Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 SW Travel Destinations - ACOMA PUEBLO ~ ACOMA, NEW MEXICO

Acoma Pueblo is a Native American pueblo approximately 60 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Acoma Pueblo is built atop a sheer-walled, 367-foot sandstone bluff in a valley studded with sacred, towering monoliths. Built in 1150 A.D., the Pueblo has earned the reputation as the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America.  The isolation and location of the Pueblo originally sheltered the Acoma community from conflict with neighboring Navajos and Apaches.
The Pueblo has a land base covering 431,664 acres and is home to 4,800 tribal members, while only approximately 30 or so people live permanently on the mesa now. A reservation surrounds the mesa, with tribal members living both on and outside it. The Pueblo itself has more than 250 dwellings, none of which have electricity, sewer or water. Access to the mesa is by a road blasted into the rock face during the 1950’s, on tours conducted through the Sky City Cultural center at the base of the mesa.
Acoma Pueblo has three rows of three-story, apartment-style buildings which face south on top of the mesa. The roof for one level would serve as the floor for another. Each level is connected by ladders. Baking ovens are outside the buildings, with water being collected from two natural rock cisterns. Acoma also has seven rectangular kivas and a village plaza which serves as the spiritual center for the village.
It is believed Coronado's expedition, in 1540, was the first European contact with the Acoma. The Pueblo had contact with Spanish explorers heading north from Central America; all generally peaceful interactions. The only access to the Acoma Pueblo during this time was a set of almost vertical stairs cut into the rock face.
By 1598, relationships with the Spaniards had declined. In December of that year, the Acoma heard that Juan de Oñate had intended on colonizing the area. The Acoma ambushed a group of Oñate's men, killing 11 of them. The Spanish took revenge on the Acoma, burning most of the village, killing over 600 people and imprisoning approximately 500 others.
Survivors of the Acoma Massacre would recover and rebuild their community, and Oñate would proceed to force the Acoma and other local Indians to pay taxes in crops, cotton and labor. Spanish rule also brought Catholic missionaries into the area. The Spanish renamed the pueblos with the names of saints and started to construct churches at them.
Our delightful and informative tour guide - wish I would have gotten his name. You are deposited at the top of the mesa, via tour bus, and the entire walking tour is approximately 3/4 mi. long, and took us approx. an hour and a half, give or take. The day we went, it was overcast and threatening to storm...perfect weather for the hot mesa top! Photography is permitted through a permit obtained with ticket purchase, though there are restrictions.
As a side note to the history of the Pueblo, my Dad purchased a beautiful, old pot from the window of one of the residences when I was with my parents on our very first trip to this Pueblo, as a child.   You were allowed to travel to the top without tour guides at that point, and the residents were happy to display their wares for sale, much as they do today.  This trip, my Dad was delighted to find the same exact house, with the original family...where I had him pose with mother and daughter potters from whom he purchased a new bowl to go with the antique purchased years ago.  Photo top left is one of the natural water cisterns; photo bottom right is an oven.
Another of the natural formed stone cisterns, utilized by the mesa for collecting water when it rains.
Between 1629 and 1641 the San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church was constructed. The Acoma were ordered to build the church, moving 20,000 tons of adobe, straw, sandstone and mud to the mesa for the church walls. Massive Ponderosa pines were carried in by community members, on foot, from over 40 miles away. At 6,000-square-feet, with an altar flanked by 60-foot-high wood pillars handcarved in red and white designs representing Christian and Indigenous beliefs, the structure is considered a cultural treasure by the Acoma, despite the slave labor used to build it.  One of the sadder stories to come from this tour was the forced trade of several small Acoma children in return for the church bells.  Photography is prohibited inside the church and the graveyard outside - take my word, it's something to see.

Getting there: Pueblo of Acoma, I-40, Exit 102, Acoma, NM 87034

HOURS OF OPERATION: Sunday through Saturday from 9am – 5pm. Tours begin at 9:30am and continue throughout the day. The final full tour of the day is conducted at 3:30pm. The Cafe hours of operation are 11am - 4:30pm. Acoma Pueblo observes traditional annual events, so hours of operation are subject to change. Please check our calendar for closures, or call 1-800-747-0181.
WINTER CLOSURE: The Sky City Cultural Center is closed from November through February. No Pueblo tours are conducted during this period.

SANTO DE ESTRELLA - A Creative Exploration With Robin Dudley-Howes

I've been given the wonderful opportunity of attending a two-day local event in Vegas, this coming March, conducted by artisan Robin Dudley-Howes...there are a few seats still available for this extravaganza - information for contacting Robin direct, as well as more of her stunning photos, follow:

A 2-day creative exploration with Robin Dudley-Howes!
March 17 & 18, 2012
Las Vegas, NV
Hosted by Jan Ballagh
Cost: $160 plus $55 kit for both days ($215 total)
Robin’s Class Description:  My love for this art form started several years ago from an article in Los Angeles magazine. I still have the pictures and have been intrigued ever since. Basically, Santos (Spanish name for “Saints”) cage dolls, as I understand them, were hand carved in the 17th and 18th centuries by priests in Spain and Portugal for religious ceremonies, processions and home alters. They took the place of a church or priest in times of war when travel was restricted or if the local church was too far and the cage was utilized as a space for sacred objects and offerings.
As I created my own version of this Santos I wanted to convey a sense of beauty, peace and whimsical sweetness but still keep the general integrity and shape of the original antique cage dolls that I had studied.    The process of sculpting and refining the details started in June 2011 using polymer clay.  My first prototype burned but luckily I was able to make a mold from it!  From the ashes (so to speak) there was further refinement and finally the finished product, which I am sharing with you.  This is a time intensive project and will take a full 2 days.  In this class you will learn:  Armature construction, faux wood surface techniques using molding paste, paints and dyes, how to paint eyes using a template, assembling the cage to the torso with solder and decorative elements.  Of course we need to make fun items to accessorize her like a banner, crepe paper collar, earrings, crown and a necklace that can be converted into your own personal bracelet.  The “bracelet” techniques will include simple jewelry construction and my own “faux” swivel clasp technique to add several charms.  A weekend full of techniques and fun for sure!  You should be able to finish and leave with your very own Santo de Estrella art piece! 
The kit includes most everything to make your beautiful Santo: My original sculpted head, arms and hands, heavy armature wire, torso, pre-cut wood, filigrees, crown material, glass glitter, vintage crepe paper, use of dyes, molding paste, 2 part epoxy putty & paints, copper foil and sheet. You will also receive supplies for the Peace banner and crown, rhinestones for her earrings, chain, beads/pearls and wire for her necklace which can be used as a bracelet for you.
Students will bring:
Needle and thread (white)
Jewelry pliers (chain nose, small round nose and wire cutters)
1 Empty (or full) baby bell, Laughing Cow cheese container (this will be used for the cage bottom).
Soldering iron with stand and sponge
Lead free solder
Gel flux
Charms for your bracelet
Please email questions to robin@powerline6.com. A deposit of $90 will hold your seat. All final payments in full for the total amount of $215 must be made by February 29, 2012. No refunds. All deposits are final. Please make payments to:

Robin Dudley-Howes
1321 Engracia Ave
Torrance, Ca. 90501

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 SW Travel Destinations - OLD TOWN ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

Approximately 63 miles SW of Santa Fe, on I-25, sits quaint and historic Old Town Albuquerque.
The town of Albuquerque was built in the traditional Spanish village pattern: a central plaza surrounded by government buildings, homes, and beautiful San Felipe de Neri Church. This central plaza area has been preserved and is open to the public as a museum, cultural area, and center of commerce. It is referred to as "Old Town Albuquerque", or simply "Old Town."  If you go, leave your javelin at home.  They're not gonna' let you in with it! 
Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as the Spanish colonial outpost of Ranchos de Alburquerque.  Present-day Old Town Albuquerque retains much of its historical Spanish cultural heritage.
When the railroad arrived in 1880, it bypassed the plaza, locating the passenger depot and rail yards about 2 miles east, in what quickly became known as New Albuquerque, or New Town.  Old Town remained a separate community until the 1920s when it was absorbed by the city of Albuquerque.  I did NOT visit the Rattlesnake Museum, but was very content taking a picture of the window - it's probably why the railroad bypassed the town!
San Felipe de Neri - its beauty speaks for itself.
Down a few blocks, on a street that looks like an alley really, you will find The Church Street Cafe.
Not to be missed, this fabulous eatery was originally a hacienda (Casa de Ruiz) built during the founding of Albuquerque, sometime after 1706, making it the oldest residence in Albuquerque and one of the oldest structures in the state of New Mexico.  A better bowl of Posole, you’ll be hard pressed to find…the rest of the menu is equally as grand.  Church St. Cafe, 2111 Church St. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104 - you'll be glad you stopped.
Make sure to take notice of the beautiful and unique SW vegetation...from the hollyhocks to the cacti, each one more vibrant than the next - the honeybees like 'em, too, and that's a very good thing!  No time for a siesta after lunch, as we're headed to Acoma Indian Pueblo next...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Galleries Galore - SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

Santa Fe is home to nearly 300 art galleries and museums (SANTA FE GALLERIES/MUSEUMS LISTINGS).  While they are plentiful in and around the Plaza, the highest concentration is up Canyon Road, just east of downtown...ask a local - they'll get you headed the right way, up to the narrow little neighborhood street, lined with beautiful art.
Bronzes are plentiful...life size AND larger than life - a great place to feed your senses and, perhaps, have a chat with Samuel Clemens.

