|My painting of Taos Pueblo.|
One thing that strikes me about Santa Fe is the almost painful juxtaposition of old and new. The region is the setting of Willa Cather's backward-looking Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) as well as Aldous Huxley's forward-looking Brave New World (1931). For both authors, the pueblos represent a link to a world rooted in the past. From the former:
Father Latour lay with his ear to this crack for a long while, despite the cold that came from it. He told himself he was listening to one of the oldest voices of the earth. What he heard was the sound of a great underground river, flowing through a resounding cavern. The water was far, far below, perhaps as deep as the foot of the mountain, a flood moving in utter blackness under ribs of antediluvian rock. It was not a rushing noise, but the sound of a great flood moving with majesty and power.Whenever I'm in the area I pay a visit to Bandelier National Monument, where the Frijoles Canyon shelters the ruins of the ancient town of Tyuonyi, the descendants of whose builders dwell at Cochiti Pueblo to the south; perched almost on top of it is the National Laboratory at Los Alamos, where the Manhattan Project was undertaken and where the first atomic bombs were created; beyond that is San Ildefonso Pueblo. Thus are the forces of preservation and destruction violently juxtaposed.
"It is terrible," he said at last, as he rose.
"Si, Padre." Jacinto began spitting on the clay he had gouged out of the seam, and plastered it up again.
Upon passing the National Laboratory on this trip, I was reminded of a quote from E. F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed, which I recently read:
The pursuit of science is a matter of taking stock and formulating recipes for action. Every recipe is a conditional sentence of the type, "If you want to achieve this or that, take such and such steps." [...] The test of a recipe is purely pragmatic – the proof of the pudding being in the eating. The perfections of this type of science are purely practical – the objective, i.e. independent of the character and interests of the operator, measurable, recordable, repeatable. Such knowledge is "public" in the sense that it can be used even by evil men for nefarious purposes; it gives power to anyone who manages to get hold of it. (Not surprisingly, therefore, many attempts are always being made to keep parts of this "public" knowledge secret!)Schumacher opposes knowledge for manipulation (described here) to knowledge for understanding, without which our civilization is sinking ever deeper into "anguish, despair, and lack of freedom."
|The Trinity nuclear test. [source]|
"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
[from the Bhagavad Gita, quoted by Robert Oppenheimer]
|My modest pottery collection. The second and third from the left are from|
San Ildefonso, where many of Maria Martinez' kin are still in business.
The others are from Taos, Santa Clara, Acoma, and Santo Domingo.
|Maria Martinez, who developed a new style of blackware, with physicist|
Enrico Fermi, who worked on the Manhattan Project and created
the world's first nuclear reactor. [source]
|My painting of the adobe church at Los Ranchos de Taos. This church|
was painted many times by Georgia O'Keeffe. A thoroughly modern
abstract painter, she found refuge in northern New Mexico after her
years in New York.
|Chimayo in 1934. [source]|
The town of Chimayó was named for a local hill, known as Tsi Mayoh in the Tewa tongue. Whether it was a site of devotion for the natives before colonial times is not clear. An old tradition holds that a pueblo formerly stood in the area; a book I have (purchased, of all places, at a tacky tourist gift shop in Clines Corners) describes the experiences of Maria Martinez upon visiting the chapel from nearby San Ildefonso.
|My own picture of the Sanctuario, taken in 2007.|
Signs in the Santuario museum suggest that the crucifix was left there by Spanish explorers. However that may be, Don Abeyta was seemingly devoted to the Christ of Esquipulas, worshiped at a basilica in Guatemala where the clay is also held to have curative properties, a belief possibly adopted from the native culture and "baptized" by the Spaniards. The museum speaks of the ceiba tree, which holds a central place in Maya mythology, hinting (on somewhat slender evidence, it is true) at other connections between Chimayó and the pre-Columbian religions of Central America.
|Esquipulas Basilica, Guatemala, in 1895. [source]|
An interesting book I have, Missions and Pueblos of the Old Southwest (1929), written by one Earle R. Forrest, who had once worked as a cowboy in the Arizona desert and had traveled throughout the area extensively before the arrival of the first automobiles, devotes a chapter to the Penitentes. According to him, the brothers would scourge themselves with chunks of cholla cactus woven into thongs of rope; crucifixion ceremonies were held in remote places at night, and sometimes the Cristo whose ardor was thus tested never returned.
The book is illustrated with photographs taken by the author; one depicts a Penitente morada, or meeting house, and another purports to be the only known photograph of a Penitente procession:
The piety of the Penitentes plays a role in Brave New World. The protagonist, John, raised on a Savage Reservation in New Mexico, becomes a sign of contradiction in the World State, and creates a public spectacle in his attempts at purification through self-flagellation:
"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."