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The price of Christian friendship proved to be far too high
IT is something of an irony that, back in the 19th Century USA, while Spain, the US, Mexico and, to the east, France, Spain and the US (Louisiana Purchase) were deciding who owned what, there were hundreds of thousands of native Indians who thought it was their land.
In fact I saw an 1830 US map in the Santa Fe museum that actually acknowledged the existence of Apacheria.
The Pueblos, more advanced in harvesting, farming and building (the adobe, pueblo cubes) accepted the offer of friendship from the Spanish, eventually rebelling because they rated the price of Christian friendship too high. They had to become slaves, work for the Spanish, forget their old ways and adopt Christianity and become ‘civilised’.
After a time they had had enough of all that so they rebelled and kicked the Spanish out of New Mexico for a dozen years, but eventually the Spanish returned and regained the territory.
To bring home the point, Santa Fe has a statue and upon it are 400 names. They represent the native Indian tribes in the USA who are now no more.
The town is lovely, expensive but has really good vibes. I did not know that bronze statues and sculptures could be so many ornate colours. There are literally hundreds of these colourful sculptures, on street corners and in alleyways.
We visited the Museum of New Mexico history; the art museum, the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe (American modernist), and then toured some galleries. It would take a week to tour them all.
When it comes to preferences in respect of US cities, towns and areas, Ellie loved Keystone in South Dakota (which we visited last year) but the thought of six foot of snow in the winter, left her with such as Arizona, Asheville and North Carolina in general as the only places hypothetically she could see herself living in the US. Now she has added Santa Fe. She loves it and as she says “they are not up their own arse rich: they are friendly and vital”.
She also had what she reckons is the world’s best chicken tikka massala and just to make sure, had it twice. Having had a couple of spoonfuls each time, I tended to agree.
After a pleasant stop in Santa Fe, we headed 70 miles north to Taos, again a pueblo establishment with the same architecture, a fantastic light, again surrounded by mountains, and full of galleries.
We had a Thai meal the first night and Chinese on the second night because we knew we would be back on the melts and sauces by the weekend. I just cannot get on with Mexican food for too long.
We went and saw the bridge over the Rio Grande, which is quite unreal. You travel across the flat plain surrounded by mountains in the distance and some quite close and then suddenly there is a bridge and a great big schism in the ground and a deep one at that. With my well-documented tendency towards vertigo, I never made it walking to the centre of the bridge but Ellie said it was so deep even she felt uncomfortable.
The river and the rift used to separate Mexico from the US before New Mexico became absorbed by the USA.
We then went for Mexican lunch. The chillies were lovely, the steak was good but the rest was a melange of stomach-churning puke for me.
While dealing in negatives, another thing I do not like: the obsession with financial matters, rates, bonds and futures, which they go on about so much on the telly in the US. Nor do I like the fact that they add the tax on after you have committed yourself to stretching the budget and buying something. But the worst is the food. I just don’t get it beyond a simple fried breakfast, if you can labour the point and achieve such a thing.
The fast food culture is so engrained that as soon as they go slightly up market, they still expect melts and sauces and ketchup sprayed over the whole enchilada.
I don’t like Buds, Coors, Miller’s light or heavy. Happily the growth of micro-breweries continues and I soon found getting outside a pint of Alien was rewarding.
We went to the Pueblo village which still houses 25 families in a manner unchanged for 3,000 years. Sometimes these brick boxes are piled on top of each other and you climb an outside ladder to access. You can see ruins of past cultures in many countries, but here they are still living as they did centuries ago.
They do not have electricity, use the mountain stream for drinking water and practice the old religion, which is passed down orally, while also embracing aspects of the Catholic Church and they have a fine old church there.
The Pueblos concentrate on craft-making and are seemingly very happy there. We talked to one 31 years old stall holder who was born in the pueblo but admitted: “I live in Taos with my satellite”.
A great experience Santa Fe and Taos. Well worth it.
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