America is a strange country. We crush the indigenous, then welcome newcomers. With one hand we reach out to the disenfranchised and with the other hand we stomp them down, lock them up, strip them of their language, their culture, their beliefs. We homogenize, all the while dreaming of the exotic.
New Mexico has shared this ugly dichotomy. Its history is filled with robber barons, enslavement, rape, plunder, and genocide. But it is a state in which the remnants of ancient cultures have, at least in some cases, been rescued and preserved. The state abounds with pueblos, both museum variety and living, breathing communities such as the Taos Pueblo, home of the Tiwa people for over 1000 years. The community, which is now listed as a World Heritage Site as well as a National Historic Landmark, is home to about 33,000 members, of whom a fluctuating 150 or so are full-time residents. They may be an ethnically small group, but they are proud, strong, educated, and determined to hold onto their traditions, beliefs, and ancient village bisected by the Rio Pueblo, from which they still fill their buckets of drinking water. I took many photos at the Pueblo, but I am not at liberty to share those.
Instead, I will share some images from another culture which has contributed untold labor, beauty, gastronomy, artistry, and Joie de vivre to the American southwest and to New Mexico in particular. The Santa Fe Plaza, also a National Historic Landmark, has been a commercial, social, and cultural hub since the early 1600s. On most Saturdays tourists are treated to a delightful morning of dancing, live music and local artists. Festivities go on most of the day, with new bands and activities taking turns in the spotlight. I spent hours watching small children and beautiful young women learning, practicing, and sharing their cultural dance traditions. What a feast for the eyes and the ears!
**From the poem by Emma Lazarus that appears on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.