Albuquerque’s Cultural Mix
By Candyce H. Stapen
At first we feel self-conscious joining the swirl of silver bells, turquoise sashes and eagle feathers, but the colors draw us in, not to mention the warm invitation of the Navajo dancers, performing at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque. The rhythmic Native American drum beats guide us and, after all, the “ Indian two-step” as my daughter and I have come to call it, is much easier to learn than Hip Hop, line dancing or funky club moves. As our first tribal instructor told us years ago, “If you can walk, then you can do these Native American dances.”
My family and I keep returning to New Mexico, especially to Albuquerque, because we like its mix of Native, Hispanic and Anglo cultures, hands-on museums and intriguing adventures. Stepping lively to Native tunes is just part of how to play your way through the city. .
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center represents 19 Pueblos in New Mexico. Pottery, baskets, rugs and sculpture detail Pueblo life and culture at the facility’s museum. While many of the static displays may lose some children, the hands-on family activities won’t. “Grandma” Antonita Trancosa, from the Cochiti Pueblo, teaches parents and kids how to bake bread in a traditional horno oven, decorate gourds and make coil pottery Tuesdays through Saturdays (check the schedule). Our guilty pleasure—browsing—okay—buying—a turquoise and silver necklace or bracelet from the center’s gift shop, a prime place to shop as it has one of the largest authentic Indian jewelry collections in the southwest.
Even the most ardent shopaholics have to eat. Although the Mexican fare tends toward the forgettable at Old Town’s Church Street Café, we go there because some of its adobe walls date to 1706, making the structure among the oldest in the city. To put this in perspective, consider that Old Town, with its picturesque plaza, took shape seventy years before the American Revolution.
During the day Mariachi bands stroll Old Town’s streets, strumming guitars and singing. The plaza pulses hot on Friday nights when the Latin music’s turned up high as shapely duos give free salsa lessons. ‘Tweens and teens may roll their eyes at dancing in, but you can bet they’re trying to memorize the moves, especially to those “flash and trash” low dips.
At the National Hispanic Culutral Center, an impressive collection of buildings, enjoy paintings and scultpure by Latinos as well as music and dance performances.
After a recent $20 million renovation, the Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown, offers free computer stations and Internet connections in the lobby, spacious rooms that can fit two adults and two kids and good food at its ABQ Grill.
Rapid transit and bus service is provided by ABQ Ride, the city’s public transportation service.A trolley provides service between the city’s Old Town and its downtown.