Traveling through the Southwest, I was intrigued by the changing landscapes. From the flat desert of Phoenix we climbed into the mountains as we drove to Albuquerque. The mountains, steep and rocky, soon gave way to more gently rolling hills now covered with pine trees instead of cactus.
We were at elevations of six to eight thousand feet and the contrasts to the desert couldn’t be starker.
The beauty of this part of the country is breathtaking. The other obvious element of this area is the influence of Mexico. This is a land where the Spanish influenced language, mixed with the cultural heritage of the Mexican people, blended with the Native culture of the Pueblo people exemplifies the best of the multi-cultural melting part that is America.
It occurred to me that calling for a wall between the United States and Mexico would be an insult to the people of this area. These are people who take pride in their culture yet are more American in their attitude than some would admit.
These are a people who accept their differences as a benefit to the country, not something to be lost or blocked off.
There was a time not long ago when the policy of the government, following on the heels of the Spanish efforts, tried to wipe the native culture of the Pueblos from the face of the earth. They forced the children into Indian Schools where they were force-fed Christianity, English, and European history.
They were forbidden to practice their own religion and cultural traditions.
They were forbidden to speak their own language.
They were forced to abandon their history.
This is the land that gave us the “Wind Talkers” of Navajo fame. Whose exploits in the South Pacific against the Japanese are now legendary. Yet, for years it was concealed because to acknowledge it was to give credence to a culture we did not embrace.
The reason for our trip out here was to attend a Mumford and Sons concert. The music was great if a bit loud (I know, my age is showing.) I was struck by the power of the music to inspire the crowd to dance and sing along.
I have never been one for dancing, yet I was a bit envious of those who let themselves be carried away by the songs. Many let themselves just dance away. Many looked quite natural at it. Some, those who haven’t visited a gym or a salad bar in years, looked almost dangerous but hey, they were dancing.
After the concert, we journeyed to Albuquerque and will continue on to Taos and Santa Fe. Here in Albuquerque, we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. We watched a demonstration of several Native American dances performed by a new generation of Pueblos trying to maintain their cultural heritage.
Many of these dances are performed as part of the Pueblo peoples’ appreciation for the interrelationship of all to the Earth. The animals they hunt, crops they grow, the water they receive as rain are all given due thanks and gratitude.
To the Pueblo, this is their form of devotion to their concept of the creator. Their creation story is no more or less valid than any other. Yet, under the guise of the Christian tradition, we tried to destroy it as a false legend.
It struck me as I watched these young men and women dance, that if people spent less time praying and trying to convince others their beliefs are wrong and more time dancing, be it to a rhythmic chant of an ancient Puebloan rite of harvest or a Mumford and Sons ballad, we’d all be better off.