It took me TWO tries to get Acoma done right. I am so happy to share some advice and thoughts as to how you can get it right on the first try. First of all, it is pronounced ACK-uh-muh. Not Ack-O-muh.
My first mistake was in thinking that the Acoma Pueblo was near Interstate 40 since the casino and some of the tribal offices are there. In reality the museum and Pueblo are 15 slow, windy miles away. I didn’t budget enough time for that element and was bringing my dear Jessica to the airport. As much as I wanted her to miss her flight, our reasonable sides won out.
In addition to not budgeting enough time for the drive. I also didn’t budget enough time for the actual tour. They only permit you to go with an assigned guide and in a group. The tour itself lasts an hour and a half and leaves on every half hour from 9:30 to 3:30. We got there just after one of the groups left and didn’t have an hour to spare. While this wasn’t one of my issues, it could be one of yours: they are occasionally closed for tours due to their religious holidays. It is wise to check their calendar before heading out there.
So, to sum up my lessons learned, allow at least 3 hours or so for the whole shebang: the tour, the museum, and the drive. Maybe don’t try to squeeze it in before a flight to allow for delays and such.
In any case, it was so very much worth the second effort on another one of Jessica’s visits! How should I convince you to visit:
- It is the longest-continually inhabited place in the country. Take THAT Plymouth! The Acoma have been living in the Pueblo since 1150AD.
- The Acoma hold 431,664 acres around the central Pueblo. The views from the mesa-top Pueblo are astounding.
- 4,800 tribal members live in Acoma in more than 250 dwellings, none of which have electricity, sewer, or water.
- In 1629, construction began on the massive San Esteban del Rey Mission, a Catholic mission.
- Both the Mission and the Pueblo are Registered National Historical Landmarks and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Convinced? Not yet? Ok. More. The story of the Acoma is one of survival and resilience in the face of major threats to their existence and culture. The Acoma call themselves ʔáák’u in their language, Western Keresan. During different waves of oppression, the Acoma were forced to speak, first, Spanish, then English. The fact that Western Keresan has survived is an amazing show of the resiliency of the Acoma people. The Acoma have also preserved many of their cultural and religious traditions. Again, what a testament to not only their resilience but also the power of intergenerational learning. Another amazing thing–the Acoma are connected historically to communities that seemingly disappeared or moved, like the Puebloans at Mesa Verde, Manitou Springs, and Chaco Canyon. They also survived despite ruinous US policies that sought to crush native populations.
Now, I am sure you are convinced to go.
And when you do, you will be guided through the Pueblo, invited into the Spanish chapel, to view, but not enter, the cemetery, to view the kivas, and market places. You will also have lots of opportunities to buy one-of-a-kind pottery, jewelry, and keepsakes. The keepsakes are of the highest quality and are priced accordingly. Be careful if you pick up a pot, it might be worth $1000!
A final tip, ney, urging. Remember that you are visiting a community of people. This is their neighborhood. Please be respectful in what you wear, what you say, and what you do. Dress appropriately for the conditions. You will be walking on uneven paths which will require sturdy shoes and high upon a mesa, so it will be hotter and windier than at lower elevations. Be sure to bring enough water for an hour and a half walk, too.
If you go, you can make a nice ½ day trip from Gallup or from Albuquerque. Or, you can combine it with a driving tour and go to Acoma in combination with El Morro, El Malpais, and Zuni. That would make for a lovely time! You can camp under the stars!
Alternatively if you don’t want to drive up to the Pueblo you could consider taking a sightseeing flight and fly over it while also enjoying the rest of the amazing landscape of New Mexico from the sky. Bode Aviation flies Cessna 172s and 182s out of KAEG, Double Eagle Airport a few miles west of Albuquerque, they come highly recommended, Cas did most of his pilot training there!
A word of advise, these smaller airplanes don’t fly when there are storms in the area and in the summer there are ALWAYS thunderstorms in the afternoon and the wind tends to pick up mid day too. Take that flight (early) in the morning and you will have great smooth flying conditions.