We Are This Place - Mother + Sons in the Land of Enchantment - May 2018
It has been said about New Mexico that elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth is the floor of the sky. And it’s true, the sky is everything in New Mexico.
Soon after witnessing a sunset on a drive through New Mexico, my dad moved my mom there because he wanted the beauty and peace of this sacred land in his life. It was in this magical place that I was born, and even though I moved away before I was a teenager, it’s my homeland. It’s where I rode my bike barefoot. It’s where I learned to fear La Llorona. It was the introduction and beginning of a love affair that I have with the Spanish language and the Native and Mexican cultures. New Mexico is the frame that holds the memories of my childhood and the best parts of my dad. I love visiting, and I love even more the ability to share this special place with friends.
It was only natural for me to take a group of fellow fabulous LA mamas who would probably not otherwise consider visiting New Mexico -- and definitely not Albuquerque -- to see the Land of Enchantment with me as their guide. I am very protective of this place and its people. I wanted to make sure the Hummingbirds Mamas + Sons got to taste all the best bits, from the beauty of the land and the sweetness of the sopapillas to the importance of the Pueblos. And by Pueblos I mean everything rooted in the land of the reservations from the adobe homes, to the mesas to the food, to the indigenous people. I wanted my eleven-year-old son to know and love the Pueblos like I do.
Mostly, I wanted to bring attention to the beauty of the Pueblos and support the growth of the Native Americans in the area. One of the core tenets of Hummingbirds Foundation is personal engagement. With this trip, I wanted my son to know the culture firsthand and not through stereotypes. It’s going to take more than 4 days, but what an impactful start!
We used 100% of the trip deposits from each Charm (Mother + Son group) to support locally run organizations. It was important for the boys to have a connection to their giving, so we chose two groups who provide youth outreach. St. Joseph Mission School is a small but mighty school on the Laguna Reservation. The grant that we provided will support their art and healthy eating/cooking programs. We also supported Native American Professional Parent Resources (NAPR) with a gift to sustain Tribal Home Visiting, which provides home based support for Native Americans with young children. NAPPR has empowered, educated and provided culturally appropriate services to Native American children and their families for more than 30 years.
One of our first stops on the trip was at Frontier Restaurant, which has been a part of the ABQ community since 1971 and serves up housemade tortillas and some of the best green chili stew in the city. It’s also filled to the brim with art of the Southwest and Western movie posters. We stuffed our faces and headed out to Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The Village of Los Ranchos is working hard to protect itself from the sprawling growth of ABQ. The parcels of land are large, most folks have horses and because of its proximity to the Rio Grande, it’s lush and cool.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is a favorite homebase for my returns to ABQ. I knew our boys could be themselves in the 25 acres of lavender fields and enormous cottonwood trees. Designed in 1932 by one of the foremost architects of the Southwest, John Gaw Meem, the hotel is a working farm. Over the course of our stay the boys rode bikes, played chicken with the llamas, and swam in the salt water pool. It’s a perfect mix of tranquility, architectural significance and fancy foodie treats and drinks for the LA Mamas.
During our visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center we were introduced to the lives and stories of the 19 Pueblos that follow the Rio Grande through New Mexico. We got a chance to meet and talk to the Cloud Eagle Dance Group from the Nambe Pueblo. We were all welcome to join the circle in a Friendship Dance. We had a traditional lunch at the Cultural Center’s Harvest Café with families from the St. Joseph Mission School.
Later, the boys attended a workshop with the most prominent indigenous cartoonist in the country, Ricardo Cate. They learned about activism through art, as well as how to draw a comic strip. The mamas snuck off to Old Town for some iced coffee and shopping.
On Saturday we made our way south to the Acoma Pueblo, which is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. We hiked through this ancient village built atop a sandstone bluff nestled in the clouds. We learned stories about what life was like before and after contact with the Spanish settlers/oppressors. Residents offered us fry bread which we covered in powdered sugar, honey or green chili. The mamas + sons met artisans and bought Acoma Pottery, which is both beautiful and functional.
That evening the Mothers + Sons had a date night with tapas and sangria (virgin for the boys!) at Tablao Flamenco, which hosts the National Institute of Flamenco.
On our last day in New Mexico we headed up to the Jemez Pueblo for a hike in the red rocks learning about rattlesnakes and how this red earth came to be. After a guided hike we walked over to the Memorial Day Pow Wow & Arts and Crafts Festival. This festival was organized to honor Native American veterans who serve at higher rates than any other group in this country.
As we waited for our flight back to LA, I asked each of the boys for their favorite parts of the trip. The highlight was by far the fry bread, with a close second being hanging out with a bunch of boys and being allowed the freedom to explore and just be.
The moms said the experience of visiting a reservation and learning about the culture and history of the Pueblo people was what will stay with them forever. And the boys eventually mentioned learning about the Native American culture too.
We allowed the beauty of this place to be the stage on which their adventure was set. I find comfort in knowing our boys now know this place, have their own connection to the Pueblo and can draw their own pictures in their mind instead of depending on generalizations. My hope is that each of the boys carry the exposure with them as they grow, meet new people and eventually make a life for themselves.