The Pueblo of the Pecos River and Valley were rooted in a fertile valley with natural resources… the complete opposite of the “El Malpais,” the Bad Lands (read about my experience here). For centuries, they had farmed the land, creating products of woven materials, jewelry, along with much artwork. They had traded with tribes in the area and along the Santa Fe Trail, with the nations of the Great Plains. Here was a community of nations, having their conflicts, but also persevering to live with dignity, grace and beauty.
Human history began to change in 1540, after the Spanish had defeated the Aztecs and the Incas. The Spanish then turned North through Mexico and into the Southwest. Their approach was twofold: first, the military strength destroying the overpowered Indians, and then the arrival of the Catholic priests. With all the idealism of religious convictions, the Spanish brought to an end the beauty of the established Pecos Pueblos with their beautiful architecture, exemplified by many large and small structures which provided protection for 2,000 people. The ruins remain to this day. And the spirit continues to be discovered in the lives of Native Americans today.
When I entered a store to buy a cup of coffee and pastry for the road, no one else was in this out-of-the-way store. The woman was friendly, and soon she was telling me her life story. When she was a child of ten, her family was very poor. Her mother was religious, and when the Mormons came on a missionary journey to their village, Theresa told me that her mother Sara took advantage of the opportunity to send her children to Utah where they would live with foster parents.
“My mother did not want me to get pregnant at age 16 the way she did.”
Theresa went on to describe her life in Utah as one where the people cared for her, and she was able to get an education along with her brothers. She described how her brothers stayed and now have good jobs. Theresa runs the store. She returned to take care of her grandmother and mother.
“Grandmother died, but my mother is doing good, and has a good life with her three grandchildren. Yes, I have two boys and a girl. They are doing well in school.”
Here, in an area where there is much poverty for lack of jobs, some people are persevering with the same spirit as those who were deeply spiritual with rich works of art.
I asked one final question, “Did you return to your original religion?”
“No. I practice both. After all, there is one God.”
I expressed my heartfelt thanks and left feeling enriched in ways which are mystical and deeply rooted in the human spirit.