Sky City: A Living History

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December 4, 2010

It is difficult to imagine, but near Old Route 66 (as well as I-40) about one hour west of Albuquerque is the oldest continuously inhabited site in North America—Acoma Pueblo.  Being from Albuquerque, we have often thought about visiting Acoma Pueblo, and have even tried a few times in the past; however, there are some days each year the Pueblo is closed to the public, and we were unlucky enough each time to have chosen one of those days.  So, as we traveled from Las Vegas, Nevada to Albuquerque, New Mexico, we decided to make a stop at the RV Park at the Sky City hotel so that we could visit the Pueblo.

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(Photo Caption: No Photos Allowed)

We were lucky.  We arrived on Thursday, and the Pueblo had changed to winter hours, so was closed, but was normally open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  However, Saturday (December 4) was a prayer day for the Pueblo, so they would be closing early on Friday and closed on Saturday.  We were able to visit on Friday morning.  It was a nice, sunny day, so we made the approximately 15 mile drive from the hotel to the Acoma Pueblo Cultural Center.  The Center houses the Haak’u Museum, the Gait’si Gift Shop, and the Yaak’a Café and is where you purchase tickets for the tour (the package includes a guided tour, admission to the museum, and a camera permit—to adhere to the camera permit agreement, I have not included any pictures; but the Acoma Pueblo website has excellent pictures and videos).

From the Cultural Center a bus takes you to the top of the 370-foot mesa to the Pueblo.  The Pueblo includes the San Esteban del Rey Mission, which was built from 1629-1640.  The Pueblo dates back to as early as 1100 A.D.  It was not until a movie was filmed at the Pueblo that a road was built (in 1959) to the top of the mesa—prior to that the only access was foot paths (which is amazing when you see the beams supporting the roof of the Mission and realize they were carried up the 370-foot sheer cliffs by hand).

Once you reach the top of the mesa, your tour guide takes you on a ¾-mile walk providing you with the history of the Pueblo (it takes almost 1.5 hours).  The guide explains the clan system, the houses for each clan, some of the beliefs of the Acoma people, the history of the People (beginning with the Creation story), the Mission, and ensures that you stop and experience the quiet peacefulness of the location.

At the end of the tour, we were given the choice of riding the bus back to the Cultural Center or walking back (which included taking the stone stairs engraved into the rock down the 370 feet).  We chose the stairs, and were glad we did (and, again, it made us realize just how difficult it was for them to take those beams up the mesa); it was a bit scary in places, but we enjoyed it.

For more information, please visit the excellent website (Sky City Cultural Center).

I also must mention that the hotel was very nice with several restaurants, there is a casino at the hotel, and a travel plaza next door.  The RV park was a no-frills casino park, but the sites were level and had full hookups and the bathroom/shower facilities were excellent with a small tv/reading room (no laundry).  Since we were there in the off-season we had to register in the hotel for our site, which was only $15 per night (besides a long-term person, we were the only ones there).  I must point out, though, that the people at the hotel desk had little information about the Pueblo Tour, so we had to find the information on our own.  They recently discontinued their shuttle from the RV Park to the hotel, casino, and Cultural Center and we had to request a late check-out so that we could go on the tour.

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  2. Hoby


    The cafe serves both a beef or a vegetable tamale that are excellent–you can get it traditional (wrapped in the masa and then a cornhusk) or just the filling served on a corn husk, which looked excellent. When I am around a pueblo in the Southwest, I always order the lamb stew. This trip I tried both the Green Chile Stew (with pork) and the Posole (with beef)–and they were both exceptional.

  3. Jim Sweeney

    My wife and I took the tour with “Gary” as our guide, and we thoroughly enjoyed the heritage tour on the mesa. We also enjoyed the meal at the restaurant at the center. I had a very large cornhusk wrapped type tamale which was delicious. Wish I could remember the name of that entree..