After a much needed good night’s sleep, I spent Sunday afternoon at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The building and grounds were well designed, and seemed fairly new. I stopped in at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe, a restaurant attached directly to the museum. Sundays offered a brunch menu until 4pm, with a variety of standard breakfast items (like french toast) as well as Native inspired dishes. French toast is a favourite of mine, but I went outside of my comfort zone and picked all Native dishes for my “Build your own Breakfast”. Well, except for the scrambled eggs.
I had some blue corn porridge, which tasted similar to Cream of Wheat, but more jiggly. I couldn’t finish it, but it was pretty good once I mixed in some brown sugar and raisins. Frybread seemed to be a pretty traditional food, it turned out to be a thin, crispy fried bread. Not doughy like your typical carnival fried dough though. The chorizo was some crumbly spicy pork thing, that I didn’t care for. It’s always a little weird to be sitting in a restaurant by yourself, especially as a girl. I tend to get some odd stares, and even surprise when I answer waiters, “No, it’s just me”.
After my brunch, I headed out to the courtyard to watch a Native dance group perform. All of the members were related– the grandmother, the father, his children and even a grandchild! They performed dances and songs from a variety of tribes, not just their own. What I really enjoyed was the history and personal stories the patriarch told in between songs. He also spoke about how traditions have been changed to reflect social changes, for example, more prayer songs have been created to incorporate women. The words for a song for warriors have been changed so that it honors both men and women serving in the military. During their performances of a song for warriors and a memorial song for loved ones that are no longer with us, I found myself getting chills and tears in my eyes. A few songs later, he recounted a chat he’d had with a man who had watched one of their performances. This man had a reaction just like I did to some of the songs. “I don’t know the words your saying,” the man had said, “but I feel them”. The patriarch explained that many of the songs we heard were like listening to gospel hymns in a church. “So welcome to my church” he concluded.
I thanked them for their performance at the end, and the whole family shook hands with me. They asked where I was from– I guess I can’t pass for a local in New Mexico! I explained about my trip and that I was traveling by myself. The patriarch nodded in approval, “I wish you luck on your journey”.
The rest of the museum was intriguing and I thought all of the hands on exhibits were a great touch for kids. There was a station to try weaving in the Southwest tradition, which uses a unique standing loom. Another station provided clay to make pottery. Many of the artifacts were similar to the Hopi exhibit back in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, but it was interesting to see the craft work split into the specific pueblos within the different New Mexico tribes.
I finished off the day with some delicious Pho from 2000 Millennium Vietnamese restaurant, where the waitress was kind enough to bring my takeout order outside to me because I was sitting out there with Meeko. The University of New Mexico turned out to be right down the street from my hotel. The campus was very pretty, and the center of it is right on historic Route 66! I loved all the quirky stores and restaurants near by. In some ways it reminded me of some streets in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, I could definitely see myself going to school here and living in the midtown area.
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico