Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When Cultures Collide

Before heading off to the Boca Negra Canyon Trail, the Ranger at the Petroglyph National Monument (on the northwestern edge of Albuquerque) suggested that we might also be interested in seeing the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument south of Albuquerque near the town of Mountainair, NM.

The drive to the Mission San Gregorio de Abó included several stops along the way to photograph the landscape. It was one of those beautiful New Mexico days--sunny, deep blue sky. The cream-colored grass compliments the dark mountains and the sky. I think this area was part of the Grand Tierra ranch.

These shrubs are about the extent of growth on the prairie.

The Mission at Abó is one of three Indian village/Spanish mission complexes preserved within a 30-mile area. For over 500 years, beginning in the early twelfth century, Pueblo Indians prospered here. Soon after the Franciscan priests arrived, they oversaw the building of this mission between 1622 and 1627. However, less than 50 years after the encounter of these two vastly different cultures, both the village and the Mission at Abó were empty.

Touring the mission, we walked through the nave, sacristy, baptistery, choir loft, living quarters for the priest, the kitchen, dining hall, a corral, and a kiva. The kiva is an Indian ceremonial chamber, which is usually round and below ground. As the guidebook noted: "It is puzzling to find this symbol of Indian religion in the midst of a Franciscan misssion. It may have served to help the Indians in the transition from their kivas to the above-ground church. But no one knows for sure."

As we stood outside the porteria (left), or reception area, of the mission, Kate and I noticed an interesting phenomenon. If we spoke while looking away from the porteria, the conversation sounded normal; if we looked into the porteria and spoke, there was a resonance to the conversation that was very pronounced.

Believing that we had discovered an effect that had gone unnoticed for nearly 400 years(!), we discussed our observation with the Ranger. He smiled politely and noted that musicians will often come to the ruins to perform--by themselves or for an audience.

After leaving Abó, we headed to the Franciscan Mission ruins of Quarai (Quar´•rye) near the town of Punta de Agua. Construction on the red sandstone church, with its forty-foot high walls and interior length of one hundred feet, began in 1628. Indians of the Pueblo had lived in the area since 1300.

This square kiva was believed to have been here before the church was built and buried by mission construction.

The sun, blue sky, red sandstone, and light positions created some striking images within the mission. We present some of these images here.

Our schedule does not permit us to be here in late September to hear the a cappella group "de Profundis" perform at the mission. The sound must be magnificent.

The juxtaposition of the four-hundred-year-old ruins and the jet trail overhead was thought-provoking, almost eerie.

In 1677, Fray Parraga locked the mission's doors for the last time.

We drove back through the prairie to Albuquerque, passing this abandoned farmhouse and windmill. It brought to mind a Wyeth painting.

Finally, this scene evoked a smile and an acknowledgment of the spirit that defines "fence post" in a creative manner.

Another encounter with the captivating scenery and history of New Mexico.

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