If you travel about 60 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, you’ll come upon a 367-foot sandstone bluff. Atop that bluff, you’ll glimpse a village. Acoma Sky City is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in America. Because of that, I’m really surprised that more people don’t know about it.
I had the opportunity to visit this magical place in 2005 when I was traveling around the American West, visiting various Anasazi ruins. The Anasazi, now called the Ancestral Puebloans, occupied this bluff, and the Puebloans themselves have been living there since at least the 13th Century.
That’s quite an achievement. It’s a great strategic location. From way up there you can see for miles in any direction. But it’s also a very isolated, desert landscape. To this day, the nearly 5,000 people who identify as Acoma live there without water, sewer, or electricity. All water is currently brought in by truck, and people use generators when they feel the need for power. There was no road access to the bluff until the 1950’s.
Even while living traditionally, modern life does have a tendency to creep in. While showing us one of the traditional kivas (their circular religious chambers), a tour guide told us that the men gather there for ceremonies, yes, but they’ve also been known to snake extension cords in through the windows from the generators so that they can watch the super bowl in peace. (I just love that story.)
While up there learning about Acoma’s rich history, you can visit many little shops that sell traditional pottery and food, and you can also check out the pretty San Esteban Del Rey mission and the cemetery.
The Acoma identify as Catholics, thanks to that mission, but they also incorporate a lot of ancient spiritual beliefs. The cemetery has holes in the wall so that the spirits can depart, for example. And the mission has corn painted on the walls, as the people are very focused upon agriculture and nature.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Acoma Sky City, I highly recommend it. Until then, I’ll leave you with some of the pictures I took in 2005.
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