A Visit to El Rito

Center of El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

On October 12, 2012, I moderated a wonderful session for the archives. My division director and two archivists delivered informative presentations for the Historias de Nuevo Mexico Conference. The conference was held on the El Rito campus of the Northern New Mexico College. There is a link on the Santa Fe Reporter’s web site to local writer Stephanie Hiller’s blog, Particle Beams. Hiller was accurate in saying that “the purpose of the conference was to present complementary perspectives of the state’s unique history to correct the picture cultivated by mainstream historians celebrating the state’s centennial.”

A Rose on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

The ride to El Rito was gorgeous and rainy. I can’t explain what it is about gloomy weather, but I absolutely love it. There were intricate rock formations, steep cliffs, and vast land which still seemed unspoiled by my contemporaries. The campus is beautiful and features rock walls, sleepy trees, ruins, dark rolling clouds (in the morning), and minds ready to absorb the power of history. In the dining area, there was one wall in a building which had one clear portal so that the old adobe could be seen by visitors and those who cared to look at New Mexico earth.

Intricate Wood Work
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Cutting Hall (named after Bronson Cutting) was the focal point of the conference. The hall, also an apparent performance theater enveloped the busts of historical figures such as Bronson Cutting and Jonathan Grant in oversized nichos. Grant was a local area Jewish merchant deriving from Abiquiu and the El Rito area. The theater featured traditional tin work (wall and hanging lights) as well as Spanish Colonial carvings on enormous wood beams, doors, hand rails, and benches. There were also wooden floors.

Rock water fountain on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

A friend and former classmate, opened the conference with a touching welcome. Dr. Patricia Trujillo, a powerhouse with Northern New Mexico Community College talked about connection and how when she wrote her introduction that morning, she was listening to the church bells on the El Rito Campus. She said the sound reminded her of her “familia” and specifically about the passing of her father one year ago. She talked about the bells as a symbol of connection, specifically connecting scholars with members of the community, as well as to remember our spirituality. When she and I spoke about me eventually pursuing a PhD, she gave me a wonderful compliment that made me feel good. She said “well when you do, you will have no problems because of all of your experience with documents and history.” Awesome!

El Rito Sky
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Cutting Hall on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Dr. Joseph Sanchez, Director- Spanish Colonial Research Center (UNM) talked about the importance of the term “ indigenization.” or what he called “taking back your culture.” He used the example of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, the Pueblo de San Juan de los Caballeros taking back their traditional name. He said “most of us when we write, we search our souls.” He said “we study the values of the period, not our values.” Former State Historian, Robert Torrez delivered “Aftermath of the Mexican American War 1846-1848” He talked about the Treason Trials. One witness reported that all the church bells were sounding when the executions took place. Thomas Chavez, former Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the Palace of the Governors/Museum of New Mexico delivered his paper titled “Juan Onate, Acoma, and a Troubled Administration.”

An Horno with Ruins
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Dr. Glenabah Martinez of Taos/Dine, a professor at UNM delivered her paper titled “Religious Persecution of Pueblo Peoples in New Mexico in the 20th Century: Pedagogical Significance for New Mexico Youth.” Dr. Martinez talked about how to best teach our youth about history and specifically the history of indigenous peoples. She talked about “counter-narratives” that are often left out of text books. She said if you can’t respect the history, how do you respect the individual.” it is about “homeland” and “scared space” and the “core values” of love, respect, compassion, faith, balance and service when developing historical curriculum “community-to-community, culture-to-culture, and person-to-person.” Also “to promote indigenous students and their teachers to become intellectually aware of the critical roles of Pueblo People.” This will enable them to examine “present-day manifestations of historical oppression.” The main question posed to them being “what will your contribution be?” I really enjoyed her presentation, she talked about the “religious persecution of Pueblo People” and having “cultural integrity.”

Northern NM Community College Sign
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

This conference was a great opportunity to continue the dialogue which remains critical to our understanding of New Mexico history. I enjoyed an overcast day in a sacred place where I was able to learn and grow as a person and archivist. It was nice to walk around the campus by myself and absorb history in a way that I am rarely afforded.

A Building on the El Rito Campus
Photograph by Felicia Lujan
October 12, 2012

Explore posts in the same categories: Archives, Conferences, Connection, Culture, Digital Photography, Edification, Energy, Historic Sites, History, Knowledge, Lectures, Mind, New Mexico, Professional Endeavors, Scholarship, Worthy Reads, Writers, Writing

5 Comments on “A Visit to El Rito”


  1. Ooh. Inqwizzytive mayo! And jest lick I sed back in 2004, when me was a lil for your old, marbles and prout them’s be good spoon lickins over in El Rito!
    -MIMI-

  2. MarS Says:

    Beautiful pics Felish. Love the one titled “El Rito Sky”..


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