Posts in: SW175

The End.

My block break adventures on the Colorado River!

It’s hard to believe that my FYE is over! After 7 weeks of the same classroom, classmates and professor, I am both nervous and excited for a change!

Upon returning from New Mexico, we continued to look critically at the history of that fascinating state further armed with first hand experiences there. We discussed several books pertaining to New Mexico –  first, the book we read throughout the field trip “Land of Disenchantment,” an ethnography on New Mexico, and second, Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel “Ceremony.” The second book in particular was interesting to me because it was a work of fiction studied in a history class. The novel was written following the Native American oral traditions and narrated the troubles of a half-white half-Laguana [Pueblo] WWII veteran. The book addressed the ideas of dualism, [conflicting]  identity, which we saw a lot of in New Mexico, and Native traditions. This discussion of Native ceremonies and traditions was a good transition into our next topic: folk healing and religion.

To supplement Santiago’s fascinating lectures and anecdotes from his own culture and experiences with borderlands folk healing, we read “They All Want Magic: Curanderas and Folk Healing” by Elizabeth De La Portilla. We learned a lot about the interesting blend of Mexican traditions, Catholicism and herbal medicines/ medical treatments that still persist today.

Finally to wrap up class, we discussed Mexican/American immigration and the Border -wars, particularly Santiago’s specialty: the Drug War. We watched several fascinating and revealing documentaries on both and discussed the role of Mexican immigrants in American History.

While all this reading, discussing etc… was going on, we were also frantically working on our final research papers that we started oh so long ago in first block, as well as preparing a final presentation about our papers to give to the class. On the friday before the papers were due, we peer edited our essays and met with Santiago individually to talk about what we needed to work on.

I wrote my paper on saloons on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier and how they contributed to the social and economic development of the towns. However, topics ranged from water rights in the southwest, to Native American burial traditions. I know that I had a great time listening to everyone’s presentations and learning about what each of my classmates became experts on.

Finally, after the last paper was handed in before noon on Wednesday, we were done with class! Many of us decided to relax at school while others, like me scattered to the woods and other wild places of the southwest.

I went on a 5 day, whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River through CC’s Outdoor Recreation Club. Although it was chilly, I had so much fun rafting and kayaking down the class 2-4 rapids in beautiful Westwater canyon in Utah.


Its been fun writing for this blog, hopefully it gives you a little insight into daily life here at CC,




New Mexico, Baby!


The whole class at the El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Hello All,

So I’m here sitting in at Starbucks in Fort Collins, CO, still in slight disbelief that the first week of the block is already over.

On Monday, after block break, we met as a class to get back our research papers and midterms, talk about the itinerary for our upcoming field trip and to discuss some new terms and learn a little bit about the history of New Mexico. Santiago let us out early that day so we could go to something called “First Monday,” which is a presentation, performance, lecture, or movie etc… shown for the entire school the first day back from block break. This First Monday was a dramatic reading of excerpts for Idris Goodwin’s, a visiting professor, play, “How We Got On.” It was a great performance and I look forward to many more “First Mondays” to come…

The next day, all packed and ready to go, we left CC to Taos Pueblo, New Mexico! The five-hour car ride flew past as many of us read “Land of Disenchantment” By Michael L. Trujillo, a critical ethnography examining New Mexico’s romanticized and commodified image of a perfectly blended mix of races and cultures, or caught up on sleep from our block break adventures.


An ancient adobe structure at the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation

After lunch we went on a brief tour of the reservation, receiving a history of reservation itself but as well as that of the Taos Pueblo people. Our tour guide, a Native American herself, not only gave us  an informative tour, but also a unique personal insight into daily life, traditions and a cultural identity that we might not have been able to gauge on our own. After the tour we had time to wander around the reservation, take notes and buy things from the numerous shops and vendors. As I shopped around and took photos for this blog, I wondered what it was like living here, having tourists wander through your homes…


Our tour guide at Taos Pueblo talking about the Pueblo Revolt in the 1600’s


Two of my classmates by traditional Pueblo ovens

For the rest of the afternoon we were able to explore downtown Taos on our own. Although some stayed behind to do homework, nap or go for a run, most walked the few blocks down from our motel, relishing the freedom to explore such a new and interesting part of the country. We regrouped at the hotel a few hours later and headed out to a delicious Mexican meal. That night, many of us went to the hotel’s pool and hot tub to round out a great evening.


Making new friends outside a chocolate shop in downtown Taos.

The next day, after eating breakfast at the hotel we drove to the Alcalde Elementary School, or what used to be the Onate Monument National Visitor center. We read a lot in the book “Land of Disenchantment,” about this statue and the controversy surrounding it, but being able to see it in its proper setting was a valuable experience.


We then drove to El Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic church and pilgrimage site. There was no tour guide, so we explored the beautiful grounds by ourselves, admiring the statues, buildings etc… as well as its surrounding, wonderful natural landscape. A few of us sat in on daily Mass that was occurring at the time, while others choose to explore the grounds and sit outside in this peaceful place. Although I am not a religious person, I loved my visit there, for not only the historical and cultural value of the Santuario, but the tranquility and restorative calm I found there as well.


The exterior of the Church


 One of the numerous shrines at the Santuario


An example of cultural and religious mixing, found at the Santuario

Next, we stopped for yet another Mexican meal on our way to Santa Fe! We arrived in there in the late afternoon and after dropping our bags off in our rooms, Santiago lead us to the downtown where we had another afternoon of shopping, exploring, eating and relaxing. I know that I enjoyed reading by book in the Starbucks, watching the hustle and bustle of tourists, locals, vendors etc… mill past the window in this beautiful city. After a pizza dinner, a break from Mexican food, many of us watched the Presidential debate on TV.

The next morning we rose a little earlier than usual, for we had a full day a head of us! After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we drove to a “Living History Museum,” called El Rancho de las Golondrinas. We got a great tour of this 18th century ranch and farm, which gave us first hand, tangible knowledge and experience to apply to all of the texts we read and lectures we had listened to.


Our tour guide, a gregarious man decked out in ranching accessories was informative and enthusiastic about teaching us about this fantastic place. He possessed vast amounts of knowledge about both the history of the ranch itself and of the history of the Spanish and Mexicans in New Mexico in the 1600-1800’s.


As “head miller,” as well as tour guide, he was happy to show us how a colonial Spanish mill worked

Our tour guide taking about the education at the ranch in the one-room-schoolhouse

After the tour, we went out to eat on the way back to Santa Fe. We drove back to the hotel from the restaurant to walk downtown as a class and visit the New Mexico History Museum. This beautiful and informative place rounded out our trip to New Mexico through comprehensive and interesting exhibits. We walked around the museum on our  own, so we could view the hundreds of artifacts and plaques at our own pace.


Some classmates looking at the display in the lobby

Once we were finished, Santiago instructed us to visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Like our walking tour of downtown Colorado Springs, we were supposed pay close attention to the numerous statues outside as well as the interior of the Basilica.


Across the street from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

Once we were done with these two sites in Santa Fe, we were free to once again walk around downtown at our leisure. Many of us, having ran out of time yesterday continued to go in and out of shops and look at Native American vendors outside the New Mexican History Museum. Others returned to the hotel to rest after an eventful day. That night we went out to more Mexican food, celebrating the end to a great field trip.

We woke up the next day and with our packed bags, loaded straight into the bus to go to brunch on the way back to CC. Most of us slept on the long ride back to Colorado. When we returned we were greeted by cold flurries of snow! Quite a change of pace from the hot desert we had just spent a week in! I went on, not even a half an hour back from school, to visit some friends in Ft. Collins, two hours north of Colorado Springs, but I half wish I was back at CC to see the snow on Pikes Peak and to work on our reflection of the field trip due Monday.

Next week is Homecoming/ Alumni week along with an open house for perspective students as well as parents weekend! This is not even including the first draft of our final research paper that is due at the end of the week. Its going to be a crazy few days, but I can’t wait for it to start!

