Monday, July 29, 2013

The Spell of New Mexico, Chapter 3: Oliver La Farge

White Sands, Alamogordo, New Mexico

An essay on New Mexico, written by Oliver La Farge, comprises Chapter 3 of the book, The Spell of New Mexico. Written before 1952, almost everything Mr. La Farge writes about New Mexico still holds true. Some excerpts from his detailed, loving description of New Mexico: 

A New Mexican native never ceases to be surprised to hear visitors .... ask the tariff on a purchase they are contemplating "when we take it back to the States." 

Indeed, a former colleague of mine on the east coast sent me a card, upon which she had affixed postage for international mailing. 

Sunset at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico

...You can be camping up in the northern mountains, and in the morning break up your camp under blue spruce and fir ... By noon you can take your break under cottonwoods in an irrigated section of orchards and corn and chili fields, and camp that night in desert where you are lucky, and distinctly relieved, when you find a water hole. 

Upper Karr Canyon Recreation Area, New Mexico
Being based in Alamogordo, I never get tired of living in the high desert but being able to reach 9000 feet of cool green forest in less than an hour, and to smell the pine. It is a wonder. 

An amiable sort of running feud goes on between the people of [Texas] and [New Mexico], keeping both on their toes. When a Texan told me one time that he was a real old timer, and that he personally had dug out the bed of the Pecos River, he Lord gave it to me to answer that, while he was doing that, I was up in the Sangre de Cristo [Mountains] melting snow to run in his ditch. 

Rio Grande, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

... on the Fourth of July, .... it is worth going to the [Mescalero Apache] celebration to see their renowned Crown Dance, a masked dance unlike any other, portraying the mountain spirits. 

Ga'an dancers. Credit: SFMOMA

Having gone to this very event, I can attest to its magic more than 50 years after Mr. La Farge wrote the above. 

... on a Sunday a Pueblo Indian, having spent the preceding week cultivating his red, blue, and yellow corn in his ancestral field, will put on his Indian clothes to sing in the chorus of a dance in which his daughter, who during the week works at Los Alamos, will take the part of the Buffalo Maiden, that during the performance Spanish-American neighbors will kneel in the bower at one side of the pueblo's plaza to sing alabados before the image of its patron saint, while artists, scientists (both anthropologists and nuclear physicists), tourists, and plain businessmen, watch the performance with appreciation and respect. 

Our Lady of Guadelupe Fiesta, Tortugas, New Mexico

[New Mexico] is ..... a land that draws and holds men and women with ties that cannot be explained or submitted to reason. 

Dilia, New Mexico

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