About Acoma Pueblo (Via New Mexico Tourism Info)
Acoma Pueblo is popularly known as Sky City. It was built on top of a 357-foot sandstone mesa many hundreds of years ago for strategic defense against raiders. Spanish conquerors learned the hard way of this defensive stronghold when they entered New Mexico in the 1500s. Acomans claim that their 70-acre village is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States.
The pueblo was nearly destroyed when Gov. Juan de Oñate and 70 of his men retaliated for the killing of 13 Spanish soldiers who were hurled off the side of the cliff by warriors when they tried to take grain from the pueblo storehouses in 1598. The San Estéban del Rey Mission was built by the Acomas in 1629 and completed in 1640 under the guidance of Friar Juan Ramírez. Both mission and pueblo have been designated as Registered National Historical Landmarks.
Fewer than 50 Acomans live in Sky City year-round today with the rest living in nearby villages. Throughout the year all the Acomans gather on the mesatop to observe their cultural and social calendar. Census 2000 figures indicated a total of close to 3,000 Acoma villagers.
From my view: We arrived at one of the most beautiful Visitor’s centers that I believe I have ever seen. It included a wonderful gift shop filled with locally made items, a restaurant with fabulous hand made fruit pies (yes, I did), a museum and (thank goodness), a small bus to take us the almost 400 feet up the side of the plateau. We were greeted by so many kind, helpful people…beaming with pride. I loved it the moment we arrived. We met our guide (about 6 of us) and ventured up the hill. We were given an old blessing and started on our way. Along the tour, some of the Acomans came out to greet us and show their hand made pottery. It was a great way to have a conversation and for them to make a small amount of cash. I hadn’t purchased anything until our guide called out to his Auntie. How could I refuse an Auntie (being one)? I asked Auntie about her life at the Pueblo and she old me in all her 70 odd years, she had only left once, to go to University. She studied teaching and returned to her people to pass that education on.
I would like you to know that these people have no running water, nor electricity…and it gets mighty cold way up at that plateau. Their water comes from natural pools they’ve created around the village and fill by lugging water up from a stream. But, the sheer peacefulness and the haunting beauty make it a place that even I, a 2 shower a day woman, could get used to. I’d be bringing my water home in a pail but I could do it.
I saw 2 dogs along the paths. One was a very dark brown with totally black eyes. The other was snow white with solid white eyes. I was very startled because I had never seen anything like them before. They looked like dingos. They were magical, I decided, because they were so free. Our guide told us (while inside their chapel) to rub our hands upon the earth floor…and to place them over a portion of our body…and to ask for a small prayer. I did and felt honored in doing so. I loved the adobe buildings and especially all the the ladders. They were everywhere, leading to secret places and unknown things. More magic maybe? It was so wonderful to see a place so old, yet still well cared for. So many important things are gone and long forgotten. The Acomans are proud. They should be.
I remember, as we waited for our ride down, our guide told us the world’s people used to respect each other for their differences. They learned from those differences. Now the world needs prisons because the people have no pride. A plain truth from a man that called me Sister…and upon farewell…wished me happiness in my life.