Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sky City Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Our final stop before heading back to the midwest was at the Sky City Acoma Pueblo a few miles off Interstate 40 in New Mexico. It is advertised as "the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America and we probably would have driven right by without some encouragement from a Native American worker at the New Mexico Welcome Center. You leave I 40 and drive on good two lane roads for several miles through a typical dry landscape until you reach a an overlook that gives you a view of an immense flat valley punctuated by scattered mesa outcrops and one ribbon of a road. You take a couple of long switchbacks into that valley and after a few more miles you arrive at a Cultural Center, which is located at the base of the Acoma Pueblo mesa. This is a well appointed and modern building (no doubt financed by the lucrative Sky City casino and hotel situated back at the I 40 intersection) and it offers a lovely little museum, clean rest rooms, a snack bar serving Native American dishes, and of course the ubiquitous gift shop. In the outer courtyard there are also stalls where native pottery is available for folks who don't have the time to make the trip to the pueblo.

If you do have another hour or so you can book a tour up to the top of the mesa to a pueblo which has been inhabited from around 1100 AD and was a thriving city when Coronado came through in the 17th century. The Mission Church of San Esteban del Rey, completed in 1640, still dominates the plateau.

Your conducted tour takes you through the streets of the village and allows time to view and purchase the lovely and quite reasonably priced thin wall pottery.

There are over 300 adobe houses on the mesa top and they are owned by Acoma females, who pass them on to their youngest daughters.

Views from the town are magnificent in all directions,

but those looking toward the massive Mount Taylor volcanic cone are particularly fine.

If you want to have time for the tour, a snack, and a chance to view the museum allow yourself at least three hours at the pueblo. For lots more pictures of our Arizona trip go to

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