We have this last 3-day holiday weekend of summer, Labor Day to honor the United States of America labor movement and workers around the world.
As I look out onto panoramic scene of the Rio Grande River Gorge from my friends’ home on a high mesa outside of Taos, New Mexico, I think about the advocacy and personal risk required to create the child labor laws, safe working conditions and the forty-hour work week.
Today, some of us stretch the Labor Day weekend into perhaps a seven or ten-day holiday to enjoy the last of summer. Yet, in Oaxaca, we still see young children peddling candy on the streets to make a few pesos long after bedtime and a standard six-day work week, Monday through Saturday, that likely may not include paid vacation time, health benefits or a retirement plan.
I’m on the road for the next six weeks. The stop in Santa Fe was to visit my met in Oaxaca friends Martha, Sheri and Norma Uno who spend their time between Mexico and the “new” part of it. Mexico’s flavors and influences permeate here, hence Our Lady of Guadalupe images everywhere. As part of my experience, I even slept in a yurt in Norma’s garden outside her adobe casita built in the Pueblo style with modern adaptations.
After a mighty fine brunch visit at The Tea House cafe in Santa Fe, I hopped on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-skirts Twin Hearts Express shuttle service to take the two-hour ride to Taos, where my friends Karen and Steve picked me up.
We have been gorge-gazing, eating, cooking, shopping and other sundry activities all weekend. The scene reminds me of Oaxaca — big vistas, high mountains, lots of scrub oak and mesquite, grazing sheep and neighbors who are very fun.
There are more cowboys and cowboy wannabes here. Snakeskin boots, Navajo bolo ties, turquoise and silver abound. At the organic Saturday farmers’ market on the plaza we foraged for wild golden chanterelle mushrooms picked by a retired French couple who live here. Turns out they know people in Toulouse, France, where I’m heading in two weeks to visit Brigitte and Ivan. And, look at that native corn. Perhaps genetically similar to the Oaxaca corn I know and love.
Last night we went to a house party for an intimate soiree by Susan Gibson, formerly of the Dixie Chicks. The night before found us on another mesa eating grilled lamb chops and drinking a some delicious red wine. Yum, yum. Our hostess concocted a great sautee of fresh corn and squash New Mexico style, which she says is her favorite mainstay.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of this leg of my trip is spending it with friends whom I have known for almost forty years. Our lives have turned in different directions yet the camaraderie and bond are constant.
So, from Mexico to New Mexico, I find myself in the bosom of a shared culture, in a landscape that is familiar yet different, among a concurrent history of conquest, weaving, food and art. I wish you all a satisfying and joyous weekend as I prepare to return to Northern California to visit my ninety-eight year old mother on Tuesday.
New Mexico Dry. After the Santa Fe Folk Art Market.
By Tuesday after the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market ended, most friends returned home or continued with travels. Market weekend was HOT, over 100 degrees fahrenheit with no rain, unusual for July when afternoon thunderstorms usually cool things off, they say. There’s no air conditioning here, my local friends remind me. Adobe, shade and water are the natural coolants.
The high New Mexico desert is beautiful, austere, the color of salmon, sand, sage and terra-cotta. Only the cloudless blue sky, jagged mountains and cottonwood banking the rivers give relief to the landscape.
Beautiful pottery comes from this region
It is big country with expansive mesas and tumbleweed. Still the wild west with scattered oases.
Cemetery, Taos Pueblo, with adobe chapel
I drive an hour and a half north across Native American pueblo land — Santa Clara, Tesuque, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso — climbing up through a mountain pass along the Rio Grande River Gorge to Taos to visit friends.
Native American Tiwa people live in the pueblo
Beneath the mountain, under a cloudless sky, I see dust dancing in the distance, a funnel cloud likeness of Kokopelli blowing his flute.
St. Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo with brilliant blue altar (no photos inside)
Despite the heat, it is easy to love it here, the mix of silver, turquoise, coral, casinos, fry bread, corn, indigenous pride and creativity, ripe nectarines and peaches — prolific local bounty. This is more than an enclave for opera and art aficionados.
Colors of New Mexico
The Taos Pueblo looks much like it did forty years ago when I first visited and felt drawn by the region’s history and her native peoples.
Taos Pueblo as it was
There are a few more tourist shops, but the pueblo is otherwise untouched except by bus loads of visitors who come in early morning to avoid the sun.
Tributary of the Rio Grande runs through the Taos Pueblo
It’s not difficult to make the comparison between Mexico and New Mexico both visually and culturally. Spanish is a primary language here, and roots go deep into colonizer oppression and conversion (read about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt).
Three foot adobe walls, wood beams called vegas to hold up cedar ceilings
From history, we know that political boundaries do not define the origins of people (think Maya people of Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala).
Hand-woven blanket. The Spanish brought sheep and looms to New Mexico, too
Descendants of Mexican landholders subsumed into U.S. territory in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase populate Nuevo Mexico.
Tiwa people of Taos Pueblo are known for drum-making
Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site
Many of my New Mexico friends are equally at home in Oaxaca, and it is easy to see why.
Stockade fence, adobe wall, irresistible texture
Just like Oaxaca, I love the colors and textures here, the traditions of the native people, their art and creativity. The synergy between these two places is strong and as I drive through the country, I have this feeling of peace and deep history.
Hand-hewn logs provide filtered shelter from the sun
At this moment, I’m in Huntington Beach, California, with my son Jacob. The ocean breezes bring chill to the air, even though days are warm. It’s great to be back in the land of my growing up and connect with family for more than a few days.
Turquoise doors, Taos Pueblo
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Mexico, Photography, Travel & Tourism
Tagged colors, history, Mexico, New Mexico, photography, pueblo, Santa Fe, Taos, Tiwa people, travel