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Explore! New Mexico searches the state for interesting stories to tell our listeners and readers - and now our blog followers! We are currently producing a series of multi-media podcasts for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau about interesting events and places to visit. You can view them at our YouTube channel. Be sure to visit our website where you can get even more ideas about where to travel in the Land of Enchantment.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Inscriptions may date to 1580s

I’ve sought out petroglyphs in a number of places around New Mexico, and I’m always fascinated by these images, chipped in rock so many centuries ago. But I recently came across an Albuquerque Journal story by Oliver Uyttebrouck you may have missed.

It seems Albuquerque historian Mike Smith has found inscriptions depicting Christian crosses and letters etched in stone north of the Sandia Mountains. He thinks they may possibly have been made by Spanish visiting New Mexico in the 1580s.

We all seem to have the need to make our mark so someone knows of our passing. Apparently this was as true in the Sixteenth Century as it is today.

Rick Hendricks, state historian, plans to examine the inscriptions. If they turn out to be authentic, they would be the oldest Spanish inscriptions in New Mexico, predating those of Juan Oñate made at El Morro in 1605.

One of the inscriptions, in a flamboyant style, spells “Santa Maria,” perhaps made by Juan de Santa Maria, one of three friars who accompanied Francisco Sanchez, a soldier known as El Chamuscado, and Fray Augustin Rodriguez, in their expedition of 1581-82.

Just like Coronado, they too failed to find the fabled seven golden cities of Cibola ... but then perhaps they were never at Taos Pueblo fifteen minutes before sunset.

Posted by Bud Russo

Explore! New Mexico

Friday, June 25, 2010

International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe July 9 - 11

Last year, I traveled to Santa Fe so that I could visit the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, which attracts hundreds of artists and craftspeople from around the world. It was like walking through the world's largest and most diverse open-air market, moving from country to country while walking down the aisle. It is an incredible opportunity to meet people from many countries and cultures. Inaddition, you get the good feeling of knowing that 90 percent of every purchase you make goes directly to the artist, many of whom are supporting their family - and maybe their village - with the proceeds of their art. According to organizers, earnings in previous years have helped to build schools, wells and health clinics in a number of Third World countries. They also point out that more than 97 percent of the artists come from developing countries where per capita annual incomes range from $250 to $1500. So you can tell that what they make at the market most likely will easily exceed their usual annual income.

I was working on a radio story for Explore! New Mexico and wandered the market with my camera and recorder, chatting with artists all along the way. Universally I was impressed by their devotion to their craft and by their gratitude to the market organizers for providing this amazing opportunity. I met a Toureg man whose family has created amazing jewelry for generations. A woman from Krygestan who creates dolls that represent the people of her village. The Indonesian man who makes intricate shadow puppets, which at the time were also on display at the nearby Museum of International Folk Art. The woman from Mongolia who creates paintings that represent her horse-loving culture. The Brazilian man who began making wood-block prints to illustrate his father's poetry.

I came home with fiber art: a Mongolian pony, a charming doll from Krygestan, and an embroidered wall hanging. My friend, Joyce, bought a piece of metal art crafted in Haiti from recycled oil cans. Looking at their art reminds me of the people that I met and the challenges they face on a daily basis. When I hear of political upheavals or natural disasters, I have a person in mind with whom I can connect. Attending the market isn't just the opportunity to purchase beautiful art, it is also the opportunity to make global connections.

If you'd like to go, the market opens Friday, July 9, with a special opening party from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with shopping, dancing, music, food and drinks for $125 per person. The Early Bird Market on Saturday is $50. Regular admission is $10 if purchased in advance or $15 at the door. Sunday's market is family day with tickets at $5. Children 16 and under are free Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, kids can take part in the passport program and collect stamps from booths.

The market takes place on Museum Hill in Santa Fe at 725 Camino Lejo. Free shuttles run from the Roundhouse, where there is plenty of parking. Plan to wait in line for a shuttle, but they are organized and the line moves quickly. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes!

More info at www.folkartmarket.org.

Posted by Cheryl Fallstead
Explore! New Mexico

Mescalero Maiden's Puberty Ceremony ... Amazing Experience To Witness

I stood watching the sun climb above the Sacramento Mountains. It was July 4 a couple years ago, too early for fireworks. I was in Mescalero for the maiden’s coming of age ceremony, also known as the Maiden’s Puberty Sunrise Ceremony. While this is called a sunrise ceremony, it doesn’t necessarily begin at sunrise. It starts when the Mescalero holy men say it’s time.