For an album of all the field trip photos I’ve taken click here.

Block Break!

Hey y’all!

 – Just got back from a fantastic block break in the Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO!

My backpacking buds and I by Crater Lake in Aspen, Colorado.

During the fourth and final week [well, really more half of a week] of the block we finished talking about the mining industry in Colorado. We had a great discussion about the relationship between economy, the environment and culture. Everyone had points to talk about, using the Environmental History book,Killing for Coal,by Karl Jacoby, that we read as evidence for our arguments.

An easy example of the kind of cyclical relationships between people, progress and resources in history that we analyzed is that of coal and the railroads. We explored how coal lead to the development and evolution of trains, which not only allowed for a kind of ease of travel that had never been seen before leading to immigration to the west, but also larger impacts like the invention of  continental time zones. This drastic change in transportation lead to marked changes in the overall national mentality revolving around travel; tourism was made possible, international communities were no longer worlds away and the ease of travel lead to a sense of rootlessness and restlessness among settlers. Circling back to the initial impetus for this kind of change was coal itself, which, in turn, was needed in ever-growing amounts to feed these shifts in national consciousness.

The last day of the block we had a take home mid-term exam. It consisted of two short essay questions and one longer one, challenging us to not only review the course material we learned over the course of the block, but also to apply some of the analytical skills we acquired.

Once the last exam was turned in Wednesday afternoon, it was block break! Many opted to stay and relax on campus, some went home or to a friend’s house, others went backpacking or camping in the Colorado Rockies!

I was one of the people who choose to go backpacking. I was one of the luck freshmen who got onto something called a “Foote Trip,” which is a free backpacking/ camping/ climbing etc… trip for freshmen! Lead by three upperclassmen, I had a blast getting to know some of my fellow classmates and exploring the beautiful mountains of Aspen!

Me and a friend on top of a 12,000 foot pass!

We got to see pikas and marmots while traveling through the beautiful alpine environment. I know that I loved every moment, from summiting a 12,000 foot pass that gave us a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains, to laughing around a well cooked meal at camp. We got out of the backcountry a day early and the leaders listened to my suggestion to go to Leadville, Colorado, a historic mining town! The highest city in the US, Leadville afforded us the opportunity to buy non-camping-stove-cooked treats at the local coffee shop City on a Hill Coffee, as well as a lengthy history lesson from yours truly.

After Leadville we headed down to the Mount. Princeton Hot Springs in Buena Vista where we enjoyed a relaxing evening in the natural springs at the base of the Collegete Mountains. It was a great trip and I look forward to going on many more, and perhaps leading a few myself in the future…

Chillin’ at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.

Tomorrow is the first day of Block Two, and the day after we, as a class, are headed to New Mexico until Friday! I cannot wait to spend time on the road with my class, visit monuments, museums and other historical sites and learn about this fascinating part of the country!

A Walk Downtown and a Whole Lot of Texas.

The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum

This last week and a half has been so jammed packed, I don’t even know where to begin! So like Santiago recommended we do for our papers, I will write an outline than elaborate on each event that took place.

I. Ranching in Texas:

  1. We read several fascinating excerpts about Vaqueros, or early Mexican/ Spanish cowboys.
  2. Santiago explained to us the role of the vaquero and their origins in medieval Spain. I think that many of us were surprised to realize that ranching dated much farther back than we thought.
  3. The vaquero migrated north, like the rest of Mexico, expanding into Texas. It was here that many of the terms, techniques and garb that we associate with more modern cowboys, were further developed and adapted for the rough Texas environment.
  4. Things like the “western saddle” were invented by the vaqueros, who, forced to make their own gear out of materials they had around them, blended several typed of saddles to make one that best suited their needs. They also invented now familiar things like the corral and the rodeo [although the rodeo then was more of a roundup which was conducted twice a year.  The vaqueros used the rodeo as a time to display their horsemen and cattle working skills, as you can see it was clearly a precursor to the modern, American rodeo].
  5. Finally we watched a fascinating film about modern vaqueros, who discussed their dying livelihood. We learned that modern inventions such as the helicopter rendered their remarkable horsemanship, roping and other cattle working skills antiquated.
  6. When the film ended, Santiago informed us that there were actually no more vaqueros.

II. The Alamo:

  1. We watched the 2004 remake of “The Alamo” staring Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thorton as Davey Crockett, Jason Patric as James Bowie and Patrick Wilson as William Travis.
  2. I personally enjoyed the movie thoroughly.
  3. This movie not only taught us about the events surrounding the Alamo and the battle itself but also better represented the complex racial and ethnic issues that surrounded the conflict [as opposed to the very Anglo-dominated John Wanye film of the same name].
  4. Through the Alamo we discussed memory, in personal, historical and cultural context.
  5. We concluded that collective/ cultural memory leads to the formation of a national identity, unifying the given peoples under a history, that may or may not be historically accurate.
  6. We discussed the idea of the Alamo rising to the status of a symbol – a symbol of Texan bravery and spirit. However, Santiago also addressed the issue of who this symbol left out of villainized: the Mexicans.
  7. What many don’t realize is that many Mexicans [and Africans, Europeans etc.] fought for in the Alamo against the Mexican Army.
  8. Through the Alamo’s “symbol status,” its narrative has been simplified, which has left out many key ideas, events, people etc. that may complicate this narrative and consequently Texas’ national identity.

Looking at statues outside the FAC [Fine Arts Center] 

III. Our Downtown Field Trip!

  1. To go along with our discussions about cultural identity, memory etc., we all went on a walking tour of downtown Colorado Springs!
  2. Santiago took us around to some of the many statues and monuments around the city for us to think about and analyze what they say about how we view ourselves, other cultures etc…
  3. Although the many of the monuments were quite beautiful, the terms that did come to mind at the time when walking past frozen stone statues of “Hopi basket weavers,” or a giant steel bison, bowed low at oncoming traffic off of Pikes Peak Ave, were “symbolic” and “ritualized.” These larger than life, public images definitely displayed and reinforced our cultural stereotypes and cultural identity.
  4. Our final destination was the Colorado Springs “Pioneer Museum

Looking at a Memorial on Pike’s Peak Ave.

  1. In addition to looking at how this establishment reflected how we view ourselves as a culture, we also were supposed to compare and contrast it to the “Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Museum.” That we visited a few weeks, ago.
  2. I think that the general consensus was that the “Pioneer Museum” was much more informative than the “Mantiou Cliff Dwellings.” [Considering the “Cliff Dwelling Museum” was about 90% gift shops]
  3. However, this museum still definitely reinforced these feelings of national identity.
  4. Side note, a large chunk of the class enjoyed treating themselves to a Chipotle meal downtown after Santiago let us out of class early.

Looking at the Ute Indian exhibit at the Pioneer Museum

IV. Texas!

  1. For the next few days we talked a lot about Texas!
  2. We learned about the Texas Revolution, The American Annexation of Texas, The Mexican-American War and we started to read Karl Jacoby’s book “Shadows at Dawn,” which discusses the Apache-Texan conflict.
  3. In conjunction to learning about the events surrounding these momentous occasions in history, we also took a revisionist historian’s approach by looking at the minority voices, such as the Native Americans.

From learning about the frequently villainized Mexican and Apaches, to the lost art of the vaqueros we certainly learned a lot in the last week! I can’t wait for the last week of the block where we will studying the Ludlow Massacre and the industrialization of the Mining Industry in the West.

Reading about the Palmers of Colorado Springs at the Pioneer Museum

A Journey to the Library

Today in class we took a field trip. However, this journey was not miles away but rather just to the next building over: the Tutt Library. After a quick lecture about the Spanish colonization northward out of Mexico to the American Southwest, where Santiago talked to us about Missions, [churches used mainly to convert Natives to Christianity]  in the New World as a means of political control and economic gain, Santiago led us over to the library where we would get a orientation tour and start to look at primary source documents for our big research paper due at the end of the course. Almost immediately upon entering we were introduced to one of the librarians, Laura. As the Southwest studies liaison and a skilled researcher, Laura will definitely prove to be a valuable resource as we start our papers!

Laura lead us on a whirlwind tour of the library, showing us everything from the moving bookshelves [which slide together and apart to conserve space] to a guided tour of some of the online resources available to us. I know that I was amazed by the vast quantity of databases, online journals and magazines that CC subscribed to.

Laura then helped us find primary source documents to help us with our research papers due at the end next block. However, before we embark on these great academic quests, Santiago assigned us a smaller paper to help prepare us. The assignment is to analyze a primary source paper that pertains to the topic our future research paper will be about. After much searching and shifting through hundreds of years of diaries, journals, records and other kinds of information we all found primary source documents to analyze.

Tomorrow, once the primary source paper is over and done with, we are watching the 2004 remake of the classic film The Alamo





A Mixed Mexico.

This block, I think I am saving my parents a lot of money. Instead of heading over to Rastalls, our dining hall, for breakfast, I walk across the quad straight to my classroom. Why, you might ask, well because in the reception area of the Southwest Studies house is a table with an almost unlimited supply of hot water and a wide variety of teas and instant coffees, muffins and other snacks, all waiting to be consumed by hungry college students. Going into the second week of classes [with about a week and a half left in this block!], I have settled into a morning routine here at CC, revolving heavily around the hot water maker, just a few feet away from my classroom.

The past week has flown by! Last Thursday we had a great discussion about our experiences at the Cliff Dwellings. We talked extensively about the architecture and culture of the Ancient Puebloan reflected in the houses as well as some of the issues and questions that we had about the site. The fascinating problems of representation as well as the ethics and responsibilities of the owner of historic artifacts came up when discussing the fact that the Cliff Dwellings was a privately owned site, moved from its original location to attract tourists. In conjunction with this thought, the often-conflicting ideas about education versus commodification of Native American culture lead to an engaging debate between students as well as the professor, Santiago. Everyone had their own thoughts and opinions on the matter.

Over the weekend we finished up reading the book “1491” by Charles C. Mann, which addressed mostly Central and South American history before the time of Columbus. In class we discussed the book in-depth and were all blown away by the extensive and advanced cultures in Pre-Columbian America. I know that I was particularly interested in the how the Spanish, in a foreign land with limited men, supplies, resources etc., were able to topple highly organized empires of millions. Mann explained in his book that it was, arguably, luck, for the Spanish arrived right at the confluence of several important events in the Americas. In the case of many, diseases such as small pox had ravaged the Native populations, reducing their numbers as much as half. Second, like in the case of the Incan Empire, civil war had weakened the country. The Spanish took advantage of the fractured tribes, allying themselves with the Native enemies of the larger Empires. Lastly, differing cultural ideas about warfare and conquest lead to the Native American’s defeat.

When approaching other Empires in Central America, such as the Aztecs, we applied these principles laid out by Mann and supplemented by Santiago’s lectures and other readings, to further grasp these complex events in history. We then moved on to the idea of race and class in colonial Mexico. We learned about an entire “secret history,” of the mixed [or Mestizo] raced people of the New World as well as the class system they lived in known as the Las Casta System. I found this complex social structure to be really interesting and it added a whole new dimension to the evolving and changing world that these people inhabited.

Slavery in the New World added yet another layer to this rigidly, race based social order. Santiago explained that the Spanish only imported 150,000 to 200,000 slaves to Mexico. Although this seems like a high number, he informed us that relative to the amount of slaves brought to the New World by Europe, like by the English to the thirteen colonies, it was quite small.

Heres an example of some of my notes from class that day:

Mestizo America:

  • [In New Spain…] Mestizo: At first just “mixed,” as more people mixed, became sub-category à Indigenous parent and a Spanish parent [50% 50%]
  • Afro-Mestizo: Spanish brought slaves à anyone with African heritage
  • Spanish and African = Mulatto
  • After 1st set of offspring = 6 diff. categories
  • Creates system called the Las Casta System:
  • Social structure à organizing people into a hierarchical system, system of classification
  • Created by Spanish, so on top [Born in Spain = Peninsular, more important, Born in New World = Criollo, less important, less loyal to the crown/ homeland]
  • Mestizo:
  • [More Spanish blood, higher status] Castizo = ¼ Indian is higher,
  • Pure indigenous people and pure African people not in system
  • Slaves = not in system [African = human, but lesser human]
  • Natives = in protective category, undergoing Christianization/ can they be Christian, do they have a soul [sub-human, savages]? 

