Monday, March 23, 2009

Here's the Thing about Santa Fe/Taos in March

Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day as you can see by the photo above. The Martinez Hacienda was closed. The Taos Pueblo was closed, even though on the 18th, they had a big sign that said they would be open on the 21st. As of the 22nd, there was a new sign: closed until the 25th. But we had driven all the way up there to see the pueblo. Sigh. This is the lesson about Santa Fe and Taos, and perhaps New Mexico in general. You need to have alternate plans. Plans that include things that are always open, such as the Rio Grande Gorge:

This is the view looking down 600 feet from the gorge bridge, which is always open. It was, dare I say it, gorgeous. 8-) Sorry, it was a bad joke we repeated constantly to cheer us up from the disappointment of not getting to see the Taos Pueblo.

We have now visited three pueblos: Cochiti, San Ildefonso, and Taos. And in none of them did we feel welcome. I think that there is a very odd environment at the pueblo. It is a sacred place that is also open, occasionally, to tourism, which by its very nature is the opposite of sacred, perhaps even profane. So when you visit, there is a real sense that you are something other. While you may purchase some art (and there is amazing pottery and jewelry and outrageously talented artists living on the pueblo) and help out the pueblo residents there is a real sense that you are not to be trusted. Given that all of us can remember those people, those tourists who make us all look bad, I completely agree! Many tourists can be rude, unfeeling, callous, stupid and awful. Many can also be interested, awestruck, humbled and very excited about learning about a culture that is so very different from theirs. How do you protect against the former and still welcome the later? Turns out it is a very difficult balance to achieve. For my part, I think that I will bypass any future visits to pueblos out of respect for the privacy of the residents. The Santa Fe Plaza is able to showcase Native Artists and that's where we will seek out their art. Should you choose to visit, you should be very cognizant of the rules (no photos without a permit, usually $10 a day; no photos of residents without their expressed approval; no looking into doorways, as this is their home; no going in the Kiva or climbing on it as it is a sacred space).
The bottom line is that New Mexico is a state of artists, whether they be jewelry makers, weavers, chefs or potters. They may be Native American, European transplants or Native New Mexicans. The artisitic sensibility is that they live at a different pace than the rest of us nine to fivers. So, yes, the sign did say, open on the 22nd, but something came up. Yes, the door says open at 9 am, but the painter had a late night painting, so she won't be in until later. Or the biscuits burned, so the chef will make another batch and open up then. So be prepared for disappointment and have many options that you can switch to when something turns up closed. That way you won't be disappointed or frustrated. Or depend on the hiking and the national monuments. They don't close...unless it is Nambe Falls, which is on the Nambe Pueblo, which was....closed. I kid you not.

No comments: