Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Two Sides to a Fence, On the Road, #3
I don’t often take political or religious stands here, and even now I am only going to post for thought. There were two “hot” issues that arose on the trip to New Mexico a few weeks ago. One popped up while we were crossing the Comanche Grasslands, an area of immense space that spread from horizon to horizon with almost nothing but grass. In the fall that grass was dry, wheat-colored spines waving in a gusty wind rolling across the plains. Farmhouses were few and far between, but we began to notice a lot of large hand lettered signs that said “Not 4 Sale”. Curiosity got the best of me; I inquired at a local gas mart for an explanation.
The clerk explained that the government wanted to buy up all the farms in that region so they could do military training there. The farmers wanted to make it clear that they were not selling, and they certainly were not selling the land for that use! While I too would hate to see what a military base and all that went with it would do to that pristine grassland, I realized that those training bases have to be somewhere. I take no sides here except to wish we lived in a world where NO military bases ever had to exist. I know, Pollyanna writes this blog.
I certainly understand both sides of the other issue I bumped into near Santa Fe, and that is the glorification and remembrance of Spanish conquistadors. While I know that Spain was a great force in changing the world, in extending Christianity, I appreciate how the natives suffered under those Spaniards who came to the New World. After all, for the Indians that were here, that had made a life they knew and loved, this wasn’t a NEW world, it was THEIR world.
Several years ago on a second trip to New Mexico, DH and I drove clear to Gallup before turning north towards Shiprock. This meant we were near the Acoma pueblo around Albuquerque. We drove out to the pueblo but did not go up. We found the area sparse and beautiful. On one high mesa where the wind was whipping furiously, a painter was trying to work. He also had a unique pottery that was gorgeous in blood red with a glossy finish. We began to visit with Marcus Chino, a native artist with a home in the Acoma pueblo and one in Santa Fe. At the time, he was politically active in fighting the statues being built in El Paso and Albuquerque dedicated to the memory of Onate, a Spaniard who brutalized the Acoma people, slaughtering them, bashing their babies, and cutting off one foot of the remaining men and boys. Chino said building a statue to their conqueror was like the Jewish people being made to honor a statue of Hitler.
For a time Marcus and I emailed. One night DH and I were watching a PBS special on the struggle against the Onate statues and saw Chino speak for his point of view. Then we lost track of him. On this trip, we left Santa Fe on a Saturday afternoon, driving north and making a stop at the Tesuque Pueblo flea market. While wandering around the booths, I caught sight of a familiar glossy red pottery and looked up to see Marcus Chino! Small world indeed. Still politically active against the glorification of Spaniards, he brought us up to date.
This year marks the 400 anniversary of Santa Fe. President Obama, the Mexican president, and the King of Spain were invited to celebrate. Only the King of Spain considered coming, and he sent a delegation first to check out the area. This delegation made an appearance at the Acoma Pueblo and Chino raised a ruckus. He complained loudly about the conquerors coming to celebrate their submission, to rub the noses of Acoma people in Spanish conquest again. After some real controversy, the King of Spain did not come.
Years ago, the mayor of El Paso assured me that the Spaniards had brought sheep, silversmithing, fruit trees, horses, Christianity and other blessings to the area. But I have to wonder if the price for these blessings wasn’t pretty expensive if you were an indigenous people living contentedly on a high mesa, going from one season to the next with simple pleasures at that time.