the kachinas.  He said they believe there is only One God who created us All, as well as All that is Living and All that have Died.  He said that they have no fear of their own Creator, who gave them every good gift.  He said it is their aim in life to stay in prayer with the Great Spirit and to see All as One, to respect the gift of the Earth, Sky, Wind, Water.  The Creator does not micromanage their lives.  He said that we have in each heart everything we need and that it is our decision how to use those gifts.  He said he believes that is why we are all individuals and still the same spirit works within us.

He had brought five of his doll carvings, each around nine inches tall and decorated with colorful paint and feather, all of them beautiful.   He carefully explained to me the meaning of each one.  I was most interested in Rainbow Woman, a colorful doll who represents peace and harmony, especially between different tribes and cultures.

The one that had caught my eye as I walked up was not a doll, but what they called an ornament, bright blue with red ears and a tube nose.  What is this one?  Raphael answered that it was Early Morning, representing new beginnings, leaving the past and not worrying for the future, being grateful for each day and walking fully alive in it. I knew it was the Kachina for me.  He prayed over the figure that he had created, asking the Creator to place peace, love, and harmony in my heart and I felt the power of his prayer.

I thanked Raphael profusely and we talked more about the Pueblo culture. He said when the the Spanish killed nine of their medicine people, the towns had immediately sent people to Hopi where the Spanish hadn’t yet found them.  There the sacred stories and ceremonies were preserved and passed down.  He said that though many had convereted to Catholicism, their own traditions had been interwoven into a blended religion of their own.  He said that still Hopi Pueblos are the center of the training that they receive, as each ceremony must be done just-so.   Long uncomfortable with calling them indians, unimpressed with native-americans (they weren’t americans until 1848), I asked him what to call his people.  He stood proudly and said, “We are Natives.”

Raphael smiled as he told me that he feels it was a lack of communcation, two different languages that had caused the trouble.  “I think if we had been able to discuss it, we would have shared with them and there was no need to kill us.  They thought we were pagans, worshiping these idols, but we could have explained that we no more worship them than they worship their saints.  We believe in only One god, there is only One, and it is the same for All.”

I thought of the Angry White Lady, who judges people by the color of their skin.  How does she tell the Hispanic from the Natives or the legal from the illegal?  She felt no kinship with these brown-skinned people, regardless of where they were born.  I don’t think she would have listened…and I’m certain that Coronado wouldn’t have. That Raphael still had such a hope was touching.

After I got my kachina home, I learned that he plays an important role in the the most important festival ceremony of the year, Powamu, the Bean Planting Festival.  He is Early Morning Singer, who stands on the rooftops at dawn singing the village awake to greet the New Day…

 Now he sits on my altar and encourages me each day to Be Here Now.







Travelogue Days 7-11

We arrived at the Abuquerque/Bernalillo KOA by 12:30, got set up and checked the place out. It’s a nice one, sweet pool and patio, clean and quiet.  Our first stop was to follow the signs for Kaktus Brewery at the other side of the campground and try some of their beer.  It’s just a quick walk to a really cool place and we went back several times.

Unfortunately, Sonnystone, too had a leaky tire.  The next morning we visited a Big O Tire to get it fixed — we had a good spare that we put on.  While waiting, we headed for the nearest grocery store and picked up some steaks to grill that evening.  After dinner a big wind blew through and I headed out to bring in some stuff.  Wearing my Nike slides, I slid off the bottom step and gave my left foot a really good twist, bruised my right foot, and skinned up my shin.  Whaaa???  Since we had planned to hike the next day at Petroglyphs, our plans had to change…

We just readjusted and visited the Pueblo Indian Cultural Center.

I want to say more in another post about what I learned from this place and how it affected me.  We also ate at their restaurant and it was delicious.

I had so looked forward to seeing the Petroglyphs, but the next day my foot was still sore.  We went down to the Visitor Center which is not adjacent to the hiking trails.  There we watched a 20-minute movie that explained how the volcanic escarpment was formed, why they were able to carve on them, how they carved on them and some ideas about what they mean.  We picked up some trail maps for the next day’s hiking.

Then we came back toward our campground and about 3 miles beyond to Coronado Historic Site.  This site has a large underground Kiva that used to be covered with murals before the archaeologists came in and carried it away to the University of New Mexico.  To their credit, they went through a big process to preserve them and 7 are on display at this facility.  You can also climb down into the Kiva to see one that a Native painted for them, but we missed the tour.  Not sure my foot was up to it, anyway.

Sitting outside were some Natives selling jewelry and carved cottonwood kachinas.  I talked with the carver for quite a while.  That, too, is something for another post.

Finally, yesterday we got up early and went out to see the Petroglyphs.  The foot was only tender, so I was ready for the main attraction…

I hate to admit it, but I was terrified the entire first hike, and that was the shorter one!!  It is like a rock climb.  I mean, I fall on 3 steps…we were a mile up in the air standing on ledges…!  The only thing scarier than climbing up was the thought of climbing down.  But I made it!  The second trail had more flat and more handrails, so I was only scared…

Old Town was just what I expected.  In fact, I had a feeling that I had been there before as we browsed through shops of junk-made-in-mexico.  We didn’t buy, but these were food for thought…

There was definitely more of a Spanish flair to the place with its tiny plaza.  The church is some famous very old church…  We ate at Church Street Cafe and appreciated the Mexican influence on our food, though!

They’re predicting storms all day today, so it’s time to start the drive back.  We’re packing it in and plan on leaving about 10am rocky mountain time heading toward Amarillo, probably arrive about 5 or 6p central time.  Then we’ll plow on through the next two days, stopping at the same KOA that we visited on the way here.

