New Mexico skies,
Contemplative blue, yellow
Expansive adobe earth
I think I’ve said it before, but my heart seems to fall for the unique traits I encounter in each place I trek through on my United States discovery journey. After staying in 10 states thus far, New Mexico has my vote for the best. The Iowa girl in me is floored that this gorgeous land belongs to the country I call home. Where are the giant maple trees? The corn fields? The grassy prairie? No, New Mexico is none of that. It’s not better or worse, but it is stunningly beautiful.
My journey to this incredible land wasn’t easy though. I got into Albuquerque eight hours after I was originally supposed to get in because I made an unplanned detour to Austin, which unfortunately happened to be the same weekend as ACL. All the Greyhound buses were sold out and I was forced to go the (very) long way to New Mexico. As a woman who loves to look to the positive of all situations, this 24-hour bus ride worked out to my advantage as I was able to see the Texas/Mexico border from El Paso.
Considering myself a human rights activist, immigration has always been an issue I’ve paid attention to but haven’t witnessed much with my own eyes. Journeying into the south provided me the opportunity to see a lot more, and observing the border fence brought the startling truth of our national white entitlement and superiority back to the forefront of my mind. Creating a fence between two countries is in no way a solution to the immigration issue, and seeing the stark contrast of the “us” and the “them” on the two sides was enough to make me tear up. Although this trip to the boarder was unplanned, I recommend every citizen in the U.S. to do it at least once. It’s important to acknowledge the privileged position we come from.
While traveling through Texas and into New Mexico, I was especially struck with the insight of what it is to be a foreigner in your own country. According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, the racial composition of El Paso was as follows:
– Whites: 15.0%
– Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 80.0% (Mexican: 75.0%)
– Black or African American: 3.1%
– Native American: 0.5%
– Asian: 1.2%
– Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
– Two or more races: 2.2%
As you can see from that breakdown, whites are a minority. The Greyhound Bus station in El Paso made announcements in only Spanish, and I was the only white person on the bus to Albuquerque. Although I felt out of place, I was grateful for the experience to feel like a minority in my own land. It was a healthy dose of discomfort and confusion within my own privilege.
Arriving in Albuquerque I received the kindest welcome from people I didn’t previously know. I knew I wanted to see New Mexico, but I didn’t know anyone in Albuquerque. My mother recommended some of her college friends I could stay with. Growing up Mennonite means you grow up well-connected. No matter where you are in the United States, or even the world, there will be a pocket of Mennonites who will take you in and show you the warmest hospitality, which is exactly what I received in Albuquerque. I’m always astounded at how I can play the “Mennonite Game” no matter what state I end up in.
After spending most of my travels sleeping on friends’ couches, having a comfortable bed and my own space to put my things for two nights was a refreshing change. Taking time out of his own day, my host showed me around the city, pointing out all the “hip” spots for young people to hang out and even getting some young people together for an evening at a brewery. I was able to explore on my own, hitting up some great spots. My recommendations are as follows:
- Satellite Coffee: Since my writing jobs depend on Internet, and I have a hardcore caffeine addiction, it’s always fun to try and find the best coffee shops in town. I’m not sure if this is the best in Albuquerque, but my Mexican latte was definitely tasty, and I had a great 30 minute conversation with a woman who was also from Iowa.
- Frontier Restaurant: Apparently quite famous for their delicious New Mexican cuisine, I was quite content with Frontier. My only issue was that there were way too many items on the menu to choose from. I finally settled on a breakfast burrito, sweet roll, and a few photos of their amazing coke machine.
- Tractor Brewery Pub: Spending an evening on in their outdoor seating section was quite enjoyable. Not serving food themselves, I was able to buy fantastic fish tacos from one of three food trucks parked outside. Great atmosphere, great beer, great people.
- Astro Zombies: Even if you’re not a comic book fan, this store’s exterior painting and decor should be enough to keep you entertained. Probably the neatest looking comic book store I’ve ever seen.
- Purple Pink Rhino: I stumbled upon this little gem. Not really wanting to buy clothes, I’ve been reluctant to enter used clothing stores as they are my ultimate temptation. I let myself wander into this one though, and came back out with a great $5 jacket and skirt that shrunk up so tight I had no problem fitting it in my pack.
Stay tuned for another entry about my inspiring time in Northern New Mexico!