Sunday, May 05, 2024

Truchas means trout. Trampas means traps.

I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until now but nearly all my High Road rambles have been the south to north version. Maybe that’s because heading south to Santa Fe I’m on a mission and with a schedule. But on the return leg I’m free to meander for creative sustenance and boredom mitigation. So, after suffering the gauntlet of Pojoaque Pueblo’s commercial strip I turn right through Nambé Pueblo and onward to Chimayo where the High Road begins in earnest.

Shrine, Santa Cruz Valley

As I turn left toward Chimayo from the Nambé badlands the high desert dips and rises before me and white crosses crown hilltops along my route. The faith that permeates El Norte is unceasing and profound. Nearly every village no matter how small has its own Catholic Church. The Church is the cradle of rural Hispanic life. On every side road lies a rustic village united by faith and a hard life from the land.

Blowing Leaves, Santuario de Chimayo

Santuario de Chimayo in the village of Chimayo has been a place of worship since long before it was built in 1813. Pueblo Indians have inhabited Chimayo and the Santa Cruz Valley since the 12th century. The ancestral Puebloans believed that they shared their land with the spirit world and that the hot springs in Chimayo held remarkable healing powers. The faithful believe that those powers remain in the sacred dirt at the Santuario today. So, on Good Friday each year 300,000 pilgrims walk from all over the Southwest to partake in the healing powers.

White cross at dusk, Truchas

Truchas perches on a rim above a deep valley and gazes back down the valley to Chimayo. The town’s draw is its inspiring site. It is breathtaking. It’s a somnolent and struggling place that yearns to be an art colony. Instead, it feels like it’s withering and not growing. But, its setting is so remarkable it lures me back again and again.

Layers of Meaning, San José de Gracia

Eight miles north on Highway 76 the dirt plaza of Las Trampas is blessed with the San José de Gracia Church which was built between 1760 to 1776. Although San Francisco de Asis at the terminus of the High Road in Ranchos de Taos, is the best-known Spanish Mission Church on El Camino Alto, San José impresses me even more. San José is considered the least altered and best example of a Spanish Colonial Pueblo Mission Church on El Camino Alto and perhaps all of New Mexico. 

Sagrado Corazon, Picuris Pueblo

While there isn’t a Mission Church in Peñasco just west of the town is a picture-perfect church on Picuris Pueblo, the smallest in New Mexico at 364 acres. The pocket size house of worship Sagrado Corazon is the first church that I photographed on the High Road twenty years ago. Sadly, the cross that makes the image is no longer there. I’m confounded by its absence but glad I photographed it while it graced the scene. It’s a lesson that bears relearning. Nothing is forever.

Last light, San Francisco de Asis

If the High Road, El Camino Alto, starts in Chimayo it ends at San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. The church may be the most photographed edifice in the American West. Iconic is too weak an adjective to describe the famed Spanish Mission Church built from 1772 and 1816. Memorialized by Adams, Strand, and O’Keefe Saint Francisco says northern New Mexico like no other. I am privileged to live a stone’s throw from the holy site and never tire of San Francisco’s moods and seasons.

This post stems from my upcoming article Telling Stories: El Camino Alto in the May-June issue of Shadow and Light Magazine. It publishes May 15.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

During these continuing blustery days, it is odd how our respective photographic minds lean toward similar themes, involving definition of specific terms. Like Truchas and Trampas. And from there, looking deeper through our respective lenses. And your writing in today's blog is unsurpassed - "...I'm free to meander for creative sustenance and boredom mitigation." "On every side road likes a rustic village united by faith and a hard life from the land." Describing Truchas in this way "It's a somnolent and struggling place that years to be an art colony. Instead, it feels like it's withering and not growing.' The photograph of San José de Gracia comprises layer upon layer of tones that, even in black and white, resembles the adobe beautifully. The blowing leaves at the Santuario was quite a catch. After this, I look forward to your article in Shadow and Light Magazine - "Telling Stories: El Camino Alto". Thanks, Steve!