Southwestern Charm: Day 7

Today has been one of my favorite days thus far for its simplicity and charm. We have fallen head over heels with Albuquerque’s rich culture and inviting community.

We’ve learned so much about this place already thanks to the locals who are so wonderful to converse with. Finally, we’ve returned to that sense of community and charm that we grew up with in the Midwest – and found in Hawaii through the Aloha Spirit. It lapsed temporarily on the West Coast, where we noticed people were not as conversational, but New Mexico has made up for it and might be home to some of the friendliest people of anywhere we’ve traveled or lived.  (It is also the most dog-friendly place thus far, with Werkley being welcomed into all stores, including expensive art galleries and jewelry shops!)

We tried a fairly new cafe for breakfast called Central Grill and Coffee House. We ended up spending a good chunk of our morning here because we quickly made friends with a local couple sitting next to us on the patio. They had lived on the Navajo reservation for many years. They were so sweet and hospitable, leaving us their phone number for anything we may need while we are here. They also insisted we try the red chili sauce with our breakfast burrito, which had the green chili sauce, so that we could try both. I’ve never preferred spicy foods, but the flavor found in Southwestern style cooking is delicious, I must say.

Then we got lost in Old Town, a historic neighborhood district of shops, restaurants, museums, and galleries. Founded in 1706 by Spanish settlers, and anchored by the town’s oldest church, San Felipe de Neri, this enchanting area remains the epicenter of this community to date, more than 300 years later. It has been described as a quieter version of Santa Fe – and anything less crowded is more our style.

My favorite purchase – thanks to my sweet husband – was a sterling silver and native gold bracelet by local artist Joseph Coriz, of the Santo Domingo Pueblo. The owner of the jewelry shop enlightened me when I incorrectly assumed Santo Domingo was a “reservation.” While reservation and pueblo are technically the same thing by legal definition, they’re different. She explained to me that Pueblo is the Spanish word for “village,” and there are 19 different pueblos in the state. Santo Domingo is among those. There are three reservations comprised of “tribes” separate from these 19 villages, with the Navajo being the most populous example.

What I love most about this bracelet, and what Joseph Coriz is known for, is the scenes showcased in his pieces, making them “storytelling jewelry.” The spiral on my bracelet represents “the journey of oneself; the concept that our choices bring us to where we are.” The images of animals represent the notion that “everything is connected and necessary.” Another scene on my bracelet is a pueblo scene with starry nights, which is to evoke the greatness of the “ancient ones,” but also their humility and quest for “Center Place,” – the ongoing journey of finding our balance.

I also read an excerpt that highlights the Zuni Pueblo in terms of how they view finding one’s balance. I just love this:

” Zunis put it in terms of raw beings versus finished. Rawness is associated with the world of myth, with the time of the beginning, and with the ability to effect change in the physical world. So the more finished, the less power. Raw beings, such as kachinas (ancestral spirits) and animals, have more power than us. We are ‘finished’ and the least powerful to guide and protect us.”

All this I learned in just one stop. Then there was our new friend and owner of Gabby’s handmade soaps (If you know me, you know that handmade soaps are my favorite souvenirs). While I got lost in the all natural bars that lined his store, he was sharing stories and photos of his kids with my husband. I picked out enough soap for the rest of the year, with one doggie soap bar for Werkley, too!

Another memorable stop was the town’s oldest church – San Felipe de Neri, which I was surprised to learn has been operating without any interruptions or closures since its founding more than three centuries ago.

We were going to squeeze in a popular tram ride that takes us up in the sky and through the beautiful terrain, but it is currently closed for renovations. Exploring the town by foot, though, has been nothing short of amazing. I can clearly see why New Mexico is known as “The Land of Enchantment.” 

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