Chapter VI. Of Other Pueblos of the Upper Rio Grande, and how Santiago Quintana Travelled for Shells


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WITHIN a distance of about fifty miles east of Albuquerque, along the Rio Grande, is a chain of four pueblos, three of which are plainly visible from the train and contribute their quota to the entertainment of the car window traveller.

The first of these is Sandia, in the shadow of the Sierra de Sandia, beyond which, near Cerrillos, are the ancient turquoise mines of the Pueblos. Sandia is a moribund little place whose present population is only about seventy-five and half its houses are tumbledown or transformed into corrals and storerooms. It presents little interest to the casual visitor, but is rather important in its own estimation at the time of the autumn harvests, when it enjoys a brief heyday of prosperity through the selling of corn and alfalfa to itinerant Mexican buyers who frequent the pueblo at that time.


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After the Pueblo revolt against the Spanish rule in 1680, the Sandians for some reason—so the old men say—vacated their pueblo and moved to Moqui. A half century later, they returned to the old home, whether on account of the aridity of Moqui or because the voices of the past irresistibly called them, the historians do not say. However, they did not prosper; and ill-fortune, in the Pueblo philosophy, means that the spell of witchcraft is on you. So Sandia settled down to witch-baiting so earnestly and so successfully that, to-day, there are not only no witches there, but almost nobody else.

The next in order of this chain of pueblos is San Felipe on the opposite bank of the Rio Grande. You may, if you choose, drop off the train at a flag station within two or three miles of the pueblo and walk to the river, taking your chances of being ferried across by a team or pillioned behind some passing horseman. For myself, I found it more agreeable to leave the train at Bernalillo and engage Juan Pablo to drive me ten miles up the pleasant valley of the Rio Grande, through its rustling "corn plants" and its whispering willows.

After an hour of this, our proximity to the


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pueblo was indicated by our meeting Indians, sometimes on horseback, sometimes on foot, sometimes in Studebaker waggons, on their way to the trader's tienda beneath the shady cottonwoods at Algodones. One old man in his bright red banda and clubbed chongo, his old-fashioned, flapping, cotton pantaloons and moccasins, was such a good picture of the ancient Pueblo type that we bargained with him for his retrato. He was at first reluctant to consent; but when some of his brethren from the pueblo, travelling the same road, were out of sight behind a bend in the highway, he courageously agreed to accept a quarter and stand for the picture, but was manifestly nervous until the operation was over, lest some one else should appear and catch him posing.

No one greeted us in San Felipe, as we drove past the old Spanish church with its twin towers and neatly-walled campo santo in front; for, being harvest time, most of the men of the pueblo were away in their fields, gathering their crops, and the streets were all but deserted. There was a murmur of childish voices from the little school where the tired, anxious-faced teacher was endeavouring to drill her very cheerful little charges in the


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rudiments of American education; and there was Rosario Sanchez, the village policeman, walking importantly about the pueblo, peering into suspicious corners for the purpose of discovering and rounding up such truants as were disposed to bolt the paths of knowledge. Now and then a girl passed by from the river, with her water-jar dripping on her head, and shyly kept in the shade as much as possible, so that any designs that the stranger might have upon her with the camera should be frustrated. An old man with one baby in the blanket at his back and another tagging alongside crossed the sunny plaza singing an Indian song—doubtless an expression of the joy in his heart, but doubtless also with the ulterior view of instructing the little fellow at his side in some traditional melody of his people. In the sunshine before one of the houses, a shell-bead maker was rubbing upon a whetstone the bits of shell which he had broken up into small sizes and which, after being thus ground into proper shape, would be bored and made suitable for stringing with his primitive pump-drill that hung by the doorway. On some of the housetops women were spreading out ears of corn and round, fat melons to dry in the hot sunshine, and upon the outer walls of almost every house hung brilliant strings of chili.

A Pueblo woman bearing water home from the well. Open-air ovens in background.


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‘‘A nice pueblo, this, ’’I said to a man who came out of a doorway.

‘‘Nice?’’ he replied, puzzled. ‘‘Nice? Quien sabe 'nice'?’’

Then I said: ‘‘Bueno pueblo’’, and he said: ‘‘Oh, 'bueno,' si, ’’and laughed as though it were a great joke that "nice" should mean "bueno."

It was all a quiet, homelike scene and the people themselves were so evidently in full enjoyment of life that the sight would certainly have been a surprise to some concerned philanthropists three thousand miles off, who are anxious to change all aboriginal ways and to instil into the Pueblo mind the principles of the "higher life," ignorant or unobservant of the fact that these red brethren of ours have already chosen the simple path of a wisdom that is marked with pleasantness and peace.

When the sun was straight overhead, marking high noon, I looked about for Juan Pablo, and found him comfortably seated in one of the houses upon a low stool and partaking of a hearty lunch spread upon the floor. There were frijoles, tortillas,


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a fried egg or two, and a cup of black coffee, while in the three-cornered fireplace, there were warming more frijoles and coffee and tortillas of which a pleasant-faced matron smilingly invited me to partake without charge. From the rafters overhead hung a score of watermelons, each snugly harnessed in strips of soapweed, tied at the bottom into a neat bow like a necktie. There they would hang well into the winter and would be an item of refreshment in the wintry menu of dried things.

As we ate, it seemed a fitting opportunity to obtain enlightenment on a point in New Mexico cookery that had never been clear in my mind, so I said to Juan Pablo as he dreamily sipped his black coffee: ‘‘What is an enchilada?’’

‘‘It is something you make of bread and meat, chop' up with chili, and all cook' together.’’

‘‘Do you have tamales in New Mexico?’’ I continued.

‘‘For sure,’’ he replied with a joyful smile.

‘‘How are they made?’’

‘‘Well, señor, they're made of some bread and chop' meat, an' chili cook' together.’’


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‘‘In California we have tamales, ’’I said; ‘‘but we use corn-meal—not bread—and wrap all up in a corn-husk before cooking. You don't do that with your tamales?’’

‘‘Oh, yes, we wrap all that in the corn-husk and we use corn-meal, too.’’

‘‘Then how about the enchilada? Is that wrapped in a corn-husk?’’

‘‘Si, señor, that wrap' in the corn-husk.’’

‘‘Well,’’ said I, ‘‘what is the difference, then, between the enchilada and the tamale?’’

‘‘Well, señor, it is thees way: enchilada and tamale very much alike; but they're a leetle different, too, señor.’’

Then Juan Pablo, his luncheon finished, took a square piece of corn-husk from his pocket and reflectively scraped a little tobacco upon it, which, with deft fingers, he twirled into a cigarrito.

‘‘Leetle warm weather to-day, señor, no?’’ he observed, looking through the doorway into the sun.

Another ten miles to the east, built upon flat bottom lands of the Rio Grande, is Santo Domingo. Among all the pueblos this is the only one that we had heard spoken of as showing inhospitality


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towards white visitors. This attitude, so far as it is a fact, is due probably to the deep-rooted aversion of these people to having their pictures taken, and picture-taking is a white man's habit. Even artists with the brush, whose guileless presence in freakish clothing beneath white umbrellas is tolerated and even enjoyed in other pueblos because of their aboriginal love of colour—even artists have been denied the privilege of painting in the streets of Santo Domingo and have been summarily escorted without the walls. As for the man with a camera—he is a very child of the devil to these primitive folk, and if he attempts to operate his infernal machine there, he is apt to have it smashed and himself ejected. Such being Santo Domingo's views upon American art, Sylvia and I decided that it would be best to bow to them; so paint-box and camera were left behind when we drove over to the pueblo.

Whether or not our manifestly free hands and air of conscious innocence had a mollifying influence, I cannot say; but, in point of hospitality, we certainly had nothing to complain of. It was the day after the Feast of the Dead, which is a fiesta in all Roman Catholic pueblos, held annually


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on the second of November; and in every home we entered, coffee, meat, and bread were set before us and we were expected, for the nonce, to make that home ours. At one house a watermelon was presented to us as we rose to go—and watermelons, you must know, are among the choicest of earth's fruits to the Indian, not to be lightly parted with.1

It is not only in its antagonism to cameras and brushes that Santo Domingo's conservatism is manifested. The encroachments of the American school-teacher are even more distasteful, though less easily dealt with. The resistance to white education had led, at the time of our visit, to the abandonment of the local day-school within the pueblo; but the result of this has merely been the transference of the children to the Government's big boarding-school at Santa Fé. Much as the pueblo authorities deplore this, they cannot


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help themselves, for the arm of the United States Indian Bureau is longer than the longest in Santo Domingo.

In the matter of dress, too, the Santo Domingans' conservative taste is manifested; for they still cling tenaciously to many of the old fashions which, under the influence of contact with the whites, are fast disappearing from most of the other pueblos. Especially is this noticeable in the attire of the women, who are often beautiful of countenance, and, as a class, are finely developed physically, and who still wear the quaint, sleeveless manta, or garment of one piece, which leaves one shoulder bare and reaches a little below the knee. The fashion is precisely what Castañeda, writing of Coronado's expedition in 1540, has recorded: ‘‘The women wear blankets which they tie or knot over the left shoulder, leaving the right arm out.’’

Another feature of Santo Domingo, which is to be credited to the conservatism of its guiding spirits, is the sustained Indian quality of its ceremonial dances. August 4th is the date of the principal public fiesta of the year, and it ranks in beauty and in general interest with the religious


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ceremonies of Moqui, Zuñi, and Taos. The accessibility of Santo Domingo from Santa Fé and Albuquerque draws to this fiesta great crowds of Americans, Mexicans, and Indians of various kinds, who make a scene as picturesque in its way as the dance itself.

The fourth of the pueblos with which this chapter deals is Cochití. It is a small place now, ten miles or so up the river from Santo Domingo and far out of sight from the railroad. It has become so much Mexicanised that if you were to drop into it without knowing where you were, you would not be likely to take it for a pueblo at all, but, rather, for an ordinary Mexican town. The houses, one-story structures, are scattered about without much system, and very close to the entrance of the pueblo is a hideous one of frame, painted blue with a red roof—the handiwork, we were told, of a Carlisle student. Any pueblo that tolerates within it a house like that is condemned out of its own mouth.

The Cochití Indians, what is left of them, are very hospitable and seem disposed to let the wave of Americanism wash over and engulf them without much protest on their part. The girls and women


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are quite as likely to be found dressed in calico skirts and shirt-waists as in their native costume and have abandoned very largely the beautiful tinajas of their people for store buckets and lard pails in which they lug water from the river, by the hand, American-wise. They appear, on the whole, rather spiritless. They will even allow you to take their pictures without bargaining and are grateful for ten cents, if you care to give it to them, for the privilege.

But even in Cochití, the protest against Americanism is not entirely dead. There is Santiago Quintana, for instance. Santiago is a mucho sabio, who, in the councils of his people, stands vigorously for the old order. We found him a lively old man, in flapping trousers and buckskin moccasins, and a discontented Mexican, whom we encountered loitering about the pueblo, informed us that things would be much easier for outsiders when Santiago was once dead and buried; that he was a stubborn old fool. He seemed to us, however, just a kindly old Pueblo, who loved the ways of his fathers and wanted to see them maintained as the gods of Cochití had directed. His eyes sparkled when we told him that we were from


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California, and he plunged vivaciously into an account of a trip which, as a young man, he made thither in quest of the great water where the shells are cast up, which every true Pueblo prizes as the white man prizes pearls. He travelled all the way on foot, driving a pack burro before him, across deserts and over mountains, with leisurely stops by the way, and three moons had waxed and waned by the time he caught sight of the Pacific. Old as he was—he looked to be seventy—that marvellous journey was to him as if it had ended but yesterday. He was as familiar with the names of San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo as we were; and of the picturesque old pastoral life of California, which exists now only in books, Santiago knew infinitely more than we ever shall, for he was for two years a part of it. As he could stick to a horse's back like a Navajo, he found occupation as vaquero on some of the big Spanish ranches which, half a century ago, were still untouched by the real-estate agent and the subdivider, and he must have laid by money, for his return was not afoot but on horse-back.

‘‘And Cochití looked finer to you than ever when you got back, did it not?’’ we asked sentimentally.


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‘‘There's no place equal to Cochití, is there?’’

‘‘Yes, there is,’’ he answered unexpectedly, ‘‘California much better,—bonito campo, mucho trigo, fruto, sandia, ah, sandia!’’ (beautiful country, much wheat, fruit, and watermelons, ah, the watermelons!). ‘‘But here in Cochití are all my people, my cousins, my brothers, my friends, my children—these are all in Cochití—and here my fathers lived; so Santiago Quintana he lives in Cochití.’’

If you are ever at Cochití, it will be worth your while to make a trip into the magnificent mountain region north of the pueblo lands where numerous ancient remains, attesting the romantic past of the Cochití community, are to be found—such as the sculptured mountain lions of the Potrero de las Vacas, the rock paintings of La Cueva Pintada, and the marvellous ruins of the Cave City on the Rito de los Frijoles.2 Perhaps Santiago will guide


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you, or, if not, Natividad Arquero or another; but go, and when you return you will never again talk of America's lack of ancient ruins or of a past without human interest. This region, rich beyond words in natural beauty and in archæological interest, was first made known to the world by that sterling ethnologist, Adolph F. Bandelier, who made Cochití his home for years, and whose romance, The Delight Makers, embodies in the form of fiction a wealth of information about Pueblo Indians and their ancestors of the cliff dwellings.


Notes

1. Frederick Starr in his delightful volume for young people, American Indians, notes a similar cordiality of welcome at Santo Domingo. ‘‘The old governor of the pueblo,’’ he says, ‘‘rode out to meet us and learn who we were and what we wanted. On explaining that we were strangers who only wished to see the town, we were taken directly to his house on the town square. His old wife hastened to put before us cakes and coffee. After we had eaten, we were given full permission to look around.’’

2. This region, now under Governmental care, is more expeditiously reached by automobile from Santa Fé, if you like travelling to ruins by such conveyance. The Institute of Archæology of that city has been active for some years past in uncovering and, to some degree, restoring the remains of this ancient city in the Frijoles Cañon, one of the most complete and interesting ruins of the South-West.

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter V. Of the Three Pueblos of the Jemez River Valley, and Somewhat of John Paul, the Cowhead Next: Chapter VII. Of Certain Pueblos near Santa Fé




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