That’s the outline, but the story is so much richer, deeper, and enlightening for me. You can bet I have tons more pictures of big skies and Sandia Mountains and I’m looking forward to returning home and writing about what I’ve learned.


Travelogue: Days 1-6

I was soo ready to leave Sonnystone last Wednesday morning…we were up and out of the driveway at 7:27am.  470 miles and 8 hours later, we pulled into the Joplin KOA.  We’ve found that 450 miles/day is just about right.  Missouri was so humid that my hair turned into a bleached-blonde-brillo-pad, so I was happy to stop.  So was Wink…

We weren’t quite so spry the next morning, but still pulled out for the Amarillo KOA – another 460 miles – at about 8am.  Now, Amarillo stinks…I mean, smells bad, like cowshit or just plain cows.  Last time we were there I almost became a vegetarian, thanks to that smell and seeing the poor cows all herded up together…>shudder<  Our KOA was far enough away from the stockyards, though, and it was a dandy.  The humidity was still high and the pool was cool.  They had a lot of artsy metal sculptures around…our site was facing a field of wildflowers and there was a little pony grazing on the other side…

There were some long trains running just over the ridge, but close enough for me to count cars in the evening, and its mournful whistle was my morning alarm at 6:38am.  We didn’t leave until 9am or so…onlsy had 279 miles to drive, after all.

We stopped at Cline’s Corners Truck Stop, Travel Center, or however you want to describe the kitschy quirky place.  I love that place… you could make it an afternoon of wandering around inside.  Unfortunately, I didn’t carry my camera in, so you’ll have to visit someday.

There are lines of billboards heralding their history as you approach and you simply must sing these lyrics from the  Lyle Lovett song “Nothing but a Good Ride” over and over when you see each one…the driver loves it…

Cline’s Corners Truck Stop…Waitress with a wet mop…

Telling him to don’t walk…He tips his hat and don’t talk 

45 minutes up 285 from there was our first destination, the Santa Fe KOA Journey.  It’s okay.  I truly love where it is located, 12 miles south of the Plaza on a road that turns right into the Santa Fe Trail.  There are juniper trees dividing the sites that give you some privacy, but they really got in the way when we were trying to level our rig.  There is no cell phone service, but the wi-fi is strong.  (there is a cellular hotspot on the patio in front of the office) I’m used to just the opposite–plenty of cell, poor wi-fi–and I like this better.

We’ve been on the go ever since we arrived… First stop was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, a small place.  They do have a small exhibit of Ken Price that “matched” well with O’Keefe’s style, but it is primarily Georgia’s art.  There is a cool documentary running throughout the day that gives you a view into who the Artist really was…  I read the biography, Georgia O’Keefe, A Life, recently and have mixed feelings about her.  That’s a discussion for another day. I know that I like nearly all of her work, my least favorite being her most-famous and my favorite is her last, The Beyond.


Santa Fe was having Fiesta!  Great, you say, you can soak up the local flavor…  I was/am kinda pissed.  The Plaza was surrounded by vendors with $7 lemonade and $10 burritos, mediocre music groups on a stage covering the beauty of the park.  It was grossly inferior to Eville’s Fall Festival and I couldn’t See the Plaza for all the people.

We went back to Burro Alley and ate at Maguey’s where there was a Mariachi band warming up for their afternoon performance down at the Plaza.  The food was great, margaritas a little limey, and we were stuffed when we waddled back to the car…


I loved the Pecos National Historical Park… from wikipedia:

The main unit of the park preserves the ruins of Pecos Pueblo, also known historically as Cicuye. The first Pecos pueblo was one of two dozen rock-and-mud villages built in the valley around AD 1100 in the prehistoric Pueblo II Era. Within 350 years the Pueblo IV Era Pecos village had grown to house more than 2,000 people in its five-storied complex.

The main unit also protects the remains of Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos, a Spanish mission near the pueblo built in the early 17th century. A 1.25-mile (2 km) self-guiding trail begins at the nearby visitor center and winds through the ruins of Pecos Pueblo and the mission church.


The long-awaited drive to Taos on the High Road was Lovely…

We stopped at El Santuario de Chimayó  along the road.  From wikipedia:

Each year some 300,000 people from all over the world make pilgrimages to the Santuario de Chimayó during Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, some seeking blessings and some in fulfillment of a vow.[15] Walking is traditional; some pilgrims walk from as far away as Albuquerque, about 90 miles (150 km).

Many visitors to the church take a small amount of the “holy dirt”, often in hopes of a miraculous cure for themselves or someone who could not make the trip. Formerly, at least, they often ate the dirt.[6] (Likewise pilgrims to the original shrine of Esquipulas eat the supposedly curative clay found there.)[8] Now seekers of cures more commonly rub themselves with the dirt or simply keep it. The Church replaces the dirt in the pocito from the nearby hillsides, sometimes more than once a day, for a total of about 25 or 30 tons a year.

The Church takes no position on whether miracles have occurred at the Santuario.


We ate our lunch overlooking the Taos Plaza…

Only four miles down the Low Road from Taos is the Rancho de Taos and their impressive church…which is actually hemmed in by shops and is only impressive in the pictures, sadly…

There’s a whole other story about trying to get back to the Santa Fe Plaza and getting stuck in traffic because their Fiesta procession (parade) was going on when we tried to return on Sunday…Too Many People for these agoraphobes, so we made a last visit on Monday evening…


Today we are driving an hour down the road to Albuquerque. Check-out is 11am, so we’re taking our time getting out.  I’m glad to get you somewhat caught up on our adventures!  Hope you’re having your own kind of fun!