Me and Sam and the Future
In March the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance, our statewide organization dedicated to the protection of the artifacts, architecture and intangible aspects of our past, held its annual conference in Roswell. (It doesn't happen there every year -- next year it will be in Taos.) The two-and-a-half day event attracted advocates, speakers and interested folks from every corner of the state. Presentations included topics ranging from the newly adopted earthen building code to the proposed spaceport north of Las Cruces. Attendees ranged from the very recognizable (Sam Donaldson) to the not very recognizable (me).
I was born and raised in New Mexico, as was Sam, though he is from the scrubby borderlands around Chamberino and I personify the elite and insular north. Nevertheless, we did find something to talk about after we had exhausted the topic of technical issues concerning his proposed adobe barn.
I must say that I never cease to be intrigued and thrilled at the bridge this state is -- between cultures, between countries, between mesquite badlands and mountain meadows and, most amazingly, between the past and the future. You know, San Ildefonso Pueblo next to Los Alamos, Sandia Pueblo next to Sandia Labs. Sam and I figured this isn't called the Land of Mañana for nothing.
Take the proposed spaceport as another example. This is down in his neck of the creosote woods, just north of Las Cruces and adjacent to the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. The Camino Real is a 1600-mile long corridor running from Mexico City to Okay Owingee, just north of Santa Fe. It is, without question, one of the most important historic trails in the United States, and one of the best reflections we have of the Spanish Colonial period. For those reasons, and because of the proposed spaceport, it was named by the Heritage Alliance as one of New Mexico's 12 most endangered places in 2007. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, just two weeks ago, also named it as a nationally valuable most endangered place
The listings are a good thing because they attract attention to a historic site and engage people in conversations they may not otherwise have. Me and Sam, for instance.
As you might guess, Sam is good on his feet when comes to questions and answers, and I've seen him on TV long enough to know that he isn't very good at disguising his opinions. But, I left Roswell not knowing if he liked this particular bridge to the future.
I do -- much to the chagrin of the opposition, which includes most of my friends. But it was they who sold it to me. The opening image in one of the Roswell presentations (by one of my closest colleagues) was an aerial photo showing the Camino Real alongside Interstate 25. Subsequent PowerPoint slides demonstrated that this transportation corridor didn't begin in colonial times as there is a strong Native American component preceding the Europeans. So, isn't the highest (!) and best use of a centuries-old corridor to go vertical? Isn't that a really progressive way of preserving the intent of our forebears?
I understand and mourn the loss of terrestrial open space. This sacrifice seems to me a good trade nevertheless. It's another layer in a profoundly interesting stratigraphy.
More about adobe, perhaps, next month.