When someone mentions Albuquerque, we might immediately picture colorful balloons floating into the October sky. However, there is more to the town than hot air: historic Route 66 runs through town, ancient petroglyphs adorn volcanic rocks over 17 miles in Petroglyph National Monument, and one can get a good look at Native American history and culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Driving down on I-25, we paused and walked into the wilderness just enough to get a good look at the Camino de Suenos (Road of Dreams) sculpture, standing 30 feet above the desert dust. The artwork was created by Greg Reiche and it marks a historic area: El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Road of the Interior). Inside its impressive arch, the structure displays Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words of wisdom:
The road served as the main trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, USA, for 300 years (from 1598 to 1882), mainly for transporting silver extracted from the mines of Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí, and mercury imported from Europe (thus earning its name as the Silver Road). The popularity of the route also fostered social, cultural and religious connections between Spanish and Amerindian cultures. Today, one can visit of the many points of interest along the way (haciendas, temples, chapels, cities, and caves), including five World Heritage sites.
Farther down the road, we followed historic Route 66 and seemed to step back in time as we arrived at the Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post. Built in the 1940s, the former trading post is now a cozy RV park, displaying vintage campers and cars (featured in a Route 66 documentary) and local native art.
Fifteen minutes north of the RV park and just outside of the city sits a quiet yet impressive historic site: Petroglyph National Monument. One of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, the site is home to designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.
Delving deeper into Native American history, we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which offered a wealth of information! I particularly enjoyed seeing video exhibits of traditional dances and hearing the languages of different tribes. If you are in town, this is one museum you shouldn’t miss!
A visit to one of the many local pueblos is still on my “to do” list; meanwhile, here is more information about New Mexico Native American pueblos.