Thursday, October 6, 2011
Abiqui, New Mexico
A man living there now says it would have been a pueblo, but the US government would not label it so. The hamlet was populated by mixed Indians and the Spanish. It was a stop on the Santa Fe Tail. O’Keeffe painted here and in nearby Ghost Ranch area before losing her eyesight in old age. Her home can be toured, but reservations must be made a year in advance. Only a limited number of people are allowed to go through the adobe structure each year.
We had driven up the dirt lane leading into Abiqui once before where the lovely adobe church stands. Very threatening signs warned against any picture taking. There was no one in sight, but I felt like we were being watched and a gun barrel might appear from the crude structures if I lifted my camera. Down the road, in a tiny gift shop, the clerk said one of the locals had put up the signs and to ignore them. But I was a believer.
On this last trip, we again drove up into Abiqui and the signs were gone. I snapped pictures of the church, the only pristine building around. A couple of cars came and went, tourists mostly. We lingered and saw across the way a crude home with lean to additions and a hand lettered sign saying “Author Signing Today”. Another car pulled in, and so I was game to check it out too.
Inside was an elderly man with a Spanish accent, a storyteller for sure. He was a rascal you could tell right away. He had written the book and had them for sale. He had worked with Miss O’Keeffe, said he and she had planted the trees he pointed to. He pointed out a mile long circular road that she walked every day. He said we could drive it and see the scenes she saw. He said we could look over the adobe wall surrounding her house but to NOT take any pictures there!
I bought one of his books that he said had details other authors ignore about Abiqui. I let him show us on a map the history of the natives, of his Spanish forefathers. I listened to an explanations of the Catholic Los Penitentes, a lay confraternity of Roman Catholic men active in Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.
Mr. Garcia explained that during the Pueblo Revolt in the late 1600s, all the priests had been killed. So the men formed a lay group to pray, bury the dead, etc. The group still holds prayer services, prays the rosary together, prays over the dead, and does Easter services in the adobe morada which overlooks the Chama River.