Water for Acoma
Favorite thing: The pueblo is built on a rocky mesa with almost no soil, so almost nothing of any size grows here, apart from a single tree which can be seen in my first photo. It is thought that this survives because of its proximity to the deep pool of water or cistern. In the past the inhabitants of Acoma relied on these cisterns for all their water supplies. They would collect rainwater during the wet summer months and this was carefully conserved and used in dry periods. To keep the water pure it was forbidden to wash or play in the cisterns.
These days however water is brought up to the pueblo in tankers. But the houses don’t have any running water. The Acoma people prefer to keep things as they always have been here in the pueblo (we found the same was true too of Taos Pueblo). There are no toilets in the houses either – instead you will see communal Portaloos around the edges of the village which are used by everyone and which are regularly emptied by a commercial firm (see photo three, taken by Chris). Our guide explained that in the past they had drop toilets, and also told us that there are plans to introduce new ones with a compostable system – but not to install them in the houses.
Houses of Acoma
Favorite thing: There are about 275 houses in the pueblo, although only around 30 people live here year round, mostly older people and pre-school children, who are often sent to live with grandparents so that they can learn the culture and traditions of the tribe from them. But all the houses are owned and cared for by an Acoma family, and the family will visit and stay there during festival times. Many of the houses we saw therefore had been extensively restored (see photos four and five) – this is very much a living village, not a museum.
The houses are made of adobe, like so many buildings across New Mexico (and indeed across the south-west). Those same Spanish invaders, on first encountering these structures, saw the straw glinting in the sunshine and believed the houses to be made of gold! The thick adobe walls keep the homes cool in summer and warm in the winter, and sharing walls with neighbouring houses adds to the insulation effect. The roads too were carefully planned, each exactly the right width to ensure that even the long shadows of winter would not fall on the houses opposite, so that all could benefit from the warmth of the sun’s rays.
Traditionally all the houses were of three stories, but the use of each floor varied with the season. In the winter the ground floor would be used for cooking. Heat from the fire would rise to the floor above, which was used as living and sleeping space year round, and food would be stored on the top floor away from that heat. In the summer the ground and top floor usage was reversed; cooking would be done on the top floor so the heat could escape through the roof without overheating the inhabitants, and food was stored on the ground floor.
The house in photo two has its window frame painted in the traditional turquoise colour, symbolising the sky, as do those in photo three. In the past windows were made of mica, letting in some light but no view, but today almost all are of glass. But modernisation has only gone so far – there is no mains electricity (though some have generators), no running water and no toilets, as my next tip describes ...
The Typical Pueblo Home
Favorite thing: The homes all appear in great shape. Even as we were there touring, some of the residents were refinishing adobe walls. The streets are absent of litter and clutter. The color tourquise is used on window and door trim supposely having power to ward off bad spirits.
" SKY CITY " - PUEBLO OF ACOMA
Favorite thing: The Acoma Pueblo is located 60 miles west of Albuquerque on I 40 and the 12 miles south on Route 23.
The Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited village in the USA ( since 1150 ad)
The pueblo is located on a 365 ft high sandstone rock . The view is worth seeing on a late afternoon .
They have a Visitor Center with a major display of pottery.
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