Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nuevo Mexico, in my troquita

by Rudy Garcia

My wife Carmen and I were on the road last week, covering the winding roads of northern New Mexico, an area with too much history and culture to cover in anything less than a book. We'll head for Arizona and, southern California next, so here's just a few vignettes of what we found that might be of use to La Bloga readers.

A '94 Ford Ranger with an extended cab served as our camper. Maybe I'll need to patent my alterations, since it could become the home of future Americans learning to live with and on less. It's got cedar posts in the four corners of the truck bed to hold up a PVC framed bubble. Over that goes mosquito netting and, when needed, either a sun-reflective or rain-repellent tarp. The bed's totally lined with a 4-inch foam bed cushion, and that's what we sleep on. Sometimes, freeze on, because I haven't dealt with how to supply heat. It's called roughing it, something we won't be doing for much longer, since this fits the lifestyle of young people, or desperate ones, neither of which we are anymore, or yet, anyway.

The troquita's only got four cylinders, which saves on gas, considerably, and also makes us the slowest travelers on the road, because everybody but three people passed us on the trip, with us doing the optimal sixty miles an hour and the rest of the world gassing away at much higher speeds. That's okay by me, but it made the climbs up the hills and mountains of Aztlán last longer than most people can probably tolerate.

Not having air conditioning in mid-summer when temperatures were always in the nineties and often over 100 also has its downsides. Sweat. Sweating. Stickiness of your body pasted to the seat--those downsides. I disconnected the air after finding out about its pollution factor and have never thought of reconnecting it. Shops want over a hundred dollars to fill the system, and, besides, it cuts down on mileage and horsepower, the latter of which the troquita has little enough.

Here's snippet's of what we found and recommend:

We arrived late Saturday in time to enjoy the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow. If you ever go to one, don't stand around and watch; find someone who can relate the significance of what's going on. This is not just some natives dancing. Unfortunately, we witnessed one of the rarest events that can happen--a Fancy Dancer losing an eagle feather. When everyone learned it had fallen and hit the ground, their attention refocused on what's considered a tragic event. Other dancers and some elders commiserated with this dancer, and small ceremonies were conducted and many words shared over what we would term bad luck. Afterwards, the handful of dancers engaged in maybe the most spectacular looking of many dances.

We were graciously invited to spend that night with a friend who is building a cultural center outside of Taos. I don't mention his name or other specifics to respect privacy and help preserve the area from human intrusion. But, we stayed in a fabulous great-room building that will one day serve to spread and teach about the indio, mexicano and Chicano cultures. After we assured him of our discretion, he took us to a nearby warm springs for a wonderful experience. It was a site that had previously been developed, and then abandoned, and we benefitted from the seclusion and lack of tourists.

Our host plans on opening his center, possibly this year, and should he allow us, I'll inform La Bloga writers of a great place to finish your work-in-progress novel. As long as you like the night stars visible around Taos, an occasional bear, some coyotes, and a quiet that makes you realize you're one in this universe. Plus, the dude will be serving some of the most chignon green chile you ever sweated from.

Writers of every flavor should check out SOMOS, the local literary group. John Nichols, of Milagro Bean Field War fame, lives in the area and apparently is a very active member. If you want to reach the neighboring literati with a reading or book signing, you should contact them, although I can't speak to how easy it is to book an event.

Their mission statement: "SOMOS, the Society of the Muse of the Southwest, supports and nurtures the literary arts, both written and spoken, honoring cultural diversity in the Southwest. Our vision is to see a community culturally enhanced and enriched through heightened literacy."

Santa Fe:
I don't like New Mexican food. It's not what we call Mexican food in Texas or Colorado. Too much whole corn, very little picoso, too low a level of picante to awaken my taste buds. So, I don't recommend you eat in the restaurants right around the Taos Plaza. Better, go off-plaza about a block and hit the Church Street Cafe. Much better fare, and maybe a little cheaper.

The best part of the trip for me was visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center. I spoke with Senior Librarian Greta Pullen about the possibility of securing an author signing/reading for my debut novel. Although there's no guarantee it will be a good fit for the Center, I was totally surprised by my reception. Greta knew of and loved La Bloga--and Michael Sedano--had heard of Latinos in Lotusland that featured a story of mine, and also informed me that the director loved our website. Not getting out of Denver much, I hadn't realized how much word had spread. As any bloggers out there know, the labor of a blog often seems to go unnoticed, especially when your post gets few or zero comments. Perhaps Albu will see me reading from the Center's stage this fall. Quién sabe?

My cousin Deanna is a news anchor for the CBS affiliate, so she treated us to a great tour of their studio, and we watched her do the morning news from behind-camera and the booth. Everything has become so high tech, it's nothing like what we see in TV shows.

Best place for breakfast: Weck's. You'll love it.

Best Tequila find: Kah Añejo Tequila. I have no idea what it tastes like, but the bottle alone has got to be worth the $105.

Malarky's was a great find. The live music scene in Albu is much more alive than Denver's, at least. We accidentally found this pub-food, (that we didn't sample) sports bar with a jamming band that regularly played, except on Fri. and Sat. when bigger talent performed. The bar was mostly empty, which is what all the DUI propoganda and repression has done to both the bar and music business, and why you pay chingos for tickets to concerts. But, if you're in Albu, check this place out.

San Luis, Colo.
By the time we came down the mts. from 285, I was hungry. We entered San Luis, one of the oldest non-indigenous cities in the country and hit the only Mexican restaurant in town. Chingaus!--REAL Mexican food. Half the price of almost anywhere else we'd eaten and thrice as tasty. I don't remember the name of the place, but it's all there is there and is also a kickin' dance hall on weekends. This coming weekend, San Luis hosts its annual Santiago and Santa Ana Fiesta from July 25th to July 27th, that we hope to check out on our way to Ariz. If you miss the old-days, small mexicano fiesta, this is the place to be.

Everywhere we went, it was the same topic: the drought, the heat, the early summer, climate change, global warming--it's too real. Aztlán is burning up.
Stay out of the indio casinos; they're no more generous than the Anglo ones. Nor should you expect to save a lot of money on gas or cigarettes on the rezes; it's not worth the extra drive.
And, of course, expect to pay chingos for eating almost anywhere.

Es todo, hoy,



Latinos need to do more travel writing.

Debra said...

I loved the news from New Mexico. You really were roughing it! I remember many a night sleeping in the van or car at Camel Rock campsite. Your description made we want to leave for my New Mexico trip!

sandra said...

Hey Debra, I played croquet at Camel Rock in high school. For those of you who've never seen the place, it's rocky, dusty and not flat, but hey, if you grew up in SF, mixing cultures, genres, and acting crazy was normal.

Rudy, New Mexican food is the best! Texmex tastes like barbeque. You were there in high tourist season so maybe you went to a gringo cafe. Hatch green chile is renowned, but might harm delicate Coloradan taste buds.

Anonymous said...

The history of home. Thank you y gracias.