Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Ancient Acoma Pueblo Sky City

Tiny settlement has been home to the same tribe for 800 years still doesn't have running water or electricity and is reached by a staircase cut out of rock nestled on top of a large cliff in New Mexico is a sleepy commune that is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. It is believed that Acoma Pueblo in Valencia County has been occupied by the Acoma people for more than 800 years, since 1150AD - however nowadays it only has 50 full-time inhabitants even they don’t have any running water, electricity or sewage system. In the 1950s part of the rock-face was blown up and a road was constructed to the top. But before that the only way to visit the site via 360 feet above the desert was up a near-vertical staircase carved into the golden rock-face.

Therefore, these days, most visitors use the road, but the staircase is still an option for those who are courageous enough. It is conventional, given its dizzying heights, that the camp is also recognized as Sky City. Several centuries ago, in 1540 Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronad was one of the first European visitors to the ancient settlement.  Acoma Pueblo was 'one of the strongest places ever seen, because the city was built on a high rock. The ascent was so difficult that we repented climbing to the top'. Thus, approximately 60 years after this, raids started in the area, led by colonial governor Juan de Oñate. Moreover in a bid to defend their sandstone dwelling, the Acoma Pueblo villagers made the first move and were said to have killed a number of men, including Oñate's nephew.

So, it turned out to be a terrible idea, as two months later the Spaniards pursued revenge, killing 600 inhabitants and enslaving 500 others.  The settlement's population rapidly dropped from 2,000 to just 250, with survivors starts in on the slow process of reconstructing their home. Although, Spanish control was still felt in Acoma Pueblo, though, with villagers enforced to pay taxes on cotton, crops and labour. Furthermore, Catholicism was initiated with the arrival of missionaries and somewhere in between 1629 and 1640 a church was erected in the camp. Building this was no easy feat, as 20,000 tons of stone and earth and 30 foot beams had to be lugged up the steep mountain, because not everyone was pleased with these new changes.

The Pueblo Revolt took place in 1680, with more than 17,000 inhabitants rising up against colonists, wiping out all the Spanish camps in the area. Further invasions occurred during the centuries that followed, mostly from the Apache, Comanche, and Ute tribes and the establishment of railroads in the 1880s saw a stream of missionaries and schools trying to influence the Acoma Pueblo dwellers. Lastly the villagers gave way to a more modern lifestyle, and by 1920 a lot of of the children were sent away to boarding schools for education. Hence, now there are around 300 earthen buildings still unharmed, but very few enduring inhabitants due to the lack of electricity, sewage disposal and running water. The greatest things about Acoma are the people, who consider themselves to be a peaceful and spiritual group that will merged into the world.  

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