Episode 38 – Albuquerque in 1-1/2 Days

We only had a day and a half in “ABQ” (I guess the full city name is just too long for most signs and billboards!), so I wanted to absorb as much history as possible.

DAY 1 We started by spending yesterday afternoon at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre, learning about the 19 Pueblos who are native to New Mexico. I had heard some of the names before – Laguna, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Taos and Zuni – but all the others were new to me. The exhibits were beautiful, but what was truly striking was the lens through which they were presented. Most exhibits had 2 sets of facts attached: the previously accepted “American history” version, and the native perspective. It made for an interesting and eye-opening visit.

I was particularly struck by the parallels to Indigenous issues being dealt with in Canada. The peoples of the Pueblos were “converted” to Christianity by the Spanish, but their land ownership generally respected by Mexico, similar to the situation with the Jesuits and the French in Canada. Land rights were then taken away by the United States when New Mexico was taken over, similar to what happened with the British North America and Indian Acts. Pueblo children were even taken away into residential schools and forbidden from speaking their own languages – sound familiar?

The overall message of the Centre, though, was one of resilience and renewal, as historical facts become recognized more widely, and native culture and accomplishments appreciated. Given that the Pueblos were matriarchal societies, there was also an inspiring HERitage exhibit highlighting women of note: teachers, artists, judges, and authors among them.

Clockwise from top left: stunning Pueblo pot painted using a tiny yucca brush (chew the tip of a slice of yucca until the fibres separate into brush hairs!); 8 of the 19 saints assigned by the Spanish to individual pueblos when they integrated Catholicism into their beliefs; the centre’s courtyard with Tommy Montoya’s mural “Deer Dance” in the centre; model of a 3-storey adobe Pueblo home; clay turtle carrying humanity on its back

After touring the exhibits, we ate dinner at the centre’s Pueblo Harvest Cafe, where the ingredients are native sourced, and the dishes Pueblo inspired. The menu is divided into “Pre-Contact” and “Post-Contact”, reflecting the kinds of foods and flavours eaten before and after the Spaniards influenced the native peoples. We ate from both sides of the menu. My Pre-Contact entree was naturally gluten and sugar free, when those were just facts and not trends: seared bison flank steak, yucca chips, blue corn snd bean succotash, and a wojapi (chokecherry) coulis. Ted’s Post-Contact dish included blue corn enchiladas, cheese, red and green chili, carne adovada, and the traditional “three sisters” presented as zucchini squash, Pueblo beans, and corn. As a side, we had sweet potato fries spiced with cinnamon and chili. Everything was delicious!

DAY 2 On our full day, we explored Albuquerque’s Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum including the travelling Jim Henson exhibit, and filled up on New Mexican food specialties.

Here are the day’s highlights in pictures:

Iglesia de San Felipe de Neri, which has been serving parishioners uninterrupted since 1706, although this current building dates back to “only” 1783.
Delicious “Blackbirds” (espresso, dark chocolate, cocoa, chili and steamed milk), enjoyed at the Blackbird Coffee House in Old Town.
Albuquerque’s largest Christmas tree, in the Plaza San Luis.
Bert and Ernie in the Albuquerque Museum!
Beaker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew … and Brooks!
Several portions of “La Jornada”, the huge installation of bronze statues outside the museum depicting the journey of the first European colonists into the Southwest. It includes conquistadors (knights), vaqueros, explorers, shepherds, families, and Indian porters. As one reviewer on TripAdvisor said: “It’s impossible to capture this sculpture unless you shoot a picture from a drone or are lifted into the sky by a crane.”
A view of the snow-topped Sandia Mountain Range, on the eastern border of the city, as seen from Tiguex Park.
A Day of the Dead bride outside one of the shops in Old Town.
Typical Old Town adobe architecture.
Sopaipillas, the delicious puffed frybread that can be served with sweet or savoury fillings, or just drizzled with honey.

We only touched on what Albuquerque has to offer, since it was too cold (hovering right around the freezing mark) to explore outdoor attractions like the Paseo del Bosque (the cottonwood forest trail beside the Rio Grande river) or the ABQ BioPark… but we had a fun visit anyway!

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