Like water for the desert, New Media for New Mexico

Archive for September, 2015

The contested landscape of New Mexico

This is a current that runs through much of my work- you need to go to these fraught landscapes, where people’s histories clash, and talk and try and understand the granularity of the violence that marks every square inch of North America, Europe and Asia…

Race and history in New Mexico are contested in a way unique to the United States. This has to do with discrete historical events that took place in the Land of Enchantment and the layers of conquest the state deals with today. What you had in 16th century New Mexico was a lot of small, semi-sedentary tribes (the Puebloan peoples) with some larger, raiding tribes on the edges like the some of the Apache groups and the Navajo. When the Spanish sought to expand their control north of the central Mexican silver regions, they followed the same basic trail that indigenous people used in their trading networks, going up the Rio Grande and originally establishing a capital at what the Spanish would later term San Juan Pueblo (unlike the other Pueblos, the people of San Juan have reclaimed their indigenous name and now are referred to as Ohkay Owingeh. This just happened in the last few years). The Spanish were led by Juan de Oñate, a would be next-Cortes or Pizarro who hoped to find gold and silver farther north. When Oñate arrived in New Mexico, he kicked the Ohkay Owingeh out of their homes, expected the native peoples to feed and house and work for them, and basically treated them like conquered people. When they resisted, he responded harshly, particularly at Acoma Pueblo. On a mesa west of modern-day Albuquerque, the Acoma had a great natural defense and thus took a major toll on the Spanish forces. But the Spanish eventually conquered Acoma. Several hundred Acoma were killed. More notoriously, Oñate ordered a foot cut off of all men over the age of 25 to show Spanish resolve, although only 24 actually received this punishment. The Acoma were sent into slavery, although they eventually returned and the pueblo exists today.

From the excellent blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money: