Saturday, March 14, 2015

Acomilla Historical Marker, Socorro County

The Acomilla historical marker can be viewed at a rest stop on Interstate 25 about 45 miles south of Albuquerque.
The marker reads as follows:
Named Acomilla by the Spanish, these buttes form the walls of a narrow passage for the Rio Grande, along which Spanish encountered the Apache. Travelers organized armed caravans to assure their safety along this section of the Camino Real. An earlier pueblo named Alamillo sat below the black basaltic buttes of San Acacia to the southwest.
For many years, all I thought of this area was the neat wooden rest stops that sit on the sands on both sides of the interstate. Headed north, it's the last decent restroom break before hitting Albuquerque (unless you like to exit in Belen or Los Lunas), and heading south, it's the first convenient rest stop. But there's so much more than that here. One look in any direction tells you as much.

For more than 100 years, not much lay between this point and El Paso (a run of nearly 150 miles). As the marker states, around this point, the river and the buttes set up something of a bottle neck that made for a convenient attack location for the Apache raiders along the route. It was partly because of this spot that caravans would wind their way up and down the Camino Real in large, armored groups, to ensure the safety of travelers.

Modern day San Acacia is near this location, less than 2 miles to the south. The small town sprung up with the addition of rail lines in the latter 19th century. By this time, of course, the Apache threat had been removed.

It's a small and simple reminder about New Mexico's origins (the Camino Real leading to Santa Fe), and the dangers that travelers faced in the most treacherous and famed part of the royal road.

My sources for this post are as follows:

Lozen Little Sister Historical Marker, Otero County

Lozen Little Sister, "A Shield To Her People," is part of the newer Historic Women Marker Initiative, which was founded in 2005. The initiative sought to recognize women's contributions to the state of New Mexico, and I always look forward to finding one, because nine times out of ten, it's a piece of history I've never encountered before.

The text of this marker reads as follows:
Lozen, a warrior and sister of the famous Warm Springs Apache chief Victorio, fought alongside her brother until his death in 1880 and later his successors, Nana and Geronimo. Lozen also was a medicine woman and healer and, it was said, with outstretched hands she could determine the location of an ememy. She died a prisoner at Mt. Vernon Barracks in Alabama.
At the time of Lozen's birth, the area of New Mexico / Arizona / North Mexico that she was born in was known as Apacheria. The exact location of her birth was known to be within sight of the Sacred Mountain near Ojo Caliente where her People began (Apache Indian Leaders).

Lozen was known in her village as a warrior. She refused to fulfill traditional female roles, and instead chose the warrior path from an early age.

Growing up in the Chiricahua, Lozen learned to fight and defend her people at a tumultuous time full of imperialist atrocities by the ever expanding United States of America. Her brother, Chief Victorio, famously said, "Lozen is my right hand ... strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people." In 1880, Victorio's band was entirely wiped out at Tres Castillos in a brutal defeat to the Mexican's, who didn't only kill the warriors, but shot the elderly, women, and children. After her brothers death, Lozen rode out of Mescalero land into the Sierra Madre's of northern Chihuahua, Mexico. Here, she fought alongside tribal patriarch Nana in a trail of vengeance with the decimated and famished remainders of her warrior tribe.

She also fought alongside Geronimo in the last campaign of the Apache Wars. She surrendered along with the last of the great Apache warriors in 1886, and was taken into US custody.

Lozen died in 1889 of tuberculosis at the age of 50 while in custody at the Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama, in what basically amounted to a concentration camp. 

On a personal note, it's very difficult to read the stories of these great Native American leaders, and to think that they met their demises at the hands of the United States government. We look back on such horrific atrocities as the Jewish Holocaust and shake our heads at the wonton evil destruction that man can inflict on his brother. Yet, right here in New Mexico, we bore witness to the same thing. It's forever a part of our history, something we shouldn't gloss over. Lozen gained fame in part by fighting against the United States, in defense of her people. Lozen Little Sister remains a revered figure in the Apache history, and stands as a strong example of the power of women in our world, and the resolve people have when fighting for the lives of their people and culture. 

The photo you see of Lozen was taken after her surrender en route to Alabama. 

My sources for this post are as follows:

  • Apache Indian Leaders: My primary source for the story of Lozen's birth and travels.
  • The Story of Lozen: This is on Facebook, and goes a little deeper and spiritual, it's a good piece.
  • Chiricahua entry on Wikipedia: I found some information on the ancestral homelands of Lozen here. 
  • Once They Moved Like the Wind, by David Roberts: Some in depth information on not just Lozen, but many great Apache warriors. 
  • Warrior Woman Lozen on Cheyenne Gathering: Another primary source of information. The article for her on Wikipedia is basically lifted verbatim from this source. 
  • Dahteste: I recommend this as a starting place to find more information on the background and the aftermath of much of what I wrote about here. Dahteste was another Apache woman and warrior companion of Lozen. Dahteste survived her incarceration in Flordida, and lived into the mid-1900s, but was always thought to have mourned her friend deeply for many years. Dahteste was a central figure in helping negotiate Geronimo's surrender, and lived her later years on the Mescalero Reservation.
  • Complete List of Women Historical Markers

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hatch Historical Marker, Doña Ana County

Hatch, New Mexico, apart from being home to the world famous Hatch green chile (actually world famous, not just colloquially speaking), and my single favorite hamburger in the world (more on that in a minute), is a quaint and interesting little town tucked in along the Interstate 25 corridor and the Rio Grande River in south central New Mexico. Hatch is in Doña Ana County, located 40 miles north of Las Cruces.

The historical marker tells the story better than I could:

Originally established as Santa Barbara in 1851, Apache raids drove the settlers away until 1853 when nearby Fort Thorn was established. Abandoned again in 1860 after the fort closed, it was re-occuped in 1875 and re-named for General Edward Hatch, then Commander of the New Mexico Military District.

So Hatch has a history of being raided, abandoned, reclaimed, abandoned again, and finally settled for good. The village of Hatch wasn't incorporated officially until 1928, and has since grown into a major player in the growing of chile, especially green chile.

When driving through Hatch, one becomes immediately aware of the agriculture surrounding the village. Besides green chile, Hatch also grows onions, pecans, alfalfa, lettuce, cabbage, sweet potatoes, wheat, and cotton. It's hard not to notice the miles and miles of green fields and pecan orchards that dot the landscape around Hatch for miles in all directions.

My favorite road to reach Hatch is New Mexico State Road 185, which hugs the Rio Grande for awhile, and ends up going through Radium Springs before entering the western edge of the village of Doña Ana and eventually Las Cruces. When you reach Las Cruces, 185 turns into Valley Drive. It's a beautiful road that takes you right along the edge of the Robledo Mountains, and it is the only place in Doña Ana County I've encountered javelinas along the road side. I recommend this beautiful road.

Nowadays Hatch is known for its food. So I need to discuss a Hatch institution, Sparky's. Sparky's is home to the best green chile cheeseburger on the face of the planet as far as I'm concerned. It has a nice atmosphere as well. Sparky's was named as the third best burger joint in America on TripAdvisor this past summer.

Apart from Sparky's, another personal favorite is Pepper Pot. The Pepper Pot is located right around the corner from Sparky's on Hall Street. I first saw Pepper Pot on Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations, and we decided to try it. There are many choices for Mexican food in Las Cruces and even in Hatch, but what I liked about Pepper Pot was how insanely good their green chile selection was. But seriously, when in Hatch, you can't go wrong, good food is everywhere you turn.

My sources for this post are as follows: