The Hundredth Meridian


There is a point along New Mexico Route 6, on the edge of the West Mesa of the Rio Grande, from which as you look east the whole of the river valley between Albuquerque and Socorro—a distance of about 120 miles—appears, backed by the Sandia, the Manzanos, and the Pinos mountains. Obscured by the bosque that accompanies it on both banks, the river slides from beneath the smoky pall of the metropolis, across the Indian reservation past Isleta Pueblo, and down through the historic Spanish communities of Peralta, Los Lunas, Tome, and Belen in the floodplain. These towns are separated by small farms and dairies, adobe houses, irrigated fields, orchards, cattle pastures, horse corrals, and old mission churches, also of adobe and roofed with tin. In winter time, the fields are sere and yellow, the bosque the color of old silver. Beyond the floodplain the desert of the East Mesa sweeps upward in green-gold waves against the brown and purple folds of the mountains, surmounted by dark pine forests and bright snow. Southward the greater valley widens, separated by a line of distant bergs from a sky of widening blue. This is the Rio Abajo, one of the oldest settled areas of European North America and the most distinct of the various cultural components—Indian, Spanish, "Anglo," Californian, Midwestern, Eastern—that make New Mexico among the more socially complicated of the Rocky Mountain states.

Rio Abajo civilization...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here