An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

The Gauntlet

Update on forest closures

“The Cibola National Forest has been fortunate in suppressing over thirty fires so far this year. Only one reached over 250 acres on the Magdalena Ranger District,” said the Cibola forest supervisor.

The Sandia Ranger District reports high fire danger, but the following campgrounds and recreation sites remain open: La Cueva, Juan Tabo, Las Huertas, Cienega Canyon, Sulphur Canyon, Doc Long, Dry Camp, Balsam Glad, Capulin Spring, Nine Mile, Pine Flat, and Oak Flat. Cedro and Deadman Group Reservation Area Campgrounds are open. Sandia Peak Ski Area, Sandia Crest Electronic Site, Sandia Crest Observation Area, Sandia Peak Tram, High Finance Restaurant and associated facilities, and Sandia Crest House are open. State Highway 536 (Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway) is open. All major roads on the district remain open, however most secondary roads will be closed.

The following trails and areas remain open. Those portions of Forest Trail 365 (Foothills Trail), including secondary trails associated with Forest Trail 365 and outside of the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, Sandia Peak Ski Area mountain hike/hiking trails within the ski area boundary only, the Crest Trail (Forest Trail 130) from the Crest House/Crest Observation Area to the Sandia Peak Tram and associated facilities, Forest Trail 14, Tunnel Canyon to its junction with Forest Trail 56 (Otero Canyon), and Forest Trail 56 continuing onto the Otero Canyon Trailhead parking lot are open to non-motorized travel only. La Luz trail will be closed. All other sites, trails, and backcountry areas are closed.

For further information on forest closures and fires in the Southwest area, visit, or call the Cibola National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 346-3900.


Ranger District offers wildflower walks
during forest closure

Through August 31 the Sandia Ranger District is continuing to offer weekly Wildflower Walks in areas of the national forest that are open and unaffected by the partial forest closure. “This is a good opportunity to view the effects of drought on our native wildflowers,” said Jim Gormally, Sandia Ranger information specialist. Wildflower enthusiasts can meet a guide at Sandia Ranger Station every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. and then caravan by car to the viewing sites. The site selections are changed every week and are at different elevations so that a variety of wildflowers can be seen.

To reach Sandia Ranger Station, take I-40 to the Tijeras Exit (Exit 175, about seven miles east of Albuquerque) and follow Highway 337 one-half mile south to the station. The Wildflower Walks are free, but parking fees of $3 per day are charged at developed sites along the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway. Annual parking passes are available for $30 and can be purchased at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras, the Cibola National Forest office in Albuquerque (346-2650), and the REI outdoor-equipment store in Albuquerque. For more information, contact Jim Gormally at 281-3304.


Make your mark in history

The mission of the New Mexico State Monuments is to protect and preserve culturally significant properties that are designated as state monuments and to provide for their interpretation, use, and enjoyment by present and future generations.

Would you like to make a difference by helping preserve and interpret the site of Kuaua Pueblo? Coronado State Monument is seeking docents to lead guided tours of the site, help with the outreach program, and work outdoors on site preservation. Docent classes will be starting soon. Please call the monument, at 867-5351, for more information.


Coronado Monument to host Indian, Spanish celebrations

Vendors from the Santa Fe Portal Program will sell arts and crafts and Indian jewelry at the Indian Market at Coronado State Monument on July 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be a drumming contest, Indian music, and performances by the Oak Canyon Children Dancers. Native food will be sold.

On August 17 come to the Coronado Monument to enjoy Spanish Heritage Day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be Spanish dancers, blacksmith demonstrations, music, and food. Reenactors will portray individuals of the sixteenth century. The Bernalillo Matachines will perform and the Sandoval County Historical Society will present a drama.

The Coronado State Monument is at 485 Kuana Road, one mile west of Exit 242 on Highway 550, next door to Jackalope. Admission is $3 for adults; children sixteen and under are admitted free.


Placitas parade—ready to roll

The Placitas Fourth of July Parade is due to bust loose again on July 4 in the village of Placitas. Everyone is invited to participate in the event, which has been known in past years to attract more paraders than spectators. Either way, there is no fee to participate or watch and it is always a good time to visit with friends and neighbors.

All participants should assemble at 10:00 a.m. on July 4 in front of Placitas Heights. The parade starts moving at 11:00 a.m., passing in front of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church and winding through the village. This is an informal event for all ages and all modes of transportation, including antique cars. So, bring your chairs and coolers, or spruce up your truck, your horse, your bike, yourself, and join in the festive spirit of the day.

Thieves steal archaeologists’ trowels

On June 19, thieves cut the fence at the Archaeological Conservancy’s San Jose de las Huertas site in Placitas, and stole shovels, wheelbarrows, trowels, and clipboards. The tools were there for excavations being conducted by Barnard University. Dr. Nan Rothschild said that the theft put a dent in the team’s limited budget, but that they would be able to carry on with the five-week project.