The four-day ceremony is a solemn, serious time when a girl child ends her girlhood and enters womanhood. Some events, like the one I’m watching this morning, are public. Others are private, for the young women and their sponsors alone. There’s also a rodeo and, at night, pow-wows and traditional dances. You’re welcome, even if you’re not Native American, but you must always conduct yourself with the proper respect. I’m a writer, but I couldn’t take notes. Cameras are not allowed. One woman told me, “What you take away from here, you take away in your heart.” That’s good advice. For more than just this Mescalero ceremony.

After the holy men bless a number of pine logs stripped of branches, they begin to chant. They are joined by a group of women wrapped in blankets and shawls and who contribute to the chant at appropriate times. Meanwhile, a group of men muscle each 30-foot-long log until it stands on end, holding it upright, while one man lashes the logs together at the top, forming a tepee. It’s arduous work.

When the men complete work on the ceremonial teepee, which includes laying a bed of reeds for a floor, creating sides from leafy branches of oak, and forming an east-facing entrance, the ceremony begins in earnest.

Three young women arrive, each wearing a white doe-skin dress decorated with intricate bead and quill work. In the hair of each girl are ribbons, the colors of which, I note, match the colors in the blankets and shawls of the women chanters. I wonder about the connection.

The ceremony this morning is simple. The girls run toward a basket. They run toward the east and return to the tepee where they started. The basket is moved closer and they run again, and again. The holy men lay each girl on her back, her face with sacred corn pollen. This is a re-enactment of the White Painted Woman or Changing Woman myth. This public ceremony ends with the girl’s receiving gifts from her people, but also their families share gifts with all participants. That morning, even I was welcomed and given a small gift of food.

At the end of the ceremony everyone is also invited to dine with the participants. There’s fry bread, stew, corn chowder, and other traditional dishes. Again I’m included. Everyone is Mescalero this morning.

For the rest of the day and the three following, the girls are subjected to rituals and recitations, praying and dancing throughout most of the nights as they demonstrate they have mastered the knowledge of Mescalero womanhood, their capacity to hear, and the strength and endurance that goes with being a woman.

What impressed me most about this simple, yet profound, ceremony was the time and energy invested by the tribe. You’d had to be there to appreciate that: felling and shaving logs, cutting enough oak branches to complete not only the lodge but an expansive arbor where families live during the ceremony, gathering all the other materials, along with the expense of food and gifts. The girl’s dresses are works of art and no doubt costly. This is serious business and it’s evident by the solemnity of the ceremony.

But more than that, this ceremony shows just how valued women are in Mescalero society. Traditionally, men and women each had distinctive roles. The tribe could not survive without each man or woman fulfilling their obligation to family and tribe. In modern times, roles of women and men have evolved, but women have not always been valued for who they are or what they contribute. They still aren’t. For a Mescalero girl facing womanhood, this isn’t the case. She may go to Harvard or Berkeley or Columbia. She may be a doctor or lawyer or CEO. But she’ll always have the confidence of her place in Mescalero society. She’ll always be certain of her heritage and how, on this special day, she was valued above all else.

If you’re parents of girls, or a woman who wonders what it would be like to be truly valued for who you are, I’d recommend this July 4 ceremony. Except for the early start, it’s pretty easy to do. Travel U.S. 70 to Mescalero. About a mile or so east of the village, is the rodeo grounds. You can see the grandstand from the highway. Find you way there. Find you way back in time to see your way into a brighter future.

The Mescalero Apache Tribal office phone is 575-464-4494.

Posted by Bud Russo

Explore! New Mexico

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bud’s Nature Journal: Exploring the geology of the Jornada del Muerto

As desolate as it seems, the Jornada del Muerto is anything but. In fact, it’s surface can be read as if it were a treatise rich in history.

Recently, a group of us went into the Jornada on a rockhound adventure. Many of Doña Ana’s county roads are dirt, and I rode the bumpy roads in the back seat. I recognized Point of Rocks as we headed north. Soon the car came to a stop. We were there, although I have no idea where there is except to say we were deep in the Jornada. There are no forests in the Jornada, unless you want to call some clusters of ocotillo forests. There are no rivers; only dry arroyos. There are no landmarks. It was apparent only the leader of our group knew where she was going. It was also apparent it would be easy to get lost in this desert. I guess that’s one reason it was named journey of death.

So off we went, down a sandy arroyo into a wider one. We were told the solitary cottonwood a hundred yards to our left marked the point where we’d leave the arroyos on our return. That seemed futilely inadequate. We tracked northwest for perhaps a mile, perhaps a mile and a half. We were looking for petrified wood.

Now, if you know anything about the natural history of this area, it was once either the bed of a shallow sea or seashore. There were animals predating dinosaurs ... like dimentrodon, along with a lot of other and often much smaller reptilians. And there were trees ... forests of them.

Today the desert here is sparse. Scattered creosote bush, an odd prickly pear or ocotillo cactus, an even rarer mesquite, and virtually no grass. There’s lots of bare earth, so the search for fossils didn’t take long before one of us shouted, “I found some.” It wasn’t me, and I hurried to see what petrified wood here in the Jornada looked like. I had seen fossils in the Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona, but I needed a search image to find them in the Jornada.

I examined the lemon-size chunk of rock. Yes, I could see the veins of wood running vertically; the rings arcing horizontally. It was petrified wood alright. It was interesting, but my attention turned to an even more fascinating geological phenomenon just laying there on the ground ... small, dark, round rocks. They were iron and covered the ground like marbles. Some were as small as peas; others the size of golf balls. Some stuck together, like Nipples of Venus or Twinkies. Some had clustered and had the appearance of bubbly crust on a Brown Betty cobbler. It was obvious they had eroded from the sandstone in which many more were still embedded. I began to wonder how they got there and reviewed my meager knowledge of geology.

This is what I concluded.

Having seen Kilauea in Hawai’i, I surmised these balls were spatter from an eruption or lava fountain. Think of it. When 3000-degree molten rock shoots into 80-degree air, it virtually freezes, usually in the form of a ball. The spatter landed in sand. Perhaps it was a beach, much like the more muddy beach where the Paleozoic fossil tracks were made. Perhaps not. Whatever its source, the sand was the landing zone for the balls. More sand covered them and, over eons, the overburden compressed the sand into sandstone. You can see the different strata of sand, especially where a thin, darker layer of some other mineral fell to ground before more sand washed over it.

Then the mountains were born and the sandstone heaved to the surface. Wind, rain, and freezing temperatures have eroded the soft sandstone, leaving the hard iron laying on the surface. I gathered some. I even collected a piece of sandstone with an embedded ball. My schoolteacher sister-in-law will appreciate them.

We had been climbing a long, low ridge and now began to skirt the highest part. On the opposite side of the ridge, I had a chin-dropping experience. There laying on the ground were several, whole petrified logs. I couldn’t determine how long they were since they were partially buried. At least five to six feet were exposed, and they’d been exposed a long time. The rock was cracked and crumbling. You couldn’t collect an entire log, even if you had the machinery to dig and lift it. But here it was, telling a story that predates dinosaurs, a story of the time when there were no mountains, not even a North America. And who knows where these trees were born? Were they temperate like our pine forests are today? Or from some tropical region near the equator? I still find it hard to believe huge pieces of earth’s crust slide over the molten core, changing places and shapes. But here was evidence as plain as the nose on my face, although my nose has chosen to remain where it’s been since birth.

The Jornada is a desert, silent and pensive. It keeps its own counsel but it’s not stingy. It will share its life story with anyone willing to walk through it, willing to observe and listen. And look beyond the human impact on the land, to a time long before there were even humans or even mammals.

The piece of ancient tree I brought home sits on my desk and I marvel at how it was formed and how it became rock. It may be my imagination, but if it had eyes, they’d twinkle; if it had a mouth, there’d be a curious, mischievous smile. It knows so much more than I do, and I long to know what it knows. Maybe I need to journey again into the Jornada, to journey again back in time and read the open pages of its history.

Explore! New Mexico website is available to view!

Visit our new website, www.explorenewmexico.biz for lots more information on exploring the Land of Enchantment. You can view some of our podcasts and listen to sample Mile Markers. We have calendar listings of upcoming events around the state, lists of travel ideas by type of tourism (agritourism, cultural tourism, science tourism and more), plus history of the state and much more. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Thomas' Book Fascinating Look at Southwestern Indian Detours

If you’re as much history buff as I am, you’ll find The Southwestern Indian Detours, a book written by Diane Thomas and published in 1978, a historical treat. Ms. Thomas, a member of the Albuquerque Press Women with a long career writing books and magazine articles before she died in 2008, recounts the history of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad in providing road tours between Las Vegas, NM, and Albuquerque in the late 1920s. The idea was to entice people to leave the trains running to and from Chicago and California to tour the mountains, canyons, pueblos, and Indian ruins in the southern Sangre de Cristo mountains. Tours took patrons to Santa Fe, Taos, and other pueblos. There were also tours based out of Winslow, AZ, to the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert. The book details what life was like for the women tour guides, called Couriers, and the drivers. It looks at the luxurious accommodations and meal services as well as the various cars and buses used. Of course, the Great Depression has its impact, but what ended the Indian Detours, as they were called, was the rise of the family automobile and improvement of highways across the country. The Indian Detours continued after World War II but had faded from their exciting first decades. Ms. Thomas’ book is truly a fascinating read, showing how people in the early part of the last century discovered and thrilled at their Southwestern experiences.

Posted by Bud Russo

Explore! New Mexico