Chapter VII. Of Certain Pueblos near Santa Fé


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THE tourist in Santa Fé who has a few spare days upon his hands may entertain himself very pleasantly by hiring a team, or an automobile if he prefers it, and visiting the half dozen Indian pueblos which are within easy reach of New Mexico's ancient capital.

Nearest is Tesuque, of which some mention has already been made, but which will increase in interest with acquaintance. It is an unobserving traveller who does not see something new upon each succeeding visit to an Indian town; for the Pueblo does not wear his heart upon his sleeve and by no means shows at first meeting all that he is.

The proximity of Tesuque to Santa Fé—nine miles—has not been altogether good for Tesuque. The constant contact with traders and tourists has developed a decidedly commercial quality in this people, and they are paying much more attention


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to the manufacture of indifferent curios for an undiscriminating tourist trade than to any serious prosecution of their native arts. Nevertheless, it is interesting to watch the moulding of such things as the imitation American pipes and tipsy vases, wobbly match-trays, and those hideous monstrosities, the rain gods, which are in every curio store in the South-West; and to see the returned scholars labouring at the bead-work which has been taught them in the Government school as a suitable and remunerative vocation for Pueblo artists. Such occupations are carried on in the common living-room of the family, while the hum of the metate fills the house with its dull monotone, and the slumbering baby, strapped securely on his padded board cradle, suspended by thongs from rafters in the ceiling, swings slowly back and forth.

At Tesuque, more than at any other pueblo, we found our presence mainly tolerable in proportion to our willingness to spend money, and we got more than one ugly look when we declined to pay two prices for the indifferent wares that were plentifully set before us. Yet it was not so at all houses—in many we found still the simple, uncalculating


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hospitality of the unspoiled Indian, as at the home of Juanita Chinaná. Her kind eyes took note of us as we sat at luncheon on a log in the shade of her man's corral, and she brought from her house two chairs for us to sit on, while her son pulled down a flake of alfalfa for our Dobbin. He looked surprised at the silver coin which we tendered him—he was still too unsophisticated to expect payment for ministering to the wants of the stranger—even though uninvited—within the gates.

The date of Tesuque's annual public fiesta, November 12th, is one of Santa Fé's gala days, and the road thence to the pueblo is crowded that morning with carriages, farm waggons, bicycles, horses, and automobiles, carrying visitors to the festivities. The character of this Indian dance differs in different years, but is always interesting, and, with the preceding mass and church procession, consumes the greater part of a day. Sitting on a housetop looking down on the great plaza at the dancers in their beautiful, barbaric costumes and kaleidoscopic colour, and on the encircling spectators, most of whom are Mexicans in more or less gay attire, we seem to be looking at a foreign scene, so unlike is it to what we associate with our United States. The intoxication at Tesuque on these occasions is often a distressing concomitant of the novel beauty of the ceremonies, and at the time of our last visit, many of the Indian spectators were maudlin drunk before noon. The dancers themselves, however, were entirely sober and seemingly suitably impressed with the solemnity of the religious rite in which they were engaged; but it seems the debauch with them was simply postponed. When the shadows drew long across the plaza, and the dancers finally disappeared into their ceremonial chamber, we asked an Indian standing near us if there were anything more to come.

A Tesuque mother and baby. The child is asleep in the cradle swinging by cords from beams in the ceiling.


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‘‘No,’’ he replied ingenuously, ‘‘nothing more now except to get drunk.’’

About ten miles from Tesuque, beneath the shoulder of the snow-capped Santa Fé "Baldy," is nestled the pretty little pueblo of Nambé. Time was when there was a good deal doing at Nambé, which, like Sandia, had an evil reputation in the matter of witches; but those strenuous days are now past and the little place is very much Mexicanised and down at the heel, and its atmosphere


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is rather melancholy. Nevertheless, the old Pueblo spirit is still there and on their annual fiesta, which takes place on October 4th, they render their public dance with a half dozen participants, just as joyously as though there were as many hundred.

The country all about this pueblo is thickly settled by Mexicans whose lands are close up to the pueblo walls, and it will probably not be long before Nambé will become as thoroughly swallowed up by these neighbours of Spanish blood as the extinct pueblo of Pojuaque,1 five miles farther down the Nambé River. Pojuaque, when its population had dwindled to ten, decided to quit; and two or three years ago, the little remnant moved to Nambé, and now the looker-on in Pojuaque sees nothing to indicate that it ever was an Indian pueblo.

If you are travelling by carriage—and that is the ideal plan of travel among the pueblos—you will find Pojuaque a convenient stopping-place for the night; and if you do stop there, you might do worse than lodge at Señora Bouquet's, whose long, rambling establishment, part residence, part store, and part stable, is set there by the road. The


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Señora is the Spanish widow of a French husband—"Old Man" Bouquet of fragrant memory. You will remember him if you have ever read Thomas A. Janvier's story, Santa Fé's Partner. There is a famous well, embowered like a shrine among trees, just across the road from the house, and you must compliment the Señora upon the deliciousness of its waters; for there is no finer in New Mexico. You will enjoy a stroll through her garden of fruit trees, too—a thousand of them, she will tell you, which she herself planted with her own hands when she came to Pojuaque, a bride—ah, how many years ago, quien sabe?—and now many are grown so big she cannot put her arm around them.

From Pojuaque a few miles through a lonely, sun-scorched plain, untilled and untillable, gashed and ditched by a thousand dry arroyos and barrancas, and you come again to the Rio Grande and the pueblo of San Ildefonso, with its liberal plaza, an ancient cottonwood in the midst. The picturesqueness of the pueblo has suffered in the last year or two by the erection of a barn-like Roman Catholic edifice within it, replacing the historic church of adobe, which, dating from the time of the


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early Spaniards, had become unsafe.2 Looking down upon the pueblo is a huge, flat-topped mountain of black lava—the Mesa Huerfana, as the Mexicans call it, that is, "The Orphan." Upon its summit San Ildefonso sought refuge when, after the bloody Pueblo uprising in 1680, the avenging army of De Vargas appeared on the other side of the Rio Grande. The siege of the Black Mesa lasted nine months off and on, according to Lummis, the beleaguered Indians resisting four assaults upon their Gibraltar-like fortress; but Spaniards, in those days, were of a mettle hard to conquer and the San Ildefonsans were finally brought to knee. They had gone up freemen of the plain, but they came down vassals of the Spanish King. The San Ildefonso which we know to-day, at the foot of that black mount of humiliation, is not the original pueblo; that stood across the river.

As at Nambé, the Mexican invasion of San Ildefonso has begun and is, little by little, encroaching upon the distinctive Pueblo features of


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the place. The Indians are very hospitably disposed to white visitors, kindly and good-humoured, and our memory of their home by the great river is full of the joyous laughter of children, which even the dull tasks of the Government day school at the town's edge have not quenched.

‘‘Yes,’’ sighed the schoolmistress in charge at the time of one of our visits—an elderly New Englandish spinster upon whom the responsibility of her lively pupils lay very heavy—‘‘that's one trouble with them—they are too happy. If they only realised their real condition in life, there would be some hope of their improving.’’

Eight miles up the river from San Ildefonso is the Americo-Mexican village of Española, where you may put up your tired team and rent a room from Shorty. Shorty, the Boniface of Española, is a spectacled gentleman of middle age and five feet three, stouter than is safe to be, red-visaged, and during our acquaintance with him, never known to be separated from a half-chewed cigar gripped in the corner of his mouth. He keeps a saloon for the bibulous, while "Mamma" ministers to the pangs of the hungry by running in the rear of the premises a dining-room of an excellence far


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above what the surroundings would lead one to expect. Here at Española you are within easy reach of the wonderful cliff of Puyé, with its ancient cavate dwellings and its buried pueblo; and you are not far from Chamita, the site of the first Spanish settlement in all New Mexico; nor from Abiquiú of the Penitentes; nor from Sanctuario, famous for miracles. Near at hand, too, are the Indian pueblos of Santa Clara and San Juan, as well as San Ildefonso, which has just been mentioned.

Santa Clara, indeed, is within after-supper walking distance, and there is no pleasanter time of day than day's close to visit the place. The pueblo is on a sandy dune, a mile or two south of Española, overlooking the Rio Grande, which here winds its muddy course through sunny, green bottom lands before disappearing around the Black Mesa of San Ildefonso, to be swallowed up in the wild gorge of the Peña Blanca Cañon above Cochití. Beyond the river, the jagged peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Sierra lift themselves against the sky—the Truchas, the Santa Fé "Baldy," and the cratered Peak of the Lakes, exceeding 12,000 feet and often snow-clad even in summer. Bandelier,


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in one of his New Mexico papers, vividly describes the beauty of this scene.

