Archaeological Novel Writing / Mesa Verde, Chaco, Contemporary Pueblos

If you have visited, or lived in, the Four Corners region, or the Upper Rio Grande Valley, the “ancient” world is very much present, unfortunately as tourist bait and trinkets, but also in the culture of the long-abused Pueblo people, who survived brutal attacks by the Navajo, which drove them into their present locations, and then invasion by the utterly bloodthirsty Spaniards from Mexico, who desired control of  what is now New Mexico.


The “Pueblo Revolt” drove the psychopathic Spaniards back into Mexico, but they returned 12 years later to beat down and enslave the Pueblos. This event is celebrated each year in Santa Fe as a “festival.” The Hispanic community “rubs the noses” of the contemporary Pueblo people in the blood of victorious carnage that is Spanish Conquest in the Americas.

The good news is that the Pueblos have survived the one-two punch of Navajo predation and the Gory Glory of Spanish Christianity for 500-600 years, but can they survive tourism?


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

The Pueblo Revolt by Edward Countryman

In 1680 the people known collectively as “Pueblos” rebelled against their Spanish overlords in the American Southwest. Spaniards had dominated them, their lives, their land, and their souls for eight decades. The Spanish had established and maintained their rule with terror, beginning with Juan de Oñate’s invasion in 1598. When the people of Acoma resisted, Oñate ordered that one leg be chopped from every man over fifteen and the rest of the population be enslaved, setting a pattern that lasted four-score years. Now, rising virtually as one, the Pueblos drove out Spanish soldiers and authorities. The rebels allowed many Spaniards to flee, but twenty-one Franciscan priests died at their hands, and they sacked mission churches across their land. It took twelve years for Spanish troops to reconquer Pueblo country. They never did conquer the Hopi, who had been the westernmost contributors to the rebellion.

Unquestionably, one of revolt’s dimensions was religious. From Pecos Pueblo near the edge of the Great Plains to Acoma and Zuni in western New Mexico, Pueblo people had had enough of Christianity, after eight decades of living in what historian Ramón Gutiérrez has described as an imposed theocratic utopia. Backed by armed force and not reluctant to use the whip, Catholic missionaries had set out to destroy the ancestral Pueblo world in every respect, including what people could believe and how they could marry, work, live their lives, and pray. When the rebels could capture Franciscan priests, they killed them, sometimes after torturing them. They destroyed Catholic images, tore down mission churches, and defiled the vessels of the Catholic Mass. They put an end to marriages on Christian terms. They restored the kivas where Pueblo men had honored their ancestral Kachinas. From what I understand, the Kachinas are actual dolls used by women to educate girls about “female stuff.“With Catholic symbols and Spanish practices gone, the Pueblos set out to restore the lives their ancestors had lived.

For the rest of the story, go to Gilder Lehrman


And, from my own account of the “Fiesta” that celebrates the Reconquest: (still active since 1712 in Santa Fe)

Chapter 10: Looking for Las Vegas

At first, chic-by-law Santa Fe appears to be the turf this weekend of bad boys like the one before me who displays a tattoo of Jesus on his chest, but it’s families who are out to ingest fajitas, tacos, burritos and Navajo fry bread, to consecrate the ground with dirty paper plates, plastic utensils, greasy napkins, soft drink cups and cigarette butts.

After a quick circuit of the plaza, I stop at the performance stage; portrayed on the backdrop are those famous personages “1492 Colon” and “1692 de Vargas.” Columbus stands in his ship, as tall as the sail, a giant compared to de Vargas, who rides something that resembles an armadillo while his henchmen make their entrada on presentable horses. De Vargas – the man who murdered seventy Indian leaders after they had peacefully surrendered Santa Fe, who enslaved four hundred Indian women and children and presented them as ‘gifts’ to Spanish settlers to use as they wished. Twice more the ungrateful Rio Grande pueblos revolted and de Vargas gave those insurgents bloody holidays, too. But he got his reward; he’s buried under the altar at the cathedral and has a shopping center named for him, among other things.

Tourists, conspicuous by virtue of cameras which hang from their necks, many with lenses long enough to probe their navels, waddle earnestly and point at buildings, people and food. An incarnation of the Madonna, who totters on high heels, her cheeks gashed with rouge, and clad in a pink dress which consists mainly of a hard, sculptured bodice and a ruffle, holds a neonate likely named Jesus. Grandma hovers nervously, competing for attention in a purple tube dress and violent red shoes. Her face, which has lived a couple of lifetimes on its own, is a nightmare visitation to her body. Meanwhile, three cowboys from northern Mexico seem to be the only spectators comfortable with Bob and Ray, guitarists dressed in Ferdinand Marcos shirts, who at intervals squeal like hogs in a rainstorm. Bob and Ray are succeeded by a busty woman stuffed into a ruffled dress and her slimmer, identically costumed shadow who clomp, stamp, clomp, stamp as one, forming a strange quadruped which tosses its gauzy skirts about.

Clomp, clomp, bang, bang. Back at the fiesta stage, two ladies in yellow dance Jalisco style. I search the area for a trash barrel but find only trash. I can’t bring myself to throw my ice cream wrapper on the ground despite the scads of litter which spoil the plaza. Two toddlers use a small stone monument to General S W Kearney, erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, as a pint-sized perch. They soon fly, and while deciding what to do with the pesky wrapper I read that in this plaza, General Kearney “proclaimed the peaceable annexation of New Mexico, August 19, 1846.” An avatar of Laura Petrie, in black flats, toreador pants, ruffled midriff blouse, hoop earrings and a toothy smile, who dances to a Cumbia, provides relief from the hyperactive feet of the Folkloricos. During the culminative season of despair in a misguided academic career I registered for Flamenco Dance, a falsely-titled course. But I gave Mexican Folk Dance a shot anyway. The other students, flap-flapping their scarves and bang-banging their feet to speedy tunes, danced like the doves of Mexico. And me?

I wander into the square where St Rita de Cascia, San Juan Neponuceno, Santa Barbara, San Pedro and others have been rendered in oil colors on plywood and wired to the trunks and branches of the trees. Coats of arms hang from the porch at the Palace of the Governors. A tourist videotapes the designs, some of which are of graphic interest: Pacheco – two baskets of asparagus spears or cucumbers; Ellis – five Arabic crescents in white on a black cross; Pino – five khaki pine cones; Bustamante – blue dots on a khaki field and Hurtado – three silver hearts on a red field. They are pretty, medieval and foreign. Across from the palace vinyl, air-filled Mickey Mouses and star-spangled balloons which twist in the smoke of grilling meats, are not enough to dispel the palpable descent of gory Spanish glory, of adventurers bestride horror, of cool Moorish thought annihilated by pride.


Aztec human sacrifice and cannibalism meet Christian human sacrifice and cannibalism: the result, enduring blended imagery.


The sky turns pink and lavender to the west. Mariachis play. A willowy old woman speaks to me. She wears a long, rose colored dress, stiff silver sandals last sold in the sixties, and a matching clutch purse. A Spanish comb holds her hair aloft.

“I’m tired. I want to go home,” she says.

“I know what you mean, but I might want more food,” I respond.

“I’m fussy. There are no tables, and I like to sit down when I eat.” She gazes across the smoky-dark square as if a table will form from the white litter.

“It’s okay to eat ice cream standing up,” I say, fiddling with the wrapper that resides in my pocket.

“I held the ladder all day for my husband while he scraped paint from the windows. If I was a drinker I’d have a shot of something, but I’m diabetic.” With that, she walks off.

Celebrants who roam the plaza “oculis natantibus sub actra nocte,” are treated to country music from another time, a sweet waltz played on guitars, fiddles, flutes and mandolins. A couple begins to dance in the street, bottoms sway, and babes are swung in mamas’ arms. After a polka the band gives the dancers El Talien, a rich, measured dance brought up from the Rennaissance. In the shadows, the young seek each other, now as then, perhaps with less grace but with the same necessity.





2 thoughts on “Archaeological Novel Writing / Mesa Verde, Chaco, Contemporary Pueblos

    • I think what you are saying is that 1. “a lonely lifestyle” can make people autistic 2. a lonely lifestyle attracts autistic people.
      I live in Wyoming, which is much like the area in these photos -but, in a desert that cannot support cattle (or people). The activity has been mining and petroleum. The land is sagebrush, no trees and most people would call it “worthless” or even “scary.” I am here because of those qualities, but the isolation drives many people away. If a person stays awhile, he or she may discover that they can’t leave. Going back to a city would be intolerable, so yes, as an Asperger, it is almost perfect, but I don’t think that many Asperger or autistic people would be happy here, because there is no “support” of any kind.

      The early “cowboys” were teenagers who fled the South after the Civil War – likely many had PTSD from the violence, destruction, and death of family members. You could see them as war refugees – they first were common in Texas, but went North with the cattle drives. It was a very brief period before “settlers” came West and fenced in ranches and farms. Modern “cowboys” are a different type –

      Liked by 1 person

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