Slavery in Mexico:

  • 1576-1581 epidemic that causes native population to decline, Spain starts to import African slaves
  • Mexico only brought in 150,000-200,000 slaves [much less than other countries in the Americas]
  • Majority of slaves = west Africa à sent to developing areas, central and coastal regions
  • 1/16 black = Spaniard
  • 1646 Mexico census:
  • African: 130,000
  • Spanish: 114-125,000 à most born in Americas
  • Natives: <1,000,000
  • Spanish crown fears political/ social upheaval à fears mostly mixed raced country
  • Slaves children = free, so have to keep importing slaves
  • Spain decides to stop the importation of slaves à eventually leads to the abolition of slaves in Spain



Aztecs, Pueblos, Cliff Dwellings, Oh My!

The Southwest studies house is located a few feet away from the Tutt Library, tucked away in the northern corner of campus. Surrounded by a full garden of what I can only assume are plants native to the southwest, the small white stucco building is where I will be spending the next six weeks in my FYE course: The (Greater) Southwest: An Introduction.

As one, who hails from the East Coast, this class affords me an opportunity to begin to get to know my new home in an intensive, in-depth historical and cultural way. I not only find the history of the American west to be fascinating on its own, but the fact that we are learning about people, events and cultures that inhabited our own backyard at CC is an incredibly valuable experience.

The first day of class we arrived having read an excerpt from Raymond William’s Marxism and Literature. The dense, but interesting, reading about the definition of the word “culture” was definitely a needed wake up call from the mental vacation of summer. During that first day of class we discussed the meaning of the word “culture,” “society,” “civilization” and other key terms that we would be applying to our studies of the southwest.

The next day we all came into class having read another reading about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, focusing mainly on the Aztec Empire. Armed with new terms and more refined definitions of concepts from the day before we engaged in an exciting class learning about the history of Mexico, before the Europeans arrived. I think that many in our class were astonished and amazed to learn about the intricate cultures and vast empires of the ancient civilizations. I know that I had previously studied the Maya and Aztec in my high school, but it was new fascinating to learn about the many other peoples that had risen and fallen before them that had been previously excluded from my education. One particular group that interested me was the Olmecs, a civilization of skilled artisans and advanced agricultural techniques, which reached its height hundreds and hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived.

We also read for homework about the Puebloan peoples, focusing mostly on their daily life, societal and familial structure as well as religious beliefs. Although we did not have time to discuss this reading in class [thousands of years of Mexican history takes up more time than you think!], we were well prepared for our first field trip to the Anasazi or Ancient Pueloan Cliff Dwellings in Manitou.

This morning the whole class, with our professor of course, loaded into a CC bus and drove ten minutes away to the Cliff Dwellings and museum. Although the ruins were not originally from Manitou, having been relocated in the early 1900s from Mesa Verde, it was still a fascinating and worthwhile look into the physical dwellings of the peoples we had read so much about. Simply ducking under low beams and walking into the dimly lit stone rooms allowed for me to really get a first hand sense of the ancient culture.


We were given almost the full three hours to explore the dwellings, look at the museum, do a little shopping at the gift store as well as reflect upon our experience there. Although it was a very worthwhile experience to see, feel and physically travel to the Cliff Dwellings, I couldn’t help but leave wondering about the ethics of this site. The fact that these ruins were moved from their original location got me wondering how this impacted my experience there as well as what kind of messages this action sent to the site’s visitors about preservation and the Ancient Pueloan culture. I cannot wait for tomorrow where I can bring up these questions and listening to my peers’ reflections as well as talking about our most recent reading about the fall of Inca Empire…