The American Southwest is an unforgiving landscape. It required ingenuity and spirit to succeed. The Pueblo people were flourishing in the region long before the first Spanish entrada and the colonizers that followed.
Granted, these new waves of people brought new ideas, technologies and foodstocks, but my ancestors quickly adapted them to their established norms.
And in the same manner, Pueblo people opened up their storehouses and shared indigenous seeds and agricultural techniques. We supplied the labor to build their adobe homes and churches, often atop the foundations of abandoned villages. We helped them defend against marauders and many of our women became inexorably intermixed in the bloodline of their purported pureblood, Iberian patrons.
Pueblo people, today, still celebrate the gains of this industry. The hornos, sheep, ponies, jewelry, etc., are so ingrained in our Pueblo Indian identity as to be iconic. Our Pueblos annually celebrate events like the cleaning and opening of the acequias, governor’s day, the patron saint fiestas, with hornos and matachina dancers ablaze.
The irony is that many of the Nuevo Mexicano Hispano communities have lost or are losing these traditions.
That’s the sad part. That’s the crux of where the angst should be directed.
Rather than pointing fingers at us for being unappreciative and offensive, let’s frame the 1680 Pueblo Revolt as an incident where the kettle boiled over. There is no single cause for the bloodshed, but it was a complex mix of factors that are still not fully resolved.
At the same time it created an epic moment in the founding of the city of El Paso, the incident resulted in a type of Pyrrhic victory for the Pueblo Nation. At what cost did victory result in the attrition of its lands and people?
Finally, it should not go unstated at the heart of contention is the latest furor over one of a slew of the University of New Mexico’s official seals. The one in contention is the literal depiction of a conquistador and a frontiersman with backs to one another and holding weapons of mass desecration. Obviously it is no gesture of friendship. The forlorn native is depicted as a stylized parrot.
The only consolation is that this ancient symbol signifies our innate connections with our indigenous relatives in Latin America.
There are plenty of other UNM examples that are just as questionable.
Kenneth Adams’ 1939 Three Peoples mural in the Zimmerman library depicts Anglos as the superior race. In 1996, UNM’s administration censored Apache artist Bob Haozous’ “Cultural Crossroads of the Americas” monolithic sign over a concertina razor wire component.
Honestly, what is most offensive is that culturally challenged individuals have shaped things and events in a manner befitting their own images. They squelched any voices from the cultures they depicted.
The issue has little to do with political correctness, historic revisionism nor is it a case that there is a lack of common sense. If the latter were the case, then UNM wouldn’t need to keep rebranding itself every other year. I wouldn’t have to keep dousing these inane cultural wildfires. And, finally, I wouldn’t have to keep taking time away from paying my taxes.