Sunday, December 29, 2013


Weather: So far it’s been a bad winter; warm afternoons keep melting what little snow we have before temperatures fall in the mornings; last snow 12/22/2013; 8:25 hours of daylight today.

What’s still green: Juniper and other evergreens, prickly pear; leaves on Apache plume, German iris, yuccas, garlic, hollyhocks, winecup mallow, Saint John’s wort, vinca, coral bells, cheat grass; rose stems green.

What’s red: Cholla, Oregon holly and coral beardtongue leaves.

What’s grey or blue: Four-winged saltbush, snow-in-summer, pinks, golden hairy aster leaves.

What’s yellow or brown: Arborvitae.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: Photographs are wonderful records of the past.

I found one this week of a corn field for the settlement of Santa Cruz taken in 1872. No more specific date is given, but the corn is about a foot high and planted in four rows between irrigation furrows.

The field is southwest of the church, and just a little below. The settlement stretches out to the east, with rows of progressively higher walls. No wooden or wire fences are visible. The walls and retaining walls are rough textured like uncovered adobe. Some are four courses high, some higher. No other crops are visible.

A few years later, in 1879, John K. Hillers took a similar photograph of the Santa Clara pueblo. The garden plot in the foreground is close to what look like residences. The nearest has a wooden door and small opening for light.

There’s no date, so it is hard to know if the plants are some low-growing vegetable in mid-summer or sprouting corn. The bed has been tilted, so water can flow both across its head and down the furrows. A low wall of adobe blocks runs along the top edge to direct water. Like Santa Cruz, the plants are in four or five row segments between furrows.

Water flows through a rock-lined shallow ditch. The surplus apparently falls over the wall, and puddles below.

The original photograph is wider than the one reproduced by the Smithsonian. In the 1980s, some pueblo artist made a line drawing from the original. Edwin Tafoya colored in the bare outlines.

The drawing is double the size, with the addition all to the east. At the far end are two sets of coyote fencing around buildings. The posts are spaced and connected to single rails toward the tops.

Details of the irrigation system are not reproduced. The garden plot is level. There are rows of what, more clearly, is corn, but no furrows. The water stops at the bed, and does not drain further. It’s tidier, more like modern corn fields.

Twenty years later, in 1899, Adam Vroman retook the original photograph. A tall double-hung window has replaced the door, and a smaller window has been fitted into the opening of the near building.

The open garden plot has been broken into small enclosures surrounded by coyote fences. The posts are spaced and have irregular heights. Like the earlier photograph, they are held to single rails toward the tops. The gates are made from boards, salvaged from packing crates.

At the time, the picture was taken, the visible areas are bare of plants, suggesting they were used for animals. The ditch no longer is visible, but a shrub as tall as the buildings is growing in the area where it drained.

There also are rows of coyote fencing around the far edges of the settlement. The crops may be in the area beyond the photograph.

Between the two sets of photographs, the ones from the 1870's and the one from 1899, the railroads arrived, the Atkinson, Topeka and Santa Fe in Lamy in 1879, the Denver and Rio Grande in the new settlement of Española in 1880. They brought more than the convenience of windows, canned foods, and milled flour.

The railroads needed lumber for their ties. Harry Buckman began logging to the south on the Vigil land grant. Camilla Trujillo reproduced a photograph of logs cut on the Mora Grant to the north. They were waiting to be washed down the Embudo River to the Rio Grande and, from there, on down below Española. 300 men were paid wages to buy those windows, canned goods, and other products available in stores near the tracks.

In town, Frank Bond rented sheep to local men to raise, in return for credit in his store. He placed so many animals, the land in many areas was overgrazed.

He and other merchants offered store credit for ristras of chili pods. The market converted must of the diverse agricultural land into monoculture, with crops raised by women and children while the men were away with the flocks.

Bond’s sheep and the loggers changed the environment, while the stores’ credit practices turned many local men into indebted peons. The land was abused everywhere. We’re still seeing the results in the forest fires that plague areas where all the trees are the same age.

At the same time, the processed foods provided more dietary security in years of drought. Fewer children died young. More adults lived longer. The population expanded, adding to pressures on the land. But, the land no longer was as critical for survival. It could be used for housing.

Photograph of Santa Cruz by H. T. Hiester, 1872, and one of Embudo taken by T. Harmon Parkhurst. Both are in Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, and reproduced in Camilla Trujillo, Española, 2011

Photographs of Santa Clara by John K. Hillers, 1879, and Adam C. Vroman, 1899, in Handbook of North American Indians, volume 9, Southwest, edited for the Smithsonian Institution by Alfonzo Ortiz, 1979. Trujillo reproduces a smaller section of the Hillers photograph.

Colored rendering of Hillers’ photograph by Edwin Tafoya (Tan-day), copyrighted 1978. The person who sold me the drawing did not know if Tafoya or someone else had created the original line drawing.

"Sharecropping with Sheep," in US Dept of Interior, Tewa Basin Study, volume 2, 1935, reprinted by Marta Weigle as Hispanic Villages of Northern New Mexico, 1975.

Photographs: Taken over the past several years in Santa Cruz and in my general neighborhood. None were taken on pueblo land.

1-2 Corn field and its ditch.

3 Area southwest of Santa Cruz church where original photograph may have been taken.

4 Terraced housing southwest of Santa Cruz church.

5 Spaced rows of peppers.

6 Back of pepper field with ditch feeding it water.

7 Main ditch just above the pepper ditch.

8-9 Corn field at base of Santa Cruz church hill and its ditch.

10-11 Corn field with its irrigation pipe and the feeding ditch. Another crop is to the left. It was a dry year, and they had abandoned the crops.

12-13 Corn field and its ditch.

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