new mexico history

The Descent of Quetzalcoatl, 1

This is from the mythological sequence describing the descent of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, to the Underworld, to recover the bones of the ancestors from the Lord of Death, in order to create the new, and current, race of men. At the top, the Teótl gather in Tamoanchan, the Twelfth layer of the heavens, to order Quetzalcoatl and his Spirit Animal, Xolotl, the dog-god, to descend to the Underworld to recover the precious bones. Below, they descend on a rope adorned with eagle plumes, which symbolically represents the Milky Way, through the subsequent 11 layers of the heavens, before they enter through the belly of the earth Goddess, Coatlicue. These layers are, in order, the Red, Yellow, and Blue heavens, the Daytime and the Nighttime Skies, the heaven of shooting stars, the heaven of Venus, the heaven of the Sun, the heaven of the stars, and the heaven of the moon and clouds. Below is the surface of the earth and the imperial city of Tenochtitlan.

The painting is the preliminary drawing for the painting, which will be painted in full color. A print of the preliminary drawing is available on my Etsy store at this link.

One of the first snaps of our planet from space

Taken from a captured German V2 rocket fired into the edge of space from the White Sands testing station in New Mexico by Werner von Braun and the US military rocketry research group, this photo seems a bit grainy compared to the current lush photos from the space station or high res satellites such as PLEIADES and Digital Globe. It remains however a historic piece, and a direct ancestor of so many of the photos we share and comment on here on TES, so I felt it had to be acknowledged as the original source of much rich enjoyment.


Image credit: Alamy


Xiuhcoátl, the Turquoise Serpent, or Fire Serpent.

Xiuhcoátl is the Nagual, the Spirit Animal of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Turquoise Lord, Teótl of Fire, Time, the Center, the Hearth, and Wisdom, Father to the Teótl and embodiment of wisdom. The Xiuhcoátl is also an atlatl wielded by Huitzilopochtli, the Sun at the Zenith, who personifies the victory of wisdom over ignorance.

The Turquoise Serpent is the dry season, as opposed to Quetzalcoátl, the Plumed Serpent, who is the wet season. Metaphorically, in the wet Mexican summer, Quetzalcoátl descends to the earth and covers it with his skin and plumage; all the earth is covered with his green feathers, and life blooms. In the dry Winter, Xiuhcoátl descends, and with his fiery skin covers the earth, and all the vegetation dries out and dies.

The serpent also represents the movement of time; its very body is shaped like the year-glyph, its body forming trapezoidal, year-glyph shapes, and its tail is the glyph itself. Thus, the serpent Xiuhcoátl is symbolic of day, fire, turquoise, the dry season, and wisdom.

In the photos, he appears at the top as the Spirit Animal of Xiuhtecuhtli; he circles the body of the Turquoise Lord, and from his flaming skin emerges calendar glyphs, representing time. In the detail, can be seen his curling snout and his year-glyph tail. The following two pictures are ancient Mexica stone carvings of Xiuhcoátl, and at the bottom, one of my paintings in which Huitzilopochtli, the Hummingbird on the Left, the Sun at its Zenith, holds Xiuhcoátl in his hand as a weapon with which to defeat his sister the moon, and, metaphorically, the triumph of wisdom over ignorance.

My paintings are available as limited edition prints in my Etsy store at this link.


Celebrate the passage of the National Trails AND Wild and Scenic Rivers Acts with photos of the BLM river and trail segments included in the original 1968 legislation signed #OTD in 1968!

The Río Grande Wild and Scenic River, located within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, includes 74 miles of the river as it passes through the 800-foot deep Río Grande Gorge. The Río Grande Wild and Scenic River provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities, luring anglers, hikers, artists, and whitewater boating enthusiasts.  

In addition, the Rogue Wild and Scenic River is located in southwestern Oregon and flows 215 miles from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean. Some of the wildlife that calls the Rogue home include black bear, river otter, black-tail deer, bald eagles, osprey, Chinook salmon, great blue heron, water ouzel, and Canada geese.

Featuring 30 miles of the world famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT), Sand to Snow National Monument in Southern California is a favorite for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and even skiing.

The 43-mile stretch of the PCT in southern Oregon includes countless scenic views and well-known recreation points: Mount Shasta; Pilot Rock, Hyatt Lake; Soda Mountain Wilderness; and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, to name a few.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM

Pfc Terry P. Moore of the 7th Infantry Division on Okinawa with a BAR, photographed by W. Eugene Smith for his story “24 Hours in the Life of a Soldier”. Pfc Moore, 23, was from Albuquerque, New Mexico. His unit was 2nd Platoon, Company F. 184th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.
Descendants Of Native American Slaves In New Mexico Emerge From Obscurity

Every year in late November, the New Mexican village of Abiquiu, about an hour northwest of Santa Fe, celebrates the town saint, Santo Tomas. Townfolk file into the beautiful old adobe Catholic church to pay homage its namesake.

But this is no ordinary saint’s day. Dancers at the front of the church are dressed in feathers, face paint and ankle bells that honor their forebears — captive Indian slaves called genizaros.

The dances and chants are Native American, but they don’t take place on a Pueblo Indian reservation. Instead, they’re performed in a genizaro community, one of several scattered across the starkly beautiful high desert of northern New Mexico.

After centuries in the shadows, this group of mixed-race New Mexicans — Hispanic and American Indian — is stepping forward to seek recognition.

Genizaros are descendants of slaves, but not Africans who crossed the Atlantic in shackles to work in Southern cotton fields. They are living heirs to Native American slaves. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Native American women and children captured in warfare were bought, converted to Catholicism, taught Spanish and held in servitude by New Mexican families. Ultimately, these nontribal, Hispanicized Indians assimilated into New Mexican society.

“Who is the genizaro?” asks Virgil Trujillo, a ranch manager in Abiquiu. “We know who the Apache are, the Comanche, the Lakota. We know all this. Who’s the genizaro? See, in our history that was suppressed. Spanish people and white people came in. [They said] ‘bad Indian, bad Indian.’ ”

Ranch manager Virgil Trujillo wants the world to know that “the genizaro people of the pueblo of Abiquiu are alive and well.”

The name genizaro is the Spanish word for janissary,war captives conscripted into service to fight for the Ottoman Sultan. Some New Mexican genizaros gained their freedom by serving as soldiers to defend frontier villages like Abiquiu from Indian raids. By the late 1700s, genizaros comprised one-third of the population of New Mexico.

The territory changed hands from Spain to Mexico to, in the early 20th century, the United States. Genizaros intermarried with Hispanics, and their identity as Native Americans was effectively erased, at least in the historical record.

“Today we have a little tiny opportunity to get our word out,” says Trujillo. “The genizaro people of the pueblo of Abiquiu are alive and well.”

The Santo Tomas fiesta moves from the church grounds to the home of the festival chairman. A trio of musicians entertains. People sit at outdoor tables in a chill wind, eating bowls of steaming pozole, or hominy stew, with red chile.

One of the dancers is Gregorio Gonzales, a 28-year-old man in a black skullcap with a red arrow painted on his cheek. If asked, he says, he would say he is a genizaro.

Today, genizaro is a neutral term. But it wasn’t always so, Gonzales says. He’s a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, writing his dissertation on genizaro identity.

“Genizaro, the term, was actually used as a racial slur by people, especially here in northern New Mexico, the equivalent of the N-word,” he says.

Gregorio Gonzales, 28, is a dancer in the Santo Tomas festival as well as a Ph.D. candidate writing his dissertation on genizaro identity.

What’s happening in New Mexico today is a sort of genizaro renaissance.

There have been recent symposia on genizaro history and identity. A pair of scholars at the University of New Mexico is putting out a book. The working title is Genizaro Nation.

“There was a lot of Native American slavery going on. It’s just an eye-opener to the average Americans when they discover this,” says co-editor Enrique Lamadrid. He is a distinguished professor emeritus of Spanish at the University of New Mexico who has done some of the groundbreaking scholarship on genizaros.

While Native American slavery was commonplace, New Mexico was the only place where free Indians were called genizaros.

They were often Comanches, Utes, Kiowas, Apaches and Navajos taken as slaves by each other, and by colonists.

“In the 1770s, if you were going to get married, one of the best wedding presents you could get is a little Indian kid who becomes part of your household. They took on your own last name, and they became part of the family,” says Lamadrid.

One thing the new genizaro scholarship does is smash the conventional notion that New Mexican identity is somehow defined as either the noble Spaniard or the proud Pueblo Indian.

“The Spanish fantasy is a myth,” says Moises Gonzales, an architecture professor at UNM and co-editor of Genizaro Nation. “I think it’s great that we’re finally having a very elevated conversation about what it means to be genizaro in contemporary times.”

In the 300-year-old villages tucked in river valleys of New Mexico, the genizaros are finally telling their stories.


In 1846 the United States went to war with Mexico. An unlikely truce between the Americans and the Apache tribe, whose land was the quickest way to get to New Mexico, was soon put into place. The Apache were not too fond of the Mexicans after Mexico had put a bounty on their scalps around 1835. Groups of Apache natives started mounting raids on Mexican settlements. In retaliation for being hunted they would destroy the local mining villages and kill everyone who lived there. One of these groups of raiders was called the Coppermine Mimbreños and was led by Mangas Coloradas, a.k.a La-choy Ko-kun-noste (Red Sleeve) or Dasoda-hae (He Just Sits There). Mangas had led the Mimbreños (Tchihende) tribe for about 25 years as well as pulling successful and brutal raids against the Mexicans. Their land was west of the Rio Grande and included most of New Mexico. So when the U.S needed troops and safe passage through their land, Mangas and the rest of the Apache was there to fight and to escort them to Mexican territories. In 1846 when the U.S occupied New Mexico he signed a peace treaty which lasted for a little while, until gold miners began to destroy New Mexico’s Pinos Altos Mountains. In December of 1860 some of those miners attacked an encampment of Bedonkohe natives. After that, Mangas began attacking American settlements. After an incident known as the Bascom Affair where American military killed 6 tribesmen in Arizona, Mangas made an agreement with his daughter’s husband to drive all whites out of Apache territory. In January of 1863 Mangas decided to meet with military leaders at Fort McLane in New Mexico to discuss peace. He was arrested while under a flag of truce by Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West, saying: “Men, that old murderer has got away from every soldier command and has left a trail of blood for 500 miles on the old stage line. I want him dead tomorrow morning. Do you understand? I want him dead.” That night Mangas was tortured, shot and killed after he attempted to “escape”, he was tied down and the military men were poking him with red hot pokers to get him to run. Because Mangas was a big man, 6'6’’, the soldiers kept his skull and sent it to a phrenologist who sketched it for his book. After it was said to have been sent to the Smithsonian but has since been lost. Mangas never got a proper death ceremony as his skull has sadly never resurfaced. Pictured above: Mangas Coloradas, a map of his territory during his final years, a depiction of the Bascom Affair, the Pinos Altos Mountain in New Mexico, Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West the man who ordered Mangas’ death, and lastly the depiction of his skull from the 1873 book “Human Science” p. 1196 by Orson Squire Fowler.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexico preserves 2000 years of archaeological treasures. Visitors can learn the incredible story of the Mogollon Culture and see the fascinating cliff structures they left behind. It’s a great experience for the mind and the eyes. Photo by Janice Wei, National Park Service.