Canyon Road is a major destination for international collectors, tourists and locals. The Canyon Road galleries showcase a wide array of contemporary, Southwestern, indigenous American, and experimental art, in addition to Russian, Taos Masters, and Native American pieces.
Canyon Road had its beginnings as a residential neighborhood. Houses built in accordance with the local Hispanic and Native American methods were constructed with adobe walls and courtyards, often as compounds for extended family - today they house the galleries that line the street.
Pet a horned lizard...take him home to your yard, if you've a mind to.  Everything pictured here is cast in bronze (mainly because the galleries tend to get a little persnickety upon you bringing a camera in to take photos of paintings!), but paintings and photos abound on Canyon Road - it's an incredible feast to the eyes and soul - there's something to suit just about every collector's taste.
Artists were drawn to Canyon Road's beauty and began to create a subculture of artist-run studios and galleries. For those that may not be familiar with SW plants, the photo on the bottom left is a Century Plant...that HUGE stalk of blooms comes from the center of a large Yucca type cactus - it blooms once (in a hundred years, so I've been told), and then the plant withers and dies.  The incredible purple flowers are Clematis.
While known for the beautiful art galleries, Santa Fe also houses many incredible museums, both downtown, and up on Museum Hill - again, ask a local for directions, or follow the signs throughout town.
At the top of Museum Hill, you'll find The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, sitting side by side – stunning exhibits of Native American arts and history - not to be missed.
A detailed, life size bronze sculpture of a wagon train...this was only the front portion...
Yei figures above a door leading to the Arts and Culture Museum...
And a LARGER than life-sized (HUGE, I tell you!) bronze Apache dancer.  While I giggled at the signage behind this sculpture seeming to say "IT'S ALIVE!", I believe the actual quote was "Arts Alive"...and it certainly is, in Santa Fe!  Next stop, Albuquerque...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Great Balls of Fire and Local Cuisine - SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

Our travels to Santa Fe landed us, non-threateningly, between two major forest fires outside of town.  While the destruction of vegetation was fast moving and certainly sad, it provided some pretty spectacular shots on our first day in town.
The shot on the left is actually the distance of the fire from town (shot from the hill behind the Santa Fe Opera, which sits outside of Santa Fe a short distance), and how it looked in the morning, that day.  This was the Pacheco Fire, in the Santa Fe National Forest - by mid day, they had had a "bit" of a flare-up, and we were met with this spectacular sight.

As a crowd gathered on the street, the smoke billowed and changed rapidly in front of us - devastating, yet haunting and fascinatingly beautiful at the same time - this was a natural caused fire.
By midday of our second day in town, we witnessed the start of a second fire...this one to the west of town, and what was to become the largest in NM history - The Las Conchas Fire burned more than 150,000 acres, threatening Los Alamos National Laboratory and the town of Los Alamos.

We were offered some pretty spectacular views of the fire from afar that evening, though they did not translate as well here (or perhaps it was the cause and effect of the amount of tequila consumed that evening) - if you look at the bottom of the smoke, you can see the red of the flames - horrifying again, but a pretty breathtaking light show.
With which, the mention of liquid libations, brings us to the local cuisine, and a few recommendations throughout the town.

The first lunch stop on any trip through town commences at this quaint little restaurant - "The French Pastry Shop and Creperie" at the La Fonda Hotel - 100 East San Francisco Street, (505) 983-6697.  Handmade pastries, tasty sandwiches, and the BEST French Onion Soup you'll ever hope to eat - bring cash, as checks and/or credit cards are not accepted - it's worth the hassle, believe me.
Tomasita's Santa Fe (situated next to the Santa Fe Train Depot), 500 S Guadalupe St., (505)-983-5721 - ALWAYS a sure bet for an outstanding meal, great margaritas (leading to blurry, nighttime fire photos), and fresh, hot sopapillas.  Reservations are not accepted, so get there early - the wait is well worth it.  Tomasita's sits next to the Santa Fe Train Station - while you're waiting, wander over and talk to Sam...I did!  A round-trip train ticket between Santa Fe and Albuquerque will cost you $8.00 per person, for a day trip.
And that, leads me to this...the creme de la creme...the best for last...our most favorite local Mexican fare in town.  A place that draws us back at least twice, before leaving town - the food is exquisite, and the Margaritas are as outstanding as the 100+ menu for them is varied and long - a friendly, charming atmosphere - win, win, WIN!
Maria's New Mexican Kitchen, 555 West Cordova Road, (505) 983-7929, Mon. – Fri. 11:00 am to 10:00 pm, Sat. – Sun. Noon to 10 pm - Maria's is home to over 100+ Margaritas from which to choose - yeah, pretty much THE MOTHERLODE OF AMERICAN MARGARITAS, as they've been called.  The owner has written "The Great Margarita Book" (Al Lucero, with a forward by Robert Redford who frequents the restaurant, at a special table, when in town).
This was the last night of our Maria's trips...a night where the delicious, but hot, Carne Adovada actually gave me a nose bleed...even as spicy as it was, it was mouthwatering!  We were feeling so good and laughing so hard, that I thought my nose was just running a bit.  I like my food spicy hot, and the margaritas potent - I got both.  I don't know who might have been worse off that evening after two ass-kicker "House Margaritas" (I actually got up and hugged the waiter - I believe I actually told him I loved him)...my dad and I in this goofy shot, or my Mom, who seemingly couldn't focus the camera!  If you eat no where else in town, don't miss this one!  Blue agave like you wouldn't believe!