Thursday, July 25, 2013


In 1776, the Founding Fathers were far away from New Mexico, where people lived with the Giant Snake God and witches. You can still see adobe buildings with their window frames painted blue, a traditional way to ward off evil spirits.

In Truchas, when I started reading Marc Simmons' Witchcraft in the Southwest: Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande, a powerful wind blew the door open.

Some would say coincidence. Others say there is no such thing as coincidence.

Simmons goes into detail about witches flying as fireballs. Such things have been seen over the skies of Aztlán for centuries. These days we call them UFOs, and think that they are space vehicles. I do wonder if the ancient witch and Space Age visitor theories could both be wrong . . .

Roswell, the UFO Mecca, is in New Mexico. All along the highways, cow crossing signs were augmented with UFO stickers. For miles and miles. Somebody went to a lot of expense and trouble.

Reminds me of a passage from Pat F. Garrett's The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid:

Shortly after the killing of Grant, the Kid made a trip down the Pecos, remaining for some weeks in Roswell.

Another method of witch flight is to step into a dust devil and take off. We saw a lot of dust devils. Could tornado-lassoing Pecos Bill have been a brujo? Or something else?

Simmons devoted an entire chapter to witchcraft among the Nambé. I thought about it as we drove through their reservation.

At the Bandelier National Monument, we revisited the ruins of the Tyuonyi (QU-weh-nee) AKA Frijoles Canyon Pueblo. The datura was blooming there. Datura is often used in local witchcraft.

We also saw the zigzag symbol of Awanyu (uh-WAHN-yu), the feathered serpent associated with water.

New Mexico tribes have legends about the Aztec emperor Montezuma. Simmons suggested that they may have been brought by Aztec slaves of the Spanish, but Anwanyu is older than that. The river serpent still shows up on freeways and urban murals. The Río Grande flows down Mexico way. This is the land of the Great Snake God. The connections between similar cultures may go back farther than modern academics are willing to accept.

In Española, there was a place that sold KNIVES & HOOKAH PIPES and was decorated with psychedelic graffiti. In a Walgreens, Arlo Guthrie's classic marijuana smuggling song “Coming in to Los Angeles” (he pronounces it “Los An-juh-LEES”) played overhead. And on the Nambé rez, there was a mural of a brown-skinned Rasta-looking Jesus.

Simmons wrote that marijuana repels witches and neutralizes their magic.

A local casino was advertising a reggae festival. Could there be an influx of Rastafarian immigrants in the future?

In the Hacienda de los Martinez, now a museum, we saw several magnificent examples of the Death Cart: a female skeletal figure, sometimes robed, and often armed with bow and arrows or an axe. She rides a cart, and is brought out in religious processions to remind people that they must die. She's a combination of Santa Muerte and the Grim Reaper – one badass babe!

I found myself imagining a modern version, driving a car, and toting a machine gun . . .

As for modern witchery, the Sancuario de Chimayó has been plagued with vandalism and theft. A face of Jesus was torn off a crucifix; the faces of statues were covered in red wax. Pentagrams were drawn. A heavy metal/horror movie overlay on centuries of magic.

Maybe they need to bring back their penitente traditions. Ritual crucifixion could do the thugs a world of good.

Monday, July 22, 2013


We rented a place in Truchas, New Mexico, not far from Chimayó. The hills play hell with cell and TV reception. It would be a good place to to hide out from the authorities; just pay cash, keep moving from town to town. I kept expecting to see Edward Snowden.

They said that the peak we could see out the front window was a favorite of Georgia O'Keefe's. I saw what looked like a lot of hawks circling in front of it. When I looked closer, they turned out to be vultures.

Em and I took a walk through Truchas, which we had never done before. The main street was narrow, and snaked through the jagged hills. There were art galleries, studios, and businesses dead and alive. 

A graffitioid Quetzalcoatl was sprayed on a wall around the corner from an epic mural with anti-war, and UFO motifs – and somebody's mom. There was also what was either a mural of Jesus, or a portrait of some local guy. 

Buildings and ancient and modern buckled, and crumbled, cracks revealing adobe under fractured stucco. Funky style mingled with outback decay. A mushroom cloud of a storm dropped hard rain past distant hills. New Mexico style roadside graveyards were decorated with colorful artifical flowers. Some of the headstones were old: 1985-1915-ish. The dogs were laid back, a few lazy barks got the job done here.

Better put the rock in my pocket so they don't think I'm getting ready to break a window,” said Em.

After raining all night, mist pooled in the valley, then burned off early.

Once again we rode the Atomic City Transit Shuttle to Bandelier National Monument where we wondered at the Max Ernst-ian fairy castles, and were rained on as we saw petroglyphs around the cliff dwellings, and datura flowers watching over us.


The next day, on the way to Alberquerque, a peacock strutted by the side of the road, and clouds made a distant mountain look like a hovering island.

At the ABQ Biopark/Botanic Gardens/Aquarium we saw garden trains, dragonflies, butterflies, jellyfish, and a less than maneating-sized alligator gar.

Back in Truchas, cows were running loose in the street. Nobody seemed concerned. A rooster crowed – it was late afternoon.

While shopping in Española, we saw sikhs in the stores and parking lots.

In the wi-fi garden of Wired? Cafe in Taos, Em experienced Buddha envy.

We didn't find any great deals on Buddhas, but the Camino Real Imports and Gift Shop was having a JESUS SALE. We didn't find many Jesuses, but there were calaveras galore, Guadalupe Virgins, and other colorful manifestations of a peyote-enriched Catholic heaven.

And what can be more American than visiting buffalo on the Fourth of July? Okay, North American Bison, dammit! There was no sign of the mountain lions and bears that we were warned about. We did see a yak,too, though.

Meanwhile, there was a record-breaking, blizzard-like hailstorm in Santa Rosa. Meteorologists said it was nothing unusual.

Friday, July 19, 2013


I'm reviewing Reyes Cárdenas: Chicano Poet 1970-2010 over in Chicanonautica over at La Bloga.

So, here's one of his poems put to music:

And in honor of his story Los Pachucos y La Flying Saucer, some traditional pachuco music:

How about those UFOs over Mexico?

Look what's happening in Chicago:

Monday, July 15, 2013


After we took off for New Mexico, I kept seeing nopales – prickly pear cactus – and it got me thinking about a nanohudu'd version of the species adapted for my Mars stories. It would be bigger, and with more “meat.” Traveling through Aztlán always gives me Martian ideas.

In Northern Arizona we saw a lot of military Humvees on the road. The gas station near the Cliff Canyon/Yavapai Apache Casino was clogged with a caravan of them. The mass fuel stop was a major operation with heavy machines and uniformed bodies scrambling to . . .

What were they up to?

The Supreme Court had just stirred things up. Record heat was predicted for Phoenix. And there were wildfires burning--- smoke and political turmoil were in the air. I was braced for it, imagining riots, scenes from High Aztech being acted out in real life.

Yeah, I needed a vacation alright.

Soon we were past Holbrook, into the Petrified Forest, dinosaur folk art country, and colorful plaster monsters – sometimes eating dummies or grimacing with two heads – populated the roadside. I wondered if there was a local species that cowboys could ride on – for an idea I have for a mural, or at least a painting.

My mind drifts, imagining futures . . .

Then I got an idea for a cover for my unfinished Paco Cohen, Mariachi of Mars novel. The gods of sci-fi were mojo messaging me again.

Suddenly, there were hogans and eight-sided hogan-like buildings. We had entered the Navajo Nation. No border. No military. Nobody asking for IDs.

Welcome to Native America.

And in the distance, in New Mexico, in Zuni country, there were clouds, rain, and lightning.

Past Gallup, in front of red, wind-sculpted mountains was a refinery that looked like a Mars colony.

Then rain hit us like running into a wall. It dried up, and we saw a dust devil.

And there was a rusted iron cut-out of the End of the Trail Indian, only he was holding an actual skull-and-crossbones flag.

Native America with an attitude.

Under the looming gray clouds, a curious, black silhouette appeared. It had two propellers. A strange flying machine – a Vertical Take Off And Landing rig with its airfoil tilted up. We watched it land like a helicopter.

This was UFO country, just before the lava fields and ice cave. At a gas station, as we topped off the tank, the overhead radio played the Byrds' Mr. Spaceman.

I don't know if it's just me, but the Indian Casinos seem to be blending into the landscape, no longer looking like an intrusion. In another generation, the kids will assume that there always were casinos here. Ancient ruins will be interpreted as early versions of Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, Nevada, or New Mexico?

White flakes blew through the air, not moving like snow. They were ashes. There was a fire beyond Truchas.

Some of the gray stuff in the sky is smoke, not clouds,” we were told.

Then it started to rain. They hadn't had any rain since February.