04 July 2007

Taos Solar Music Festival & Independence Day

This weekend I went to the Taos 9th Solar Musicfest. I've always wanted to attend this event, and my husband and I finally took the time to get it together enough to attend. We were especially psyched about going since one of our favorite bands, Los Lobos, was the featured band for Saturday night.

The drive to Taos is one of my favorite drives in New México. I've driven between Alburquerque and Santa Fé a few thousand times since I have lived in both cities and even lived in both at the same time. The differences between the Río Arriba, where Santa Fé is, and the Río Abajo, where Alburquerque is, are 2000 feet and 6 to 10 degrees in temperature. I had noticed that there were few marriages between Spanish settlers in the two areas, as I was looking through the marriage records. La Bajada had been a major barrier that kept the Río Arriba and Río Abajo separate starting in the 1600s as part of el Camino Real, continuing into the mid-1900s.  It was a barrier between the people of the two areas as well.

Here are some links about la Bajada:

Today la Bajada is easy to drive up, if you have a little power in your car, and the red dirt on the east is a beautiful contrast to the black volcanic rock on the west side. When I was in my teens in the 60s and 70s, a little snow would totally stop traffic. All the large trucks would stop to put their chains on so they could either go up the hill or down the hill safely. My father told me about one time he and his father were traveling in around 1920 at night on the switch backed road down la Bajada, and the lights of the car ahead of disappeared. They stopped quickly and ran ahead to find that the car in front of them had hit a spot where the road had washed away, and it rolled down a few levels on he switchback.

I use the bypass for Santa Fé these days to avoid feeling miserable as I pass through. I feel said seeing what has happened to Santa Fe. Santa has grown so much. In the 1970s it seemed to be the cool place to be, so a lot of people moved there to be “cool.” There always have been really rich people who lived there, but they blended in with everyone else. That does not seem to be the case any more. Instead a lot of people have moved in and made it impossible for folks whose families have lived there since 1610 or 1697 to afford to live there. It really angers me. Especially those people who have these huge expensive “holiday homes” that they pop into when they want to. Santa Fé was the center of Hispanic population in the Southwest, but it has been taken over by the very rich and famous.

The part of the drive that I'm really fond of is the canyon that lies between Española and Taos. One side of the canyon is covered with dark volcanic rock, and the other has weathered mountains with the layers of the earth exposed. The Río Grande flows through the center. I'm always reminded of the early pictures of the old dirt road, and the descriptions like those of Mable Dodge Luján. Even with the paved road, there was always the problem with “falling rocks.” A while back a rock fell on a school bus and killed some kids inside. I noticed that the state has put extensive wiring on the sides of the hills to prevent this. The “watch for falling rocks” signs are no longer there, but my conditioned response as I drive through the canyon will always, as my father would say, “keep my eyes pealed” for falling rocks.

The Río Grande is the life line of New México. It is full of the melting snow from the Rocky Mountains as well as the other mountains through out New México. Every time I'm in the Río Arriba, I'm glad to see the green waters of the river since due to all the embankments, flood control and damns throughout the Río Abajo, the water always looks muddy in the south. The geology of the Río Grande Rift Zone is some of the coolest you'll find anywhere. It isn't the largest rift zone, that is in Africa, but it runs from Leadville Colorado to Las Cruces, New México. For more information go to my photo pages, and use the menu to find The Sandia Mountains. There is a link to a great explanation of the rift zone from there.

We weren't able to be there for the first night I'm sorry to say. I would have loved hearing Big Head Tod and the Monsters again. The first time I heard them play was by accident. It was close to 20 years ago. I was downtown on a Saturday night, before downtown Alburquerque became the hot spot to club, and a local alternative radio station had lined up bands to play from one side of Central Ave. to the other. I heard the most amazing music, so I stopped. It started raining, but I had to stay, listen and dance in the rain. I love the sounds and blends of musical styles that Big Tod creates. I fell in love with the band from that moment on.

The music at the musicfest was fabulous. I was especially happy to hear Paula Cole. She has grown into a beautiful woman who sure can sing her heart out. I say heart because she sings with such emotion and passion. The power and depth of her strong voice blew the crowd away. I've heard her songs before, but wasn't really a fan, but I am now. It wasn't just her amazing voice that made me hang on to each of her words, but her connection to the crowd was magical. The love that connected everyone to her music made the magic. It started to rain huge raindrops that were spaced far from the other huge raindrops. They looked like crystal falling from the sky because the sun was shinning from the west.


The minute Paula stopped singing, the clouds had overtaken the sun, they opened up, and it poured. Lightening hit a tree at the front of Kit Carson Park, where the Solar Musicfeat was held, and there were pieces of the tree branch spattered all around the tree. All the lightening that followed could have really ruined what was a pretty amazing day at Taos, but the placement of the tree that was hit, was far enough from the stage, yet close enough to amaze the participants.

Los Lobos was on fire. All the band members seemed to be having a good time. They played a lot of Méxican music during their set, which is always a hit in New México. It still tickles me that the music I grew up hearing has been taken to such heights of appreciation thanks to the talented Los Lobos. Their range of music styles shows just how talented and well versed in music these gentlemen are. When Los Lobos rocks, they really rock the crowd. I danced so much that night, that me feet were so sore it hurt to walk the next day.

When I looked up at the stage, I saw the faces of the Southwest Hispanic world, and I feel a sense of pride.  I thank these fine musicians for being our ambassadors to the world. I've seen them in concert a half a dozen times, and I hope I'll be able to hear them live dozens more.


We couldn't leave for home the next day until we saw Robert Mirabal perform. For those of you who haven't heard of Robert Mirabal, he is an artist from Taos Pueblo who has achieved international fame through he singing, dancing and art. Robert  is striking and beautiful with his long shining black hair. His music these days is an interesting blend of  Pueblo music and Blues. He had an impressive blues guitarist and a member of his family play flute with him. His music and dance was as beautiful and powerful as always. He is a tall, beautiful man, and no matter how famous he becomes, he is still a small town boy from Taos Pueblo.

My husband told me that he was warned by the elders of Taos that he might be disowned by the Pueblo for giving away too many of their ceremonial secrets in his performances. I believe my husband heard this on the "Native American Call In Show" on the radio, so it could just be gossip. I'm sure it is the elders way of reminding him to be humble and to remember just where he came from. To be a member of the Toas people is to have a strong and proud history. To be a Pueblo person means being not one, but one of the whole. I saw his fans worship him, and that kind of fame can send the ego of a sensitive man a to dark places. My wish for Robert is that he will always know what it is to be a small town boy from Taos Pueblo.


In ending, today is the 4th of July. It wasn't the day when the thirteen British Colonies on the east coast of North America gained their independence from Britain. It is they day they declared to the world that they no longer accepted Britain as their rulers, and they were now the United States. It is the day these colonies said we will no longer be the pawns of a nation, yes a nation that was for many of the colonist their ancestral home, but a nation that ruled as a imperialist power from across the ocean. The Declaration of Independence is what we are celebrating. It is one of the most important documents of history, and one that has been copied by many a people in countries that have struggled for their own right to rule themselves. It is a document that we should read and read again.

This is also a very said day in the fact that we have moved so far from our roots and the document that inspired so many in history. We are the imperial power that has invaded and now is in control of Iraq. I won't debate why we are there or why we should leave or stay. There is debate throughout the Net for that purpose. I just ask for a reflection on the meaning and soul of the words written by Thomas Jefferson, and ask that we question our presence in Iraq. I ask that we never forget where we came from, and what we choose to stand for. The words of the Declaration of Independence do not fit the role that our country has chosen to taken, and I am deeply saddened by this.

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