The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

NM/AZ 2009 Vacation: Acoma Pueblo/Sky City

Not all pueblos are alike. This is true both culturally and in terms of how they present themselves today. The Acoma Pueblo people seem to have decided that if there is money in tourism, they are going after it. In addition to the usual roadside casino, gas station, and convenience store, the Acoma have a visitors’ center, museum, restaurant, gift shop, and guided tour. This obviously required an investment in infrastructure, which can be a gamble or a leap of faith. It also provides jobs and, from a tourist’s perspective, offers insight into Acoma history and culture. Economically, this all seems to have worked. The Acoma plow their casino and tourism income back into the tribe’s social and business ventures, resulting in an unemployment rate lower than that of the overall United States and a fairly high (75%) rate of young people who go on to college. Our wonderful tour guide, Kevin, is taking a break from his studies but hopes to someday be a college professor. But I get ahead of myself.

The Acoma Pueblo village itself, aka Sky City, is based on top of a mesa and has been continually inhabited since the 11th century at least. Kevin spent almost 2 hours guiding our small clutch of tourists, showing us first the mission and next the living area. There is no electricity in the village, though most of the villagers appear to have cars or trucks, and there are port-a-potties everywhere in lieu of indoor plumbing. Not all of the homes are continuously occupied, but they are passed down matrilinearly, with a provision for families that have only sons. Homes cannot be sold; if they are abandoned, they are allowed to stay unused. I can’t possibly summarize everything Kevin told us during the 2 hours, but here are some pictures:

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Gordon, our host in Taos, cautioned us to not take “white guilt” to the pueblos, and I agree. They have other things to deal with and really don’t need us dumping our desire to be forgiven or whatever on them. They’re moving forward, and while history is important, it’s also not what they’re dealing with right now. Being our shrinks is not a priority with them. So we took in the information we were given, asked questions, took photos (for an extra fee), and bought a small piece of pottery. I like this little pot because the artist used horsehair to create the black background. His design around the top of the pot begins with a roadrunner and includes a representation of mountains.

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This side trip was one of the highlights of our visit. The Acoma Pueblo is only about an hour outside of Albuquerque, so we’ll have opportunities to return on future trips. It’s a must-see, and I’m not sure once is enough.

Next up: I actually have something nice to say about Phoenix for a change.

November 20, 2009 Posted by | history, travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments