Albuquerque–At the Crossroads of Cultures

About Albuquerque

“Albuquerque is at the crossroads.” I saw this over and over again. And it helped me to understand the city, just a bit. This was our first visit. In our previous travels we have only driven through on the freeway from east to west. That’s not the best introduction to the city, or any city really. Because it’s a major crossing–I 40 runs east-west and I-25 north-south–it’s a tangle of on-ramps and off-ramps. For the unfamiliar it’s confusing and intimidating. For the locals it must be comfy because they are jetting along, in and out, and changing lanes with what seemed to us, reckless abandon.

So, for literally thousands of years this one special place has been a crossroad: from the ancestors who crossed the mountains and followed the river in order to meet and trade, to the Spainish Conquistadores, the pioneers, and folks in more recent years “gettin their kicks on Route 66”. On the west side of the city the lava rocks are littered with petroglyphs. On the east side of the city the Sandia (Watermelon) mountains glow pink in the evening. The Rio Grande flows south on it’s way to the Gulf of Mexico near Matamoros, Mexico.

The stragglers

Getting Acquainted and Getting Around

We parked the Arctic Fox at the Isleta Lakes RV Campground at Islet Pueblo, just a few miles south of town (see previous post). We were able to ride the commuter train from our campsite at Isleta Lake into downtown Albuquerque (ABQ). It’s what I wish all transportation systems were like. The Railrunner is the cutest little train you could imagine. It arrives at the station. You get on the train. To let you know that the doors are closing it goes “Beep, beep…beep, beep…beep, beep”, just like a road runner. No worries about ticketing. If you’ve found the app you can save money by buying on line. But if not the friendly ticket agent can sell you the ticket that you need. Our tickets for a full day pass, good for the buses too, cost $2 apiece (for Honored Citizens). If you buy them online it’s only a $1. Can’t beat that. The train rolls along smoothly and stops downtown exactly 18 minutes later at the Alvarado Transportation Center. That’s where the buses connect, as well as Amtrak and Greyhound. There’s only one stop in between: the one that connects to the airport. The train goes all the way to Santa Fe and pricing is based on how many zones you cross.

Once we started walking around in the city we got an entirely different view. We really liked ABQ.

Old Town Albuquerque

San Felipe de Neri church at Old Town Plaza
Plaque at the Old Town Plaza

On our first foray into town we walked the mile from downtown to Old Town. We located the Convention Center where my upcoming conference would be held (five minute walk from the train). We regrouped at Humble Coffee for coffee and scone before continuing on.

At Humble Coffee we are greeted with a good reminder.

Old Town hunkers around the original plaza, anchored by San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church. There’s a small museum and gift shop on the west side of the church where the initial convent was located.

A woman prays in San Felipe de Neri church. Note the purple cloths covering statues and altar for Lent.

I had fun talking with ABQ native, Alma. She told me about the foundress of the convent, Sister Blandina Segale, SC, a very interesting woman indeed. I was so intrigued that I bought At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, a collection of her journal writings begun in 1872 and continuing though 1892. She writes with humor, honesty, and clarity. She was born in Italy and her family immigrated to Ohio when she was a young child. She joined the Sisters of Charity, the order founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. This order is a social services tour-de-force and still very active. At the age of 22 they sent her ALONE to Trinidad, NM and she lived and served there and in Santa Fe and Albuquerque most of her life. She is credited with confronting mobs to deter lynching and is respected for having brought reconciliation out of conflict. This tiny woman changed the world around her. She’s the subject of an episode of Death Valley Days.

Albuquerque Museum

The Duchess of Alba 1797
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes

We made our way to the Albuquerque Museum and spent several hours there. Several days would have been more appropriate. We lucked into a special exhibit: Visions of the Hispanic World: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum and Library. What a great exhibit. The exhibit “tells a rich story of cultures settling in Spain and bring the best and most innovative elements of their heritage to the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish colonies.” Beginning with pottery from the Bell Beaker culture, a Bronze Age, 4,000+ year old culture known for their bell shaped vessels, and continuing on through Islamic, Medieval, Golden Age Spain and Colonial and 19th century works (El Greco, Velázquez and Zubarán) in the first part. The second part was Goya through the 1920s in Spain. It was overwhelming to stand in the presence of all this beauty.

And that was just the special exhibit. We lost ourselves in the remaining galleries. My favorite is called Only in Albuquerque. I learned so much about the resources, courage, and traditions of the people of New Mexico.

Conspire!

I had really come to Albuquerque to attend the Conspire Conference. While Jonathan enjoyed various trailer repair projects and a full day to himself at the Natural History Museum and Planetarium, I engaged with 2300 other seekers at the Conspire Conference. People came from every state in the US and 14 foreign countries. We were joined by another 27,000 who “attended” via the live stream . This year’s theme: The Universal Christ.

Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest and one of my favorite Catholic teachers and writers. In 1986 he founded the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), right here in Albuquerque. It was about that time that I first heard him speak and began reading his books. I love the clarity and simplicity with which he writes and he has inspired me over the years in my own spiritual practice. I know his work is familiar to many of you, but if not, or if you want to learn more check out the website at: cac.org. As he ages he’s carried his vision forward and is supported by a huge staff of very gifted, mostly young, people.

Conspire comes from the Latin word conspirare–to breath together. We spent 4 days doing just that. Fr Richard was joined by Rev Jacqui Lewis from The Middle Collegiate Church in NYC (middlechurch.org) and scripture scholar, John Dominic Crossan. We had time for group practice, meditation, and prayer. I made new friends and had fun. I don’t really like being in crowds that big and have “attended” the live stream conferences for the past few years, but it was good to be there and to share in the process of coming together to do good in the world.

I was really impressed by the diversity of people attending: faith, color, gender, age, sexual orientation. All welcome.

Looking Ahead

I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface here. We had some cold and windy weather. We didn’t get any hiking/biking time and so I’m looking forward to spending more time in Albuquerque in the future. Perhaps you’ll join us for the seventh and final Conspire Conference next year–May 15-17, 2020?

8 thoughts on “Albuquerque–At the Crossroads of Cultures

  1. Jay Hansen

    Thanks Nancy—-we are going to be shortening our trip to Santa Fe by 2 days and spending 3 nights in Albuquerque at beginning of May—how was the RV park?? We need to find one. We will also be visiting a couple who lives there—spent every dinner on the river cruise with them. Thanks, Jean.

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    1. nancykeeley7030 Post author

      Hi Jean, We really like the Isleta Lakes campground. Nice folks there. Great sites and first come, first served so we were able to be flexible. I think that any RV park you’re still going to have to figure out how to get into the city and the commuter train station is virtually in the campground. It’s amazing.

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  2. Laurel

    We’ve spent a lot of time in Santa Fe and not much at all in Albuquerque, but I’ve always wanted to explore the city. Thanks for the great ideas! The Conspire Conference sounds wonderful.

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  3. nancykeeley7030 Post author

    And we wanted to go to Santa Fe (on the Roadrunner of course) but didn’t get anywhere near that organized–what with water pump fixit projects and conferences. I’m going to take a look at your Santa Fe posts. Happy travels to both of you.

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