San José de las Huertas, an 18th-century buffer site 

—Nan Rothschild and Heather Atherton
Department of Anthropology, Barnard College, New York

The Rothschild-Atherton team is presently conducting excavation and investigation at the San José de las Huertas archaeological site. —Ed.

San José de las Huertas is a unique site, representing a period of time and a community form that have been the subject of little archaeological research up to now.

Let us say at the outset that we are not presenting a report on excavation here, as we have not yet done any excavation at the site.

Further, we will not conduct major excavations at Las Huertas, as we share the opinion of the Archaeological Conservancy, the owner of the site, that the site should be protected, and disturbed as little as possible. Excavation, after all, is a destructive process, although there are certain kinds of information that can only be obtained through that method. Before requesting permission to excavate, we have spent three seasons mapping the site and doing a geophysical survey to get a sense of where the best places to dig are.

The importance of the site relates in part to its uniquenes. Very few Hispanic residential sites are known, and none have been excavated. San José de las Huertas is also distinctive because it represents the remains of an entire community and appears to be a single component site, without subsequent occupation.

The site was acquired by the Archaeological Conservancy in three parcels between 1986 and 2000 and now consists of more than twenty-four acres. The site is at an elevation of almost 5,700 feet, and is a couple of miles north of the town of Placitas.

San José de las Huertas was probably settled before 1764. In April 1823, the inhabitants of San José were ordered to leave the village by Don José Antonio Viscarra, who was the first Mexican jefe político of New Mexico. The reason given for the order was that nomadic raiding had increased (toward the end of the Spanish period after about 1810 as the central authority in New Spain weakened and the Mexican Revolution gathered force). Soldiers were needed in Mexico and were sent back there, leaving no military protection in outlying areas available from state forces.

While documentary evidence records the village’s abandonment by 1826, there is some question, on the basis of oral history accounts, as to whether that pronouncement was followed. The alternative view, held by the descendants of the original community with whom we have spoken, is that women and children relocated, some say to Algodones, while men and domestic animals remained. By 1835, people are said to have begun returning to the village, although more returned than had left, leading to the establishment of a series of settlements along the creek, including Tecolote, Las Placitas, and Ojo de la Casa.

Our first goal for the summer's research is to define the site's layout. Architectural information offers potential access to aspects of social identity, such as class or ethnic affiliation held by members of the community, which could be confirmed by the presence of certain artifacts that were not available to all. So we would look for architectural differences that are correlated with differences in the frequency of specific artifact types, especially metal and majolicas, or the use of selenite for windows.

Our second goal is to determine basic information about the way of life at San José. This includes studying the production of food and various other basic necessities required by the residents. We know that they practiced farming and herding, but we hope that we can get a clearer picture of subsistence through the analysis of paleobotanical remains and animal bones from middens or other deposits. Sheep and other domestic animals provided meat at Hispanic sites; what we don’t know is to what degree the residents of San José supplemented their diet with wild animals such as deer or rabbits.

Similarly, through paleo-ethnobotanical analysis we hope to understand agricultural practices, including what domestic crops were grown. Were the Las Huertans growing wheat as well as corn? And what kinds of indigenous wild plants were in use?

A third goal for our project is learning to what degree the people at this settlement were self-sufficient: what things that they needed in their daily lives were they able to make for themselves and what did they have to obtain from elsewhere?

The 1984 excavations at Las Huertas, directed by Alan Ferg, yielded objects of brass and iron, including a button, some iron wire, and a brass jingle from a ring bit, as well as some unidentified sheet-brass fragments that may be waste from the manufacture of other items. Were the Las Huertans working metal, as has been seen at sites like Paa'ko and perhaps at San Marcos?

Hispanic residents of New Mexico are known to have supplemented their tool inventory with flaked-stone tools. This has been recorded at a wide range of sites. What is interesting to us about this finding is that there was a mixture of cultural traditions represented at these sites. Settlers, especially in remote areas, had to be resourceful, and when they were unable to obtain access to metal for tools, they relied on chipped stone. As well as chipped stone, we expect to find the use of manos and metates and comales for grinding corn. We have some fragmentary remains of these tools on the surface.

Archaeologists rely heavily on ceramics to provide information on self-sufficiency and trade. We know that the residents of San José de las Huertas used some imported ceramics, because the surface ceramics show small amounts of majolicas. No porcelain was found on the surfaces, and it may not have been in use in this remote community. The dominant wares present seem to represent a mixture of late Pueblo types. These Pueblo wares were probably not manufactured at the site, but could have been brought in from Santa Ana or San Felipe.

