Monday, March 28, 2011

Pecos National Historical Park

What I really wanted to see was the cliff dwellings at Chaco Canyon, but since we were in New Mexico for only three days, there wasn't time; so, we settled for the next-best-thing close by, Pecos National Historical Park. That's me in the picture looking very happy about life indeed, but actually I was freezing! The park is at about 6,000 feet, and it was extremely windy, so were were a huffing and puffing family as we trudged up the hill towards the ruins. (In fact, in another part of the park, the annual Battle of Glorieta Pass reenactment was scheduled, but it was so windy and dry that they didn't dare shoot off any cannon or muskets. So that wound up being a bust.) But never mind, the rest of our excursion was interesting, and I learned some new things about the Pueblo Indians.

Namely, they didn't live in tipis or wigwams or longhouses. Nope, they lived in apartment complexes.

Seriously. They built blocks of houses around plazas, and each block of houses had four or five stories. There were no doors; the people just climbed up ladders they could then pull back up through hatchways. Each story had about three or four apartments of several rooms each. The rooms were whitewashed. It was highly civilized.

In each plaza, there was an underground kiva for religious ceremonies. Today, the kivas are pretty much all that's left of the pueblos because the houses have long since disintegrated or been knocked down. The park had restored several of the kivas so that you could climb down into them and look around, so naturally we did that. Here is sunlight streaming down into the one I visited:

It was a solemn moment for me as it felt like God was filling the room.

Then along came the Spanish conquistadores, seeking gold. They found none, so next came the friars and bishops, building their missions near to the pueblos so they could convert the Indians (viewed as pagans) to Christianity. There was a brief uprising against the missions by the Pueblos, but the Spanish doggedly returned and rebuilt the missions. Ultimately America won the territory from Mexico, so then came the American settlers on the Santa Fe Trail (you can still see some of the ruts left by wagon wheels). And then Pecos Pueblo was abandoned altogether.

The ruins of the old mission are still there as well:

And here's a shot I snapped looking down the hill from the mission ruins:

Altogether it made for an interesting day. You can't help feeling connected to the land. And you can't help grieving a bit for the loss of a civilization and a way of life that today we can see had value; once again we see religious beliefs causing the virtual destruction of a people. Of course there are descendants of the Pueblo peoples still around, and there is land designated as "Indian land," but really we were the invaders and we wrested their land from them. This got me thinking about the present situation in the Middle East, the struggle between the Jewish and Palestinian people, which in many ways can be reduced to a turf war over religious sites and who was there first.

But that's a post for another day.


The Subversive Librarian said...

Oh, wow. Double homesick. This was one of my very favorite day trips when I lived in Albuquerque. I've been there several times. Thanks for writing about it!

Joyce said...

It was a very cool place. If it hadn't been so windy (I wished I'd worn a hat!) I probably would've wanted to stay much longer and just wander around.