Category Archives: History

Annie Box and William Curly Neal: Race in Early Arizona

While at the Triangle L ranch in Oracle, I picked up Annie’s Guests: Tales From a Frontier Hotel by Barbara Marriott. I love local history — this emerged out of an oral history project of the Oracle Historical Society. People of color have been erased almost entirely from many histories of the west, so it was brilliant to find them here front and centre in the history of the Mountain View Hotel. First a couple views of the hotel itself as it once was.

Mountain View Hotel launched in a blaze on 19 Feb 1895, with champagne, music and dancing until morning. The Neals built, owned and ran it  from 1895 until 1950s, although it experienced its heydey in the 1920s. For the first time I can almost imagine a kind of golden age in this building owned and run by a couple who were each of mixed African American, Cherokee and European heritage, a place that attracted visitors from around the world and became the social centre for the entire area.

The building of it took over six months, and used over one thousand adobe bricks all made on site. They had it stuccoed and painted red, with white lines drawn on to make it look like brick. It’s high ceilings were covered with panels of pressed metal. Wood lined its interior. The luxurious first floor rooms each contained individual fireplaces trimmed in black and gold. The second floor rooms had individual freestanding wood stoves.

The Mountain View once consisted of two building connected by a walkway to form an L. The main house with its bedrooms and terraces, where visitors coming for their health and hope for healing of TB often slept in the summer, is now First Baptist Church. I’ll end this post with the picture of the present, it makes me a little sad. The second building contained the kitchen, dining room, and ballroom Additional shacks and bunk buildings for staff, corrals and stables surrounded them, all torn down in the 1960s.

Annie loved events — they held picnics, cardgames, dances, shooting competitions. They built a nine-hole golf course – the grass was lubricating oil mixed with sand. They built a croquet court and outdoor dance pavilion. Small wonder it became the social centre for Oracle, Mammoth, Florence, Tucson. From 1895 to 1920, they hosted visitors from 45 states and 12 foreign countries including Russia, China and Australia. My favourite, though, was Lautaro Roca from Camp Number 2, or “Camp of the Horribles” in Tumacacori (22). I never had heard that, though I’ve the Mission at Tumacacori has given me the terrifying creeps since I was a toddler.

By late 1920s, Biltmore and others began a building spree of luxury resorts and hotels in Tucson & Phoenix, which put an end to many of the glory days of the Mountain View. But I wish I had been able to stay there, even afterwards.

So to turn to the main characters — Marriott’s book looks at six different people who lived or stayed there, it was a nice way to organise the book. William Curly Neal (1849-1936) arrived in Tucson in 1878. He was working as the driver of an Army Supply Wagon – to avoid Indians he had come by back trails, stopping at Camp Oracle. After leaving the army a year later, he would decide that Oracle would be a good place to build.

Born 25 March, 1849 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Curly was part of the Cherokee Nation. His father was of African descent, and his mother Cherokee and a survivor of the Trail of Tears. Mother and son left Oklahoma after the murder of his father. They moved in with two aunts, but when his mother died he ran away from home at the terrifying age of seven. At nineteen he met Buffalo Bill Cody (before he was Buffalo Bill and just William Cody, aged only 22). Neal was shining shoes at the railroad station where he had long worked and survived with odd jobs — the brakemen called him Curly for his long black curling hair (his Indian name was Sitting Bear). He left with Cody as an aide, became a fellow scout and friend. They surveyed land, killed buffalo for train barons, scouted in Indian wars, and Buffalo Bill would often show off the scar along Curly’s head from a near deadly bullet.

The West has such a tangled history of race, exploitation and conquest.

In Tucson Curly took a job as a cook at the Maison d’Arcy restaurant, joining a tight-knit community of African Americans in Tucson (Marriott notes there were only about 150 in whole of Arizona territory). He started his own business digging cellars. He opened Coral Stables/ Opera House Library Stable on Pennington which became his central business, earning him enough money to make loans to other members of the black community. He started running a stage line from Tucson north up to Shultz, Oracle, Mammoth and the surrounding mines, then won a mail contract for Tucson-Oracle-American Flag Mine (there is nothing there now where once sat an great tent city), this expanded to Manleyville, Southern Belle mine and Mammoth as miners and their families settled the area. Curly also contracted with the mining companies to move ore and water and wood for mines. His most dangerous business hauling bullion from Mammoth to Tucson. His wife, Annie, often rode shotgun.

William ‘Curly’ Neal:

Another picture from the book:

While in Tucson he had become friends with Hannah and Wiley Box. Hannah’s father a German, and mother Cherokee,  like Curly’s mother a survivor of the Trail of Tears. Wiley’s father a white English physician, and his mother from New Orleans of African descent. Their daughter Annie was born on the Cherokee reservation on 8th January, 1870. Hannah was only 16. Wiley was mostly a gambler and prospector.

In Tucson Hannah ran a boarding house where Curly stayed, before marrying her daughter Annie. Annie’s sister Josie remembered he always smoked the best cigars, carried a silver flask, and always had a bag of candy for her.

When they married in 1892, Annie was 22, and he 43. Despite the difference in their ages he was already her third husband.

Annie Magdalen Neal (1870-1950) was pretty damn amazing.

She had been educated at St Joseph’s Academy until she fell ill at the age of 14 — she remained a devout Catholic. She played the piano and composed her own tunes, two of which were published (though now lost, which I find so tragic). The Oklahoma March had been inspired by their family’s journey to Tucson when Annie was only 9. They moved like so many others for health reasons, after her father came down with yellow fever. She remembered thirst the most, and then the cold — they couldn’t light fires for fear of (other) Indians. When they arrived in 1879, the total number of African Americans in the county was only 57.

She first married James Lewis. A soldier, she went with him to where he was stationed in Yuma. She was there when her parents were put in jail, accused of stealing $1000 from a man named John Bryson. Later they were charged with attempting to poison Bryson on the testimony of another man who claimed they had hired him before he fled to Mexico. Both were found not guilty. Curiously while in jail, Wiley wrote letters to Lewis, not his daughter. After gaining their freedom the couple went to Mexico themselves, returned with daughter Josephine. In the meantime Annie had left James and married William Easton in 1887.

Curly had also married before, to Jesus Leon in 1881. The match between himself and Annie was pushed by her mother, who promised them gifts of land in Oracle.

Thus they bought land in Oracle, and Hannah  deeded her daughter a number of acres.  Annie, like Hannah, acted as a midwife, and had authorization from Catholic church to baptise babies. Curly built hotel as a business venture, but also to help Annie emerge from the deep depression she suffered after the death of her mother in 1894. It succeeded.

Before Oracle’s first church was built, Annie arranged from priest to come once a month, and they held services in the hotel’s recreation room. They had also adopted her sister Josephine, who was only 6 yrs old at Hannah’s death. Wiley lived until 1913. At his death he had been staying at an old-club in Tucson, on Court st between Pennington & Myers that catered to black men (I wonder what is there now…). A side note — he had been drinking for days, apparently, and in a stupor when his friends wrapped his legs in burlap, added kerosene and set them on fire as a joke. I assume they were only slightly less drunk than he was, only taking him to hospital when it became clear they wouldn’t heal on their own. Wiley died of the burns. On his death certificate Annie stated he was white – there is, of course, no way now to know why. One possible reason was to ensure he could be buried in the cemetery without problems — cemeteries in the area were often segregated. Annie saw her father off in style though, with a procession of 5 automobiles.

Marriott notes an increase in racism — and while I am doubtful there ever was a time in Tucson where racism was not a problem, it is a good reminder of how things actually got worse after the turn of the century. Jim Crow only really arose during that period, though Marriott casts all the blame on the increasing numbers of wealthy East Coast families in the area who after the 20s stopped including the Neals in their social visits and functions, who opposed Curly’s attempt to legally homestead the area their cattle had long been grazing, and who would destroy his business through a suit claiming he was collecting too much local wood.

But enough about racist white folks. Another picture of Annie, also from the book:

She used to have shooting contests with Buffalo Bill and his men when they stayed at the hotel. There is nothing I do not love about her.

A little more on race relations can be found in the chapter on Elizabeth Lambert Wood, an author who left a wonderfully detailed journal. Originally from Portland, she clearly came from a family with some money, and her husband was a doctor (she continuously refers to him in the diary as Dr Wood, most curious). They came to stay at the Mountain View when her husband fell ill, then bought land and stayed there most of the year. The Neals are hardly mentioned in the journal entries found in the chapter, and while she was clearly on friendly enough speaking terms with various African American and Mexican residents in Oracle, the four women with whom she seemed to plan events and gatherings were (wealthy) white women from the principle ranches. In November of 1929 she wrote the following entry in her journal:

Oracle put on its annual Indian Pageant last night. We held it in the park, in a hollow where the main village road turns toward Cherry Valley. We parked our cars on the hill overlooking the hollow and turned on our lights. We lit up the area like a stage. We were able to get some Indians to come from New Mexico and Flagstaff, but we didn’t have enough. We used local boys to add to the tribe. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and the gunny sack outfits we made for our local boys offered little protection from the wind. We tried to make them look authentic by painting their bodies. Mike Munoz, one of the children, complained loudly every time they dipped the brush into the bucket and rubbed it on his skin. I thought he looked and sounded like the real thing. (113)

I confess I find that entire passage astonishing. Written on land so recently belonging to the Apaches and taken by deadly force. The idea of importing Indians (not Apaches I would guess) for entertainment, and painting Mexicans (ignoring their own mestizo heritage) is mindboggling. The costumes are as well. I wonder what  Annie and Curly thought of it. I wonder how this connects to minstrel shows, I wonder how people explained this kind of appropriation of the cultures of those they believed inferior, and how these events contributed to such dynamics. Honestly though, I cannot fathom it.

A few more tidbits from the chapter — the entry about hearing that Arizona had been admitted into the union, and wondering if anything would change. It seemed that nothing really changed, at least not for some time. her own story is fairly tragic, her husband died fairly young, her first son was killed in action in WWI. Her daughter had severe post-partum depression after the birth of her first child, and drowned herself on the return journey from Europe (her husband had tried to cheer her up). Elizabeth Wood thus raised her grandson, only for him to be killed in action in WWII. She gave a great deal to the town, sharing her wealth as it were. She had a public well dug, paid for the building of a community playground, donated stained glass to the united church, and before her death donated her Southern Belle ranch to the Salvation Army as a youth camp.

She also writes about Jane Russell visiting the Linda Vista Ranch, having publicity shots taken at the Cañada del Oro. The ranch was owned by Goerge Stone Wilson, and Harold Bell Wright had stayed there to write, and then film, The Mine with the Iron Door. That would eventually be partly what brought Buffalo Bill to file mining claims there, and Wood knew his wife, but that is all for another blog.

Some final views of the Mountain View and all the people who lived and worked there. I love this photo, and only wish it were a bit clearer.

A final view of the hotel as it looks today, its outbuildings torn down, stripped of its balconies, and incorporated into a Baptist Church — makes me a bit sad to be honest.

Mountain View Hotel

[Marriott, Barbara (2002) Annie’s Guests: Tales From a Frontier Hotel. Tucson: Catymatt Productions.]

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Caravaggio in Malta and Sicily

caravaggio-life-sacred-and-profaneCaravaggio had, at Graham-Dixon’s guess, set his eyes on rehabilitation and a return to Rome in triumph through a rather curious route — becoming a Knight (read part one of this post on Caravaggio here). Whether this was his goal at the start or not, he was soon on his way after his exile and time in Naples, and through the help of his oldest patron, Costanza Colonna. The process for getting to Malta has changed just a bit since his day:

Malta was not, however, a place where someone could simply turn up unannounced. The whole island was a fortress, and security was tight. No one was allowed in from the mainland without a passport and papers prepared by the order’s network of receivers.

Permission was granted only by the approval of the Grand Master of the Hospitallers himself. The Colonna’ had to have brokered this for Caravaggio, fleeing justice as he was.

A description of the Valleta that Caravaggio approached:

An entirely new city, built of honey-coloured limestone that glowed pink in the sun. Valletta had been constructed at breakneck speed in just forty years. After the turmoil of the Great Siege [by the Turks], the knights realized that they had to fortify the narrow headland known as the Xiberras Promontory, which connected the island’s two principal harbours. The construction of the new capital by an army of slaves, on the steepest incline of the headland had been an immense undertaking… It was named in honour of Jean de la Valette, Grand Master during the siege. The pope’s best military engineer, Francesco Laparelli, was responsible for the plan. The sheer stone fortifications of the citadel rose directly from the craggy outcrop of the island itself…

An army of slaves. They remain otherwise invisible to us, but I had no idea Valletta was built in only forty years, a planned city.

Within its walls, Valletta was laid out on the Renaissance model of the ideal city. The principal architect responsible for the buildings was Girolamo Cassar, who was from Malta but had studied in Rome. His palaces and churches were designed to reflect the knights’ ideals of Christian sobriety and military discipline, with long, sever facades of rusticated stone. The streets were laid out in a grid, with nine thoroughfares running across the peninsula and twelve running from top to bottom. Their strict geometry was softened by gardens and fountains.

It was a steep slog from the harbour to the centre — and everywhere in between. Graham-Dixon notes Byron’s farewell to Malta:

adieu, ye cursed streets of stairs.

I am quoting prolific about the city, but I find this heady stuff…

Approaching Malta for the first time, Caravaggio was surrounded by symbols of the island’s fierce rule of law. On the first promontory on the left of the harbour was the forbidding spectacle of a gallows. Within the harbour itself, prominent on the left-hand side, was the Castel Sant’Angelo, where many of the most famous events of the siege had taken place… it had become a prison for disorderly knights.

At the end of the the sixteenth century, a visitor, Hieronymus Megiser, noted gore still visible on some of the rocks and pointed out by his guides.

A ‘remote and harsh place, rocky and sun-parched’, yet famed for the sweetness of its honey, quantity of almonds, olives, figs, dates, the quality of its cotton. Cicero had his clothes made there.

I have failed to find English translations of Hieronymus Megiser’s descriptions of Malta, so shall quote what Graham-Dixon has gleaned from them.

As Megiser notes, the island encompassed two utterly distinct societies. ‘Malta Africana’ and ‘Malta Europeana’. The world of the indigenous islanders had remained unchanged for centuries. Its people were dark-skinned, spoke a language incomprehensible to Europeans and lived in humble settlements much like the tribal villages of nearby coastal Africa. Cosmopolitan Valletta was utterly different, a flammable blend of extreme Christian piety, simmering military aggression and barely contained sexual dissipation.

I am fascinated by this duality, but there is no more to be found here about it. George Sandys was an English traveler — quoted liberally throughout the volume, and his descriptions of Malta are fascinating. But I have found those, and will read them as they look amazing.

Graham-Dixon continues

It is not known where Caravaggio lived during his time on the island. Prospective knights on their first tours of duty were given accommodation in the auberge belonging to their particular Langue, or country. Altogether there were eight Langues, of Italy, Provence, Auvergne, England, France, Aragon, Castille and Germany.

Langue meaning language more like? Because Italy was not yet a country, nor was France or Germany in the shape we know them.But Caravaggio probably lodged with the Colonnas anyway, they were the only one’s who knew he was there and of his plans to become a knight — this was not brokered until the winter of 1607.

To become a knight he painted… there is the incredible Beheading of St John

beheading-of-saint-john-the-baptist- CaravaggioI get to see this. So exciting, Caravaggio’s largest altar-piece still sitting in the place for which it was painted.

The novices of the Order of St John [of whom Caravaggio was one] listened to sermons and received instruction in the oratory for which Caravaggio’s painting was destined. The place was both a school for the martyrs of the future and a burial ground for the martyrs of the past — the bones of the knights who had died at the Great Siege were interred beneath its stone-flagged floor. … Caravaggio’s altarpiece was designed to make sure that they [the novices] could be under no illusions about what that might mean.

Not that I am at all keen on martyrs, particularly not crusaders. But nor, I think, was Caravaggio. He did, however, paint a wonderful portrait of Alof da Wignacourt (c1607-1608), the Master of the Knights. Caravaggio was pretty determined to get a knighthood, and this was a man of fairly absolute power.

michelangelo_merisi_da_caravaggio_-_portrait_of_alof_de_wignacourt_-_wga04184And yet Caravaggio still ensures that his page rather steals the show. He still rebels I think.

While there he became friends (if that is possible to guess at) with WIgnacourt’s secretary Francesco Dell’Antella. Graham-Dixon notes he was a gifted draughtsman and produced a detailed drawing of Valletta — which I have found. This is the ‘Map of the medieval town of Valletta, with Senglea and Vitoriosa at the Great Port. Map of Malta and Gozo’ from [BOISSAT, Pierre de / BOSIO, Giacomo]. Histoire des Chevaliers de l’Orde de S. Jean de Hierusalem, contenant leur admirable Institution & Police…, Paris, Jacques d’Allin, MDCLIX [=1659].

Valletta --

VallettaSo wonderful.

To return to Caravaggio. Alof de Wignacourt loved his paintings to such a degree he gave him (and this is Graham-Dixon quoting Bellori)

as a reward, besides the honour of the Cross, the Grand Master put a gold chain around Caravaggio’s neck and made him a gift of two slaves…

‘Finally,’ Graham-Dixon writes, ‘Caravaggio had got his own gold chain.’ I forgot to mention the animosity raised in Rome when a rival received such a chain — the one about whom the scurrilous verses had been written.

There is no context given for the slaves. Slavery remains only part of the background throughout, which kills me.

Still, Caravaggio got his Knighthood, with approval of the Pope. He was thus above the law for the murder he had committed, could return to Rome with new rank. Graham-Dixon notes that in this whole scheme to elevate himself, perhaps Caravaggio had not realised that as a knight, he had to have Wignacourt’s permission to leave Malta. A permission unlikely to be granted for some time, if ever — in Wignacourt’s petition to the Pope to be allowed to confer the knighthood, he noted the purpose of it was ‘to keep’ Caravaggio. Ominous.

Graham-Dixon argues the dawning realisation that he was trapped, as much as his unruly habits, explains the end of Caravaggio’s time on Malta.

The ceremony on the ‘feast of the Decollato’ where the unveiling of The Beheading of St John was to take place was a complete disaster — Caravaggio was not present. He was in prison for kicking down the door of the church’s organist, Fra Prospero Coppini, with several others, leaving the organist severely wounded. On top of that

The musicians were unhappy about their pay and most of them went on strike, so that on the feast day itself neither Vespers nor the solemn Mass was sung in the oratory before Caravaggio’s picture.

I confess, of everything that went wrong, only the strike was unexpected to me. I confess I find the existence of musicians willing to strike in Valletta absolutely extraordinary — and a happy fact. The rest though…

Carvaggio escaped from prison. Fled Malta. Was stripped of his knighthood in December of 1608. Graham-Dixon gives an illustration from Wolfgang Kilian of the mid-seventeenth century as an example of what this ceremony might have looked like in the very same oratory of St John where his painting sat (look, you can see it there in the background!):

Wolfgang Kilian - Knight of Malta Defrocked

This happened in Caravaggio’s absence of course.

He, in the meanwhile, had fled to Sicily, meeting up with an old friend and painter Mario Minnitti (also the model for Boy Bitten by a Lizard and others) and traveling through Southern Italy. Caravaggio believed he was being followed, and that his life was in danger. His routes were most circuitous.

In 1608 he painted the Burial of St Lucy in Syracuse

caravaggio_-_burial_of_st-_lucy

And the Raising of St Lazarus in Messina. Graham-Dixon notes that the Lazzari family had originally wanted a picture whose proposed title would have been ‘The Madonna, St John