Native American Pueblos & Ojo Caliente

October 4, 2012 — Thursday

In New Mexico, our Native Americans live in pueblos, not called reservations.  This was a big pueblo day.  We started with Pojaque (po wah kay), with its palace/mesa-like casino resort, Red Thunder.  The resort lobby and corridors have an impressive native art collection, art in all sizes and media, some are jaw-dropping stunning, and every name native artist is represented…Smithsonian or better quality.  Pojaque has a wonderful museum, lovingly and natively designed.  I especially liked its cave path tracing pueblo life and culture.  Next door is an intriguing tower building, the gallery for Roxanne Swentzell, an artist who is as articulate as she is talented and emotion-evoking.  She and her family built every inch of this striking three-level building.  I loved her office door, about 3′ high.

Our next stop was Chimayo, known for its sanctuario with healing earth.  Thousands of people worldwide visit, including me in 1986 on my first-ever pueblo exploration. Chimayo was one of the most memorable, and I was eager to see it again.  It was further off the beaten path than I remembered, so when we finally found it, the shock of a Disney sort of complex hit me in the gut, development leaning toward schlocky.  The beautiful chapel remains the same, but today you can’t touch or photograph anything, which put off Steve.  A tiny alcove is the same, with the reputed healing dirt, and a side room holds a host of no-longer-needed crutches, walkers, braces, and hundreds of small photos of those healed or praying to be healed, and one section just for military.  The chapel, alcove and side room had an emotional impact, and so did the cluster of shops feet away.  One shop sold small ziplock bags for the healing dirt, $2.50, dirt extra.  A model showed even more buildings to come.  At least the sanctuario remains unspoiled–for now.

We drove northwest for the old mineral springs resort, Ojo Caliente.  This place is heaven for the body and spirit with eight different pools for soaking and relaxing, set in a rocky, wooded canyon.  We put on their sand-colored chamois robes and tried each pool…sauna, eucalyptus steam, mud bath, soda pool, arsenic pool, magnesium pool, the big springs pool, and a blissful hot Jacuzzi-like pool.  The hottest was the best.  Feeling like happy, well-cooked noodles, we enjoyed an excellent Southwestern dinner in the vintage lodge-style dining room, some wine and creative desserts.  Happy tummies, relaxed bodies, peaceful spirits under mountain stars.

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