I have returned from the pilgrimage mostly unscathed aside from a few blisters, and am excited to share about the first week in New Mexico and Albuquerque site orientation (there will be a post coming about the Pilgrimage, I promise!).
Moving into Menaul
I returned to New Mexico from Stony Point, NY early in the morning (my flight from NY left at 5 AM EST :O ). After eating a green-chili breakfast burrito (green and red chilis are a very important part of New Mexican cuisine), I got to work cleaning my room and unpacking. All of us volunteers live together at Menaul School and are enjoying being part of the school’s community of other volunteers, students, and teachers. The school is over 100 years old, and our dorm building has a lot of charm–high ceilings, beautiful wood work, and big windows looking out at the Sandia Mountains. We also really enjoy having Kiki (one of the other resident’s Malamute) visit us and hide under our beds!
All Around Albuquerque and Presbytery Dinner
We practiced using public transportation to navigate around the city and visited each other’s work placements. We also attended a wonderful welcome dinner hosted by the Presbytery and many incredible people who have worked hard to make Albuquerque a YAV site and have been planning for our arrival for many years now. From left to right: Pastor Guillermo of Camino de Vida, Bethany, myself, Taylor, Ana, Clair, and Luke (our site coordinator). Bethany is working at La Mesa Presbyterian doing children’s ministries. Taylor is working at Menaul school teaching high school and middle school math and Spanish classes. Ana is working at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center doing outreach work to connect those experiencing homelessness with available resources. Claire is working at Camino de Vida helping with their marketing/ social media, Bible studies, and English classes.
Pueblo Cultural Day
New Mexico has an incredibly rich and tragic history that has created its unique, layered culture. To better understand the history and culture of the place we will be living and serving we spent a large portion of our orientation visiting museums/ cultural sites and learning from native New Mexicans. We visited the Indian Pueblo museum and learned about the many Native American tribes, “pueblos”, that are native to New Mexico. I greatly enjoyed seeing and learning about their artwork and traditional dances. Below are some photos of my favorite pieces. The top left depicts a stag and the heart with the line is a “heartline” symbol and depicts where breath gave life to the animal and points to its inner soul or strength. The bottom right is a wedding vase, which is used in traditional wedding ceremonies. The vase’s double spouts symbolize the joining of two separate lives into one.
While it is enjoyable to appreciate the art and culture of these indigenous groups, it is also important to recognize the oppression and genocide that occurred at the hands of the Hispanic conquistadors and then white settlers. The Spaniards essentially enslaved the indigenous population until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 in which the indigenous revolted. The Spaniards were either killed or driven out of the area until the reconquista in 1692. This time the Spaniards and Native Americans agreed to “peace” (as long as the indigenous swore allegiance to the King of Spain and practiced the Christian faith). Later on, the use of Indian boarding schools to force-acculturate Native American children is a way in which cultural genocide was carried out in New Mexico. This part of history hit especially close to home as the Presbyterian Church started the Albuquerque Indian School in 1881.
Hispanic Cultural Day
While I was horrified at the acts committed against the Native Americans by the Spaniards, I also greatly enjoy the influence of the Spaniards in New Mexico’s architecture, art work, and cuisine. To learn about the Hispanic component of New Mexico’s complex culture we toured Old Town and visited the Hispanic Cultural Center. Walking through Old Town I felt transported to another place and time. Streets lined with adobe building and wood beams enclose a grassy town square with canons and a gazebo. Artisans line the sidewalk with a blanket covered in handmaid silver bracelets and necklaces dotted with turquoise. We wandered into hidden patios where vines climbed up walls and wrought iron railing, their flowers dancing in the light breeze. For lunch that day I had a cheese enchilada made with a blue corn tortilla and the most delicious sopapillas with honey.
Anglo Cultural Day
Lastly, we learned about the Anglo history of the state by traveling to a once-booming coal town called Madrid, but pronounced (Mah-drid) located in the mountains North East of Albuquerque. New Mexico’s hills were rich in natural resources and whole towns were created to harvest these resources. Everything in the town of Madrid was basically owned and provided by the company-clothing, groceries, healthcare, etc. The town was once famous for its Christmas lights display, but after World War II and the decline of the coal industry
Why go to New Mexico? Aside from the incredible food and history, I feel that New Mexico provides a unique example of how to grapple with complex issues of race and reconciliation. While we are human and therefore imperfect by default, the area’s ability to appreciate it’s various groups’ cultures and histories, while simultaneously acknowledging the pain and suffering that has been experienced is an impressive feat. It left me wondering what it would look like for Oregon to more fully recognize and better appreciate the histories of the Native American populations in everyday life, in addition to the history of the pioneers that now also call the area home?