The tepees were on the New Buffalo commune north of Taos. Northern New Mexico and its many communes were magnets for hippies, beatniks and others seeking change in lifestyle and landscape. They came in the turbulent 1960s and into the ’70s.
Some were political activists —— anti-establishment, anti-Vietnam War.
Some were also environmental activists. That activism translated into practicing organic farming, exploring new home construction concepts, absorbing Native American ideas about spirituality, communing with nature and with one another.
The book, which began as a document of the West Coast beatniks and hippies, was conceived by Jack Loeffler,a longtime Santa Fe aural historian, and his friend Gary Snyder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and influential environmental philosopher. The book’s geographical and cultural coverage grew.
Loeffler co-edited the book and wrote several of its personal essays incorporating interviews with counterculturalists he had recorded over years. Loeffler also referenced the late radical environmentalist Edward Abbey, author of “The Monkey Wrench Gang” and “Desert Solitaire.”
The book is filled with personal essays offering enlightening remembrances and observations. In her essay, “Countercultural Taos: A Memoir,” Sylvia Rodriguez compared Mabel Dodge Luhan’s early 20th century Taos-based Bohemia of visiting artists to the later arrival of hippies. The differences, Rodriguez wrote, were that “Bohemia centered on art and was fueled mostly by alcohol. Hippiedom centered on lifestyle and was fueled by hallucinogenic drugs.”
An exception to the seemingly anything-goes spirit at area communes was the no-drugs rule at the spiritual community known as the Lama Foundation north of Taos, Rodriguez said. Founded in 1967, it is still active.
In his essay, Enrique Lamadrid remembered that in 1968, the year after the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse Raid, land grant activist Reies López Tijerina campaigned for governor and promised “to recognize and protect the rights of hippies” and others who want to maintain their own lifestyles. Meanwhile, Lamadrid noted, the Española newspaper El Grito del Norte promoted peace with the hippies but cautioned that the “return to the land” can’t ignore the millions of acres Hispanics and Indians lost in the aftermath of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Rina Swentzell, who died in 2015, was an architect and potter from Santa Clara Pueblo. When she was growing up at Taos Pueblo, Swentzell recalled in her essay, “The hippies were everywhere. The pueblo people’s way of life resonated for them,” but many Hispanic and Anglo townspeople felt angry that the hippies were despoiling their community.
The 80-year-old Loeffler hopes the book resonates with young people, that it will help invigorate “the huge wave of cultural resistance going on now.”
The book accompanies the exhibit “Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest,” which opens May 14 at the New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe, and runs through Feb. 18. Gary Snyder will give the exhibit’s keynote talk at 5 p.m. May 14 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco. A book signing follows. Tickets are $25 at the Lensic box office at 505-988-1234
Loeffler and book co-editor Meredith Davidson will discuss and sign copies of the book at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 16 at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW.
A number of New Mexico public radio stations are airing the related Loeffler-produced eight-part documentary “Voices of Counterculture.” KUNM-FM (89.9) will air two half-hour episodes air at 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on four consecutive Sundays, starting today.