Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico
I shoot a lot of cemetaries. For heart-rending, technicolor boisterous displays, you just can’t beat a New Mexican cemetary on Easter, Day of the Dead or Christmas. I’ve made it to my favorite, the Nambe Church cemetary in Nambe, every Boxing Day for most of the last 20 years. I follow that up with New Year’s Day in Acoma. It seems to make the perfect emotional double-header.
I found this small, weathered cross tucked away in a far corner surrounded by tumbleweeds and scruffy dead plants. The new flowers shows that this lonely hidden grave hadn’t been forgotten.
Golden, New Mexico, on the Turquoise Trail, is having a bit of a renaissance these days. It’s still a ghost town but the few houses have been restored and the old Mercantile is open in the summer for the tourists. Built in 1830, he San Francisco Church off Highway 14, doesn’t look much different than when I was shooting black and whites in the mid-70’s. Restored in 1960 by Fray Angelico Chavez while he was the padre of St. Joseph’s Church in Los Cerrillos, the graveyard has mostly escaped the vandalism common to New Mexico’s abandoned mining towns.
Manzano, Founded 1824
Manzano, New Mexico
Manzano is one of New Mexico’s small almost ghost towns tucked away in the Cibola National Forest. With an estimated population of 54, the main attractions are its photo opps and the legendary Manzano Mountain Retreat.
The aerial shot below, taken from the Manzano Mountain Retreat website shows the orchards cut out of the forest.
The small villages along Highway 55 have always held a special place in my hard-scrabble New Mexican heart. Using the few resources available in the barren, harsh acres early settlers recycled the ever-present rocks into homes, walls, and churches.
In Punta de Agua, the rough-cut stone San Antonio Church stands as a monument to an earlier example of sustainable and green building.
If you’d like to walk through Punta de Agua at street level, click here to go to Google Maps, then click satellite.
The village of San Ysidro, originally a farming settlement, was named after Saint Isidore the Farmer in 1699. San Ysidro holds an annual Fiesta in his honor each year in mid-May.
Los Cerrillos has always seemed to me to be the perfect example of a New Mexico boom town. Once the unofficial capitial of the state, it’s now a modern day ghost town on South 14, a few miles north of Madrid.
After the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880, shipping the gold, silver, lead, zinc and turquoise from the 3,000 miners in the area no longer had to be shipped by wagon. Los Cerrillos grew to feature 21 saloons, 5 brothels, 4 hotels, several dance halls and a real honest-to-goodness Opera House. The construction of Saint Joseph’s Church on Main Street confirmed that civilization had truly arrived.
Today, the washboard streets and dusty storefronts are a mostly undisturbed reminder of Old West meets celluloid. 13 films have been shot in and around Los Cerrillos, including the 1972 John Wayne movie The Cowboys shot just outside of town. A remnant of the production of Young Guns lingers on a two-story stucco wall. The real Wortley Hotel (Motto: No Guest Gunned Down in Over a 100 Years) is in Lincoln, not Los Cerrillos.
On weekends, Mary’s Saloon and the Casa Grande Trading Post, Cerrillos Turqoise Mining Museum, & Petting Zoo swarm with tourists from the City Different stopping off on the Turquoise Trail. Several seasonal businesses open up with the return of the tourists, adding whimsical touches.
Several artists call Los Cerrillos home. Metal sculptures and eclectic murals are scattered though the tiny town. A few of the gritty, sandblasted storefronts now make it possible to walk under the stars as you stay out of the sun.
My connection with Los Cerrillos was very short-lived. My job working weekends at the Tiffany Saloon and Melodrama ended when, as usual, my confidence in British mechanics was misplaced and my 1961 Morris Mini-Cooper needed a new engine.