The settlement of San José de las Huertas was made as part of Spanish imperial policy, which used such settlements as a way of protecting the city of Santa Fe from marauding nomadic tribes during the late eighteenth century. Land was granted in response to petitions from would-be settlers, and the understanding was that the men in the community would assume military responsibilities as well as their normal subsistence tasks. San José de las Huertas was one of these settlements. Other known buffer communities include Abiquiu, Tomé, Belen, San Miguel del Vado, and San José de las Trampas. Those who settled in these towns included recent migrants to New Mexico and members of a distinctive group called genizaros.

What we understand genizaros to mean is Native Americans who had were captured by a tribal group different from their own and then ransomed by a Spanish or Hispanic individual or family, or possibly by the church. The term has also been used to mean civilized Indians who were not Pueblo. The conditions of ransom included a requirement to work for a household for a number of years, at the end of which the person was free to leave. Of course, when they left, these people were in a difficult position, as they had no land, were usually unable to return to their original people, and were in culturally anomalous situations, as they didn’t belong anywhere.

Many genizaros were settled in these buffer communities because they had the reputation of being fierce fighters. There, they apparently had the possibility of improving their social and economic standing through fighting well and sometimes gaining captured property.

We are interested in a series of issues that arise from the unique circumstances of this population and community.

How did the community and its residents see themselves in terms of identity, and how was this identity expressed archaeologically in material remains, town layout, and subsistence? Are there reflections of the presence of genizaros? Of members signalling different socioeconomic or rank levels?

It is likely that the desirable identity changed from the early colonial period to the later one that Las Huertas represents. It seems that when Spanish immigrants arrived in what is today New Mexico, they tended to claim a Spanish identity, even though only a small number of immigrants in the seventeenth century had been born in Spain. Most, in fact, had indigenous mothers from what is today Mexico. But the important identity was Spanish, and the institution of encomienda, granted to early immigrants, allowed residents to claim an elite status, at least temporarily.

If the immigrants were men, they often formed liaisons with Pueblo women. Some of these involved consensual relations, although many or most did not. In our opinion, when the Spanish fled New Mexico in 1680, during the Pueblo Revolt, the period of Spanish settlement ended.

New settlers arriving in 1692 and thereafter mark the beginning of Hispanic culture, which included all non-Indians (Pueblo and Athabaskan), regardless of their ancestry. This category was subdivided by wealth and other factors, and can be seen archaeologically in the mixture of different kinds of objects. Some people, probably those of higher status, had access to certain kinds of goods associated initially with the Spanish, such as majolica ceramics and various kinds of metals for use beyond the bare minimum of basic tools. However, there was also a considerable quantity of indigenous materials, such as pottery and grinding stones. Some of the weaving equipment, such as spindle whorls, was made in traditional ways. The use of expedient chipped-stone tools also reflects the mixing of these traditions.

The question of what identities existed within the post-Revolt Southwest, and how they can be recognized by archaeologists is interesting, but we use it as background for considering the situation at San José de las Huertas. There, we would anticipate a much narrower range of social variability than in a place like Santa Fe. It is unlikely that there were members of an elite class living in the village; neither would there have been any indigenous peoples. In addition, there would have been good social and psychological reasons for dampening any differences that might have existed before people came to San José. If members of the community were required to fight together, it is likely they would have come to feel a shared identity.

We expect to be excavating at the site this summer, using a crew of Earthwatch volunteers and students from Barnard and Columbia. Our plan is to examine less than one percent of the site through excavation. Half of the units will be placed in what we believe to be house structures. We hope to excavate three structures: one on the main plaza, one abutting the perimeter wall, and a third chosen at random. We will only excavate half of any house encountered. The other half of our excavation units will be placed in middens, corrals, storage areas, plaza areas, or other public spaces. We will also make a number of surface collections from a larger portion of the village.

Historical archaeologists are fortunate to be able to combine documentary data with spatially patterned material remains, and in some cases, with oral history. There is still some documentary research to be done, and we plan to spend more time talking with descendants of the original community, perhaps while the excavation is going on. We think their viewpoint is very important. We believe that through this analysis, which focuses on aspects of spatial organization as well as village economy and community social structure, we will be able to obtain important information about this village, which represents a unique and relatively little-understood community and time period during which Hispanic identity was being forged in New Mexico.


Heard around the West

Betsy Marston
High Country News

If you weighed 1,400 pounds and your task was to transform grass into milk, wouldn't you rather loll the hours away on a water bed? Dairy cows in Oregon's Willamette Valley don't need to be asked that question; they answer with their bodies, plopping their weight down on rubber bladders filled with eighteen gallons of water, reports CNN. "The cows liked it right away," says farmer Arie Jongeneel. "They laid right down and were comfortable." They also started giving more milk. John Marshman, a dairy farmer in New York who has spent $9,000 on 150 water beds for 150 cows, says he's watched the animals "wait for a shot at the water beds. The first ones who come back from the milking parlor fill those stalls first."

