Indian Pueblo Cultural Center – Albuquerque, NM

I would just like to say before I begin talking about the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, that the spelling and pronunciation of the word Albuquerque has always tripped me up because it’s always felt like like there should be a second “r” in there somewhere.  And thanks to my recent trip to the largest city in New Mexico, I learned that there used to be a second “r” (Alburquerque)!!!  Who just changes the spelling of an entire city like that??

Anyway, now that I’m off my soapbox, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is not the most entertaining place to visit, but it’s very educational and has several exhibits you can’t find anywhere else. There are 19 Indian pueblos (think tribes) located in New Mexico: Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jimez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay, Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, and Zuni.  Each pueblo has it’s own specific culture and history, all of which are detailed in the Cultural Center.

The newest exhibit in the Cultural Center is called “100 Years of State and Federal Policy: The Impact on Pueblo Nations”.  Stretching over two large rooms, this exhibit is basically a large timeline of the last 100 years of governmental policies which have affected the Pueblo Indians.  There’s a lot of reading, each section on the timeline has an excerpt from the specific section of pertaining state or federal policy, but for history buffs or anyone with a vested interest in learning about the Pueblo Indians, the timeline is full of valuable information located all in one place for optimal convenience and learning.

The next section of the Cultural Center is devoted to textiles (clothing, blankets, weaving, etc.).  Almost all the pueblos have a similar textile style, so there’s not much variation in the pieces of the exhibit, but the fabrics are gorgeous and not behind glass, so you can really get up close and personal to see all the intricate detail work.

At this point in the self-guided tour, you take the stairs underground, which is where the majority of the museum lies.  One of the coolest exhibits underground is the section on the impact of Spanish Catholicism on the different pueblos.  Like many indigenous cultures around the world, when Catholicism was introduced, the people integrated the new religion into their existing ones.  One of the biggest and most significant examples of this integration is the fact that each of the 19 pueblos have their own individual saint and saint feast day, much like the cities in Spain.  The exhibit has wooden retablos picturing the saints for each pueblo and the background story about them.  One of the most interesting stories is that of San Ildefonso, the patron saint who’s name graces the pueblo San Ildefonso.  Legend says a farmer in the pueblo prayed to San Ildefonso, the patron saint of farmers, to help him with his harvest and suddenly his animals started plowing the fields by themselves!

The last exhibit in the Cultural Center has real excavated artifacts from the pueblos, as well as 19 different sections with individual and unique items that distinguish each pueblo from one another, like the intricate turquoise jewelry and bead work of the Zuni Pueblo, the sunflower-containing art of the Ohkay Pueblo, and the micaceous clay pottery of the Taos Pueblos.

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