Remembrance Includes The Pain

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October 15, 2021- In the fall of 2020, there were protests against keeping the statue of Juan de Onate, one of the Conquistadores who re-established Spanish hegemony in what is now the American Southwest, after the Indigenous Peoples’ Revolt of 1680. The statue still stands at the southwest entrance to Old Town Albuquerque. As painful as much of Spanish rule was, for both the Puebloan and nomadic tribes that were subjugated, that collective pain and the response to it-including the retributive pain meted out by the rebels upon the Spanish settlers are cautionary tales-two among many from which mankind is learning, ever so slowly. The horrors endured cannot be wiped from memory.

All across Europe, there are reminders of the grim events that forged that continent’s present state, from the Museum of Torture, in Bruges, Belgium to the preserved concentration camps of World War II. In Africa, the dreadful remnants of Slave Castles and places like Ile Goree, remind residents and visitors alike of the widespread culpability for this most heinous sustained and codified injustice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bear witness to the ultimate fate that awaits the worst of ultranationalists, along with the millions of innocent victims that their excesses cause to be brought down with them.

Here in North America, it is surely tempting to “correct” history, by eradicating statuary that reflect the erroneous notion of one racial subgroup, or ethnicity, being superior to others. Indeed, statues of Confederate leaders and slave holders scarcely have any place, standing in communities that abolished slavery, to the extent it ever was practiced in them, well before the onset of the American Civil War. Ditto for the Stars and Bars.

I have visited places associated with controversial, even unsavory, historical figures and events, from the Confederate Cemetery of southern Maryland to the site of the Silver Creek Massacre, in eastern Colorado-and will continue to do so, for the purposes of my own understanding. I do so, knowing that I will never subscribe to either heinous mistreatment of other human beings, or to the systems that spring from it.

Careful, measured and accurate presentation of unpleasant to horrific episodes of our history, and of the blinkered systems they produced, is however part of learning. De Onate’s role in the suppression of both indigenous peoples of New Mexico, and of the lower class settlers (including Afro-Spaniards, many of whom were enslaved) needs to be kept in mind. Seeing his likeness on horseback, upon first entering Old Town, is a suitable prompt in that regard. It also brings forth further contemplation, as to the role of the clergy, including the founders of the nearby Church of San Felipe de Neri, in the oppression of those viewed as of a lesser humanity. Again, gratuitous statuary in places not associated with a given figure of history- as in a statue of Christopher Columbus in, say, Portland, Oregon or of Robert E. Lee, in downtown St. Louis, serves no purpose other than to gratify that figure’s local admirers. In such a case, those admirers should be free to keep their memorabilia on their own private turf. For the rest of us, history presented in its true context will suffice.

Those are my thoughts, after visiting Old Town Albuquerque, before heading back to Home Base.

The 2018 Road, Day 40: In The Conquistador’s Shoes

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July 4, 2018, Petrified Forest National Park-

The long journey around the length and breadth of North America is coming to a close today, the 242nd anniversary of our nation’s Declaration of Independence.  I have re-entered Arizona, my home base for 35 of the past 40 years and, most likely,for 2-3 years to come.  A relatively short four hours remain, before I am back in my Prescott apartment, and I will face weeds, a small amount of dusty furniture and four days’ accumulation of dirty laundry.

This morning, however, I embraced Independence Day, first by enjoying a simple breakfast on the patio of Sunset Motel, then taking a short stroll in its small garden.

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Moriarty is becoming a bedroom community for Albuquerque, a scant 40 minutes away to the west.  I have been to the Duke City, nearly a dozen times, over the past four decades. Until today, though, I had not set foot in Old Town, Albuquerque’s original settlement, established in honour of the Duke of Alburqerque, who was Viceroy of New Spain at the time the settlement was established, in 1706.  The statue shown below is of Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, the founder of Albuquerque.

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I spent a bit more than an hour, on this early Wednesday morning, taking in the sights of a historical district that is still waking up from pre-Independence Day revelry, last night.

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There are many artists’ studios, crafts shops and small restaurants in Old Town.  The centerpiece, though, is the Church of San Felipe de Neri.

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This is the eastern arch, leading out of the church property, into a pleasant promenade along Old Town’s many shops.

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Below, is a view of the west arch.

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The promenades led me to a Salvadoran restaurant, which was closed, and to Black Bird  Coffee House, which was very much open.

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I chatted with the proprietress of the shop, who was pleased that I had made Old Town the focus of this Albuquerque visit and hoped I would feel at home there, on future such jaunts.  She told me that the former owner of the shop had headed to Prescott, hoping to open a coffee shop there.  I wish him luck, as our town has fifteen such shops, counting the chain franchises.

On the way back to Elantra, I spotted a couple of significant plazas.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Near Sombra, there was a curious silver backed bench.

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Old Town was starting to stir, for Independence Day, as I made my way to my car and  back to I-40.

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I stopped briefly at the first rest area in Arizona, near Lupton, for a short nap, then came here, to the Petrified Forest Cafe, for a quick lunch.  Now, it’s time to head out on the home stretch.