Graduating medical students sometimes wave rubber gloves when the happy day comes, and journalists occasionally throw newspapers, so why shouldn't University of Arizona students continue their tortilla-tossing tradition? Because university president Peter Likins says it's a waste of food and culturally offensive to some people, reports the Associated Press. A college official said he'd try to talk students out of their tortillas just before they walked on stage to receive their diplomas, "using food-bank boxes to play on their guilt."

Canine aficionados threw a "Doggie Powwow" in Jackson, Wyoming, recently to celebrate dogs and their contribution to a fuller life. Outnumbering humans forty to twenty, dogs were sung to, howled with, adorned with bandannas and hugged a lot. One dog, a chocolate Lab, entertained the group by making frequent trips to a river, then carrying back a stone in his mouth each time until he'd created a circle. Susan McElroy Chernk, a cancer survivor, told the group, "If I could love as fearlessly as my dog, I would be a much better person for it. Our dogs are models of sanity in an unsane world."

Eighteen-wheel tractor-trailers from Colorado won't be getting the big hello in South Carolina this month. State troopers in that state have already practiced shutting down a highway and blocking trucks from Colorado if they're hauling plutonium from Rocky Flats, the state's now-closed uranium-processing factory. Governor Jim Hodges of South Carolina says he doesn't trust the federal Energy Department to move out the plutonium after it’s been reprocessed in his state for fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. State troopers practicing civil disobedience took their play-acting seriously: they even convinced the driver of a truck from the state Department of Correction to turn around. But when the Energy Department comes calling, reports the Associated Press, its giant trucks will be escorted by armed federal officers.

Workers at a Starbucks outlet in Monroe, Washington, were greeted just before dawn by a man and woman who forced employees to open a safe and hand over its contents. But instead of getting some java to go and getting away fast, the couple pitched in at a crowded takeout window. The man donned an apron, reports the Idaho Statesman, and for a half-hour he and his sidekick helped serve lattes and other coffees to some eighteen to twenty-five customers. "This was fairly bold," remarked police officer Rick Dunn. Bold but not wise. The "Barista bandits," as they were dubbed, were nabbed shortly after the couple turned in the apron and drove off.

A Saudi crown prince on his way to Waco, Texas, to meet with President Bush apparently had a problem about taking direction in the air from a woman. The Associated Press reports that members of his entourage called the Waco airport to insist that only male controllers guide the prince's plane when it left for Houston. Prince Abdullah got his wish: two men bossed the plane, said control tower spokesman Ruben Gonzalez. But, heaven forfend, a female tower manager was allowed to remain on the premises. This boys'-only bias was followed on other legs of the flight, reports the Dallas Morning News, which got its information anonymously from a Federal Aviation Administration employee. Officially, the FAA denied there were men-only requests at western airports. Spokesmen for Crown Prince Abdullah called the story "absolute nonsense."

Where are you, Noah, when we need you? With this winter's light snowpack in the Rockies almost gone, Tony Tolsdorf of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service told the Denver Post: "It confirms what everybody already knows, which is that we're in a drought, and it will take nothing less than a biblical event to take us out."

For their birthday most preteens want bikes, computer games, snowboards—something fast and fun. Not Hunter Shotwell in Park City, Utah. For his eleventh birthday he wanted money, though not for himself. He asked for help to save the desert surrounding four-hundred-foot Castleton Tower in Castle Valley, close to Moab. "Castleton Tower should stay open and the land should stay the same," Shotwell told the Salt Lake Tribune. He said he'd gotten to know the area while hiking with his parents. Cash presents at his party added up to $257, which Shotwell handed over to the nonprofit Utah Open Lands. So far, the group has raised $200,000 toward $640,000 needed to buy the land from the state and protect it with a conservation easement.

The other white meat just turned slightly green, though some might call that a good thing. Pigs have been implanted with the genes of spinach, reports Eco-News in Arcata, California. The research team leader in Japan says spinach-pig meat will be healthier than all-pork pork.

Don't you wish you worked for the Interior Department? It practically gives money away. Almost three-quarters of the department's seventy-nine thousand workers have government credit cards, reports the Associated Press, and some have used them to "pay their rent, withdraw money at casinos and buy jewelry and furniture." This is known thanks to an audit by the department's Inspector General, who noted that controls are so lax that reviews of purchases were "done inadequately or in a perfunctory manner; some were not done on a regular basis and some were not done at all." Some changes are coming, such as a review of whether the credit line of $2,500 is too high. And here's a major reform: cash advances on an Interior Department credit card are now disallowed.

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ( She welcomes examples of Western weirdness.