Sunday, January 1, 2012

Inquisition in New Mexico

Cathy and Joyce atop the Gran Quivira ruin.

My friend Rheta is a big reader, and she came across some references to the Inquisition in New Mexico. Apparently the Salinas Missions were the hot bed of activity, and she expressed a desire to go visit them. She organized a little group of friends. Cathy and Joyce joined us and we made a long day trip of it. The last day of the year, and what a marvelous day.

Joyce, Rheta and Cathy
We drove the long way, south from Santa Fe along the east side of the Sandias and Manzano Mountain ranges to the little town of Mountainair. The recent snows carpeted the landscape making the plains to the east look like a foamy ocean. It was well past lunch time when we stopped at the Shaffer Hotel and ate at the cafe. It's a down-home place that has excellent hand crafted burgers, steak, fried chicken and chicken fried steaks. But it's not the food that draws thousands of visitors a year to Pack's Cafe, it's the  New Mexican Art Deco paintings and carvings, all created by "Pop" Shaffer,  that cover the ceiling. Hanging down are chandeliers, carved and painted to match equally beautiful tables, though only a few of those are still in use. Next door, the Shaffer Hotel has a reputation for ghosts, not one but several, and a plethora of weird paranormal activity. A boy, maybe 12 years old, by the name of Jerry Pack the Third gave us a tour of the 'game room' and told us the true stories of the two large bullet holes in the ceiling of the lobby, and of his own strange experiences in the elevator, upstairs in the hotel, plus stories of the White Lady, a ghost who appears periodically. In the game room, I said suddenly "Is that a leg?," pointing at a scarecrow in pieces on the floor. The kid jumped and said I'd really scared him. I guess he believes all those stories he was telling!
Chandelier and carved/painted ceiling in
Pack's cafe.

We stopped by the Visitor Center which is a block from the Shaffer, picked up maps and information, then headed south to the Gran Quivira section of the three part Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The ranger on duty was a handsome young man named Mario Medina, with a long black braid and a head full of facts and anecdotes. We learned about the Inquisition at Las Humanas (that pueblo's name), the church's influence on the Pueblo people, the trials and tribulations of 400 years of Spanish and American domination, plus the amazing difference the introduction of cattle and sheep made on the local environment. At one time there were springs and a lake near the 2000 person village allowing them to grow food for over 4000 using the surplus for trade with the nomadic Plains Indians. Now there are no springs and the lake is a huge meadow used to graze, you guessed it, cattle. We were the only visitors so Mario took us on a long walking tour of the site, told us all about the financial motivations of the Spanish as well as the desires of the Church to convert souls. He was fascinating and we were thoroughly charmed by his enthusiasm and knowledge.

Lobby at the Shaffer Hotel
Gran Quivira is about 27 miles from Mountainair. It was 4:30 when we left and by the time we got to Abo, another of the missions, it was dusk, and the place was closed. It sits alongside a public road, so there is no gate or other obstacle to exploring the ruins. Abo is not as thoroughly excavated, though physically the village was almost as large as Las Humanas. Dusk gave us some beautiful blue, purple,  pink skies, and lovely silhouettes of the three story ruins.

In the dark we headed to Albuquerque for gas and a light dinner at Panda Express, the perfect last meal of 2011.

Gran Quivira 

Abo Mission at sunset

Abo ruins with 2 meter thick walls.

Abo ruins


Ruins with half moon.