Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.

Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Friday, January 16, 2004

Impressions of the Southwest

We returned a few days ago from a week visiting the states of Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. The natural wonders we saw like Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and the Painted Desert, all testaments to the Glory of the Creator, have been described by writers better than me, so I'll focus on the human wonders of that area.

What is most impressive about Nevada is its desolation. There is very little human settlement between Reno and Las Vegas. On the way to Beatty, Nevada's gateway to Death Valley, we passed through Fallon, a small, pleasant city, where I was surprised to see a Korean Baptist Church. I also saw many dubiously named establishments along the highway, only the last one clearly labeled as a brothel. In Las Vegas I noticed many things that I thought were indigenous to the seedier parts of Korea: cards with nude women and phone numbers scattered about, brighly lit trucks advertising adult night clubs slowly driving around town, etc.

We spent too little time on the Navajo Indian Reservation, but it was good to hear their language still in use, even on a country music station that introduced the latest hits from Nashville in the Navajo tongue.

The highlight of the trip was New Mexico, where I hoped to see many of the places described in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. In Santa Fe, we saw three beautiful churches: St. Francis Cathedral, the Loretto Chapel, and the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church structure in the United States.

We went on to Taos. We received a tip from a man in Sante Fe that if we were interested in churches, we should stop by the Santuario del Chimayo. Located in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this shrine is known for its holy dirt, some of which we brought home and which is said to have healing powers. The shrine is filled with the crutches and baby shoes of those who have been healed. It was very Mexican in character. To my Korean wife, the shrine seemed to belong to a religion other than Catholicism, and I had to agree with her assertion to some extent. Still, it was a very interesting place.

Due to our visit to the shrine, we arrived later than expected inTaos. There were two sites we hoped to see: the Taos Pueblo and the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church. Arriving at just before 4:00 and knowing that the latter would soon close and the former close at 4:30, we headed for the Pueblo and arrived shortly after the hour. Although the sign clearly said that the Pueblo was closed for visitors at 4:30, the Indian at the gate turned us back saying that closing time was now 4:00. We headed for the church but were unable to see that as well. We went to the Taos Plaza and intuition led to me to the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, where we were able to attend a Saturday evening multi-lingual mass; the Kyrie was sung in Latin, Greek, Spanish, and English!

On the way home, the last stop was most impressive of all: the Acoma Pueblo, located on a mesa some 367 feet above the desert floor. Founded in 1150, it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States. Its massive San Esteban del Rey Mission Church was perhaps the most massive and austere of all the mission churches I have seen in California or New Mexico.