journey through the abandoned lands, the geological wonderland of the Colorado Plateau (the journey was in June, but it takes time to tell a story). The theme I chose, of abandonment, refers to the hardness of this land, they way it can break people and their dreams. It is a beautiful land, full of fascinating geology, but it can be a hard place to thrive and make a living.
We followed an itinerary roughly following the old Route 66 through Kingman, Flagstaff (with detours to Grand Canyon, Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, and the Little Colorado River), Holbrook, Petrified Forest, and El Morro National Monument. We headed a little further south into the pueblo lands of New Mexico, going through the Zuni Pueblo, and finally to the Acoma Pueblo.
When the Ancestral Pueblo people (once called the Anasazi) abandoned their homes in the central Colorado Plateau, they did not mysteriously "disappear" from history, they simply migrated away. Many of them ended up in New Mexico, and their descendants continue to live in the region today. The people of the Acoma Pueblo are one of these groups.
In the picture above, one can see the mesas of Jurassic Zuni Sandstone that make up the landscape around the most famous village of the Acoma people, Sky City. Can you see the buildings on the mesa top (click the image to enlarge)?
National Trust for Historical Preservation is working to protect the mountain from further degradation.
San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church. Built in 1629, the church is the most obvious sign of the contact of the Acoma people with European colonizers. Coronado's 1540 expedition records the existence of the pueblo, and relations were peaceful at first. Unfortunately, things went sour, and in 1598 the Acoma people, fearing an invasion, attacked a contingent of Spanish soldiers, killing 11 of them. The Spanish countered in typical European fashion: they laid siege to the city in 1599 and eventually breached the south ramparts (below). They slaughtered 600 people, and imprisoned 500 more. Men over the age of 25 had a foot amputated, the women were sent away to servitude in Mexico.
The situation never got much better. The church was built with slave labor, and if I remember what our guide said, the massive beams used in the construction were carried from Mt. Taylor, 40 miles away. If the logs touched the ground, they were discarded and the transgressors who dropped them had to go back for another. Missionaries were occasionally given "flying lessons" by being tossed over the cliff. Acoma was involved with the 1680 uprising that resulted in the Spaniards being thrown out of New Mexico for twelve years. At other times they allied with the Spaniards to repel invasions by other tribes.
Archaeologists were skeptical. In 1897, A professor Libby of Princeton climbed the mesa and found no evidence of a village, but in 1924 a different expedition found plenty of artifacts around the summit area.