Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Mexico 2013 - Another Chance to Hunt for the Real America

This was my second trip to New Mexico, but this time I was looking at it from much wiser, more-traveled eyes.  After all my travels I know how to find the road less traveled and the quirky special places that are a little hidden.  I pick between the more touristy places and decide which are a must see and which can be passed to make time for a more local real neighborhood that might give me a little more insight into what lies below the surface.  Now when I go to a city like Santa Fe, I want to see where people really live more than the main square or seeing every museum.  I'd rather wile away an hour in a local coffee shop watching people then wander through endless galleries the city is famous for, though I try to travel at a pace where I can do a little of both.

The purpose of this trip was to go visit my brother in the north eastern corner of the state in Mora County, a poor, rural farming valley tucked in the
soaring, stunning Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  My brother and his family have relocated here to live a different kind of life.  They bought a plot of land and have begun homesteading there.  They are building a yurt to live in and collecting water from two streams on the property.  Until the systems are better set up, they spend short periods of time on their land, and also have been lucky enough to stay at a local farm on other nights in exchange for work there.  

I was inspired by this different way of living, not just my brother's but the many others I met who have come to Mora for similar life goals of a simpler life. There is a communal spirit, where everyone lives on very little but help each other.  They are enriched by the beauty of the land.

I also was happy to get a much deeper insight into a very small community.  My mom and I stayed at the Mora Lodge, the only motel in the area.  We spent hours over breakfast at Kristy's Korner Kafe watching all the locals catch up over coffee.  Conversations were all over the place.  There was endless talk about the drought that is deeply affecting the community.  Someone was recruiting for the volunteer fire department.  Workers stopped by before heading out to install fiber optic cables designed to finally bring the internet to this rural community, a program that was being paid for by the Obama stimulus plan and is being well received because its affects will have a lasting impact by creating better connections to a rural part of America.  We joined in conversations about the community and heard opinions on their recent victory against fracking.  With so little water, farmers are afraid fracking will poison what water they have, but business men believe the natural gas industry would have brought a much needed revenue stream.  The opposition won, but the debates continue.  

What was most interesting to me about those mornings of conversation is that this area is totally bi-lingual.  Locals whose ancestors migrated from Spain many generations ago still use both languages all the time.  One man will be speaking in Spanish and another one will reply in English.  Others move back and forth between languages in the same train of thought.  I learned that New Mexico is the only official bi-lingual state in the country.  They clearly embrace their Spanish heritage.

This heritage was emphasized all over, in art, in design, in historical markers, and it made it a very exotic state to visit.  Once again I got a chance to discover just how diverse the United States is.  Each of our states has heritage from different spots around the world which is deeply embedded into its daily life.  Sometimes its hard to see on the surface, but when you dig down and take the time and sit long enough at Kristy's Kozy Kafe you can really observe it and once again I am thankful that I took the time.

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