‘‘If one stands in the evening [he writes], when the sun is setting and the shadows are already cast over the valleys, on the swell above the church of Santa Clara, he will see the snow-peaks glowing for a little while in fiery red. The crags of the Truchas blaze like flowing ore. An Alpine lustre is displayed, less soft in colours than that of the central mountains of Europe, but much more intense and longer lasting. The mountains stand out ghostly pale as soon as the last glow is extinguished, and a white shroud appears to rest upon the landscape.’’

One is not long in Santa Clara before noticing that many of these Indians are taller and more slender in build than the short, stocky Pueblos of the south. Their hair, too, is worn differently, being parted in the middle and braided at the sides. This difference in look has been attributed to a probable mixture in past times with their nomadic neighbours, the Utes, the Apaches, and the Navajos.

The Santa Clara women have made a substantial reputation for themselves as makers of a peculiar, shiny black pottery, the best of it very beautifully fashioned; for, being without decoration, its attractiveness


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must necessarily depend largely upon form. The clay of the region naturally burns red, but the potters long ago found that, by smudging the fire at a certain stage in the operation, the black smoke is absorbed by the clay and results in a permanent black. Our interest in pottery at the time of our first visit to Santa Clara several years ago developed an unexpected evidence of the innate honesty of the old type of Pueblo nature. We had bought some specimens of black ware from old Piedád, and noticing on a shelf some newly moulded forms, still unburned and showing the reddish nature of the raw material, we offered to buy one. She shook her head vigorously, and when we persisted in wanting it, she turned her distressed old face towards a young man whose short hair, indifferent manner, and recumbent attitude betokened the Government scholar, and said something to him in the native tongue. Interpreted, it meant that he should tell us that such ware would not hold water and it was not right to sell pottery until fired; for it would melt away and what then would we have for our money? It was only after she was made to understand clearly that we knew this and would not subject the pottery in any way to the action of water, that she consented, though still reluctantly, to let us bear away a piece.

San Juan woman in her doorway. Note the boot-like moccasins, worn in certain pueblos.


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San Juan, also on the banks of the Rio Grande, but north of Española eight miles, was the town that gave to the Pueblos their most famous leader, Popé. He was the organiser of that one unanimous and, therefore, successful revolt of the Pueblos against Spanish rule, which occurred in 1680 and resulted in their killing or driving every Spaniard from the Pueblo country, and keeping them out for twelve years. San Juan is in the midst of a rather populous Mexican community, as populosity goes in New Mexico, and a well-travelled public highway runs through the pueblo lands. On it John Barleycorn travels all too frequently and San Juan's morals, as well as Santa Clara's, are not bettered by the fact, if the school-teacher's gloomy report to us as to the prevalence of inebriety there is correct. The day we spent at San Juan, however, every one was sober and reasonably happy. Old men sat in the sun at their doors, mending tattered moccasins, and, now and then, one reminiscently sang a scrap of song as he sewed; women busily came and went,


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preparing the street ovens for the wheat-bread baking; and pleasant-faced girls with glistening black tinajas of water on their heads, as at Santa Clara, the gourd dippers clinking against the rims, filed in from the well. Farm waggons loaded with corn or with wood, and now and then a slaughtered sheep on top, creaked in from the country, and children played about everywhere. It may have been here that one toddler stumbled over a log and, hurting itself, fell to crying. A returned student, who had been sullenly sitting in the shade watching us, jumped to his feet with every sense alert, and gathering up the little fellow, soothed it as a woman would.

‘‘If the Pueblos are ever to be saved as Pueblos,’’ murmured Sylvia, ‘‘it will be a little child that will keep them.’’


Notes

1. Pronounced Po-hwa'kā.

2. In that ancient church, it is stated by Bandelier, Jean l'Archévèque, who betrayed the French explorer La Salle to his death, was married in 1719 to a Spanish lady.

Up: Contents Previous: Chapter VI. Of Other Pueblos of the Upper Rio Grande, and how Santiago Quintana Travelled for Shells Next: Chapter VIII. Of Taos and the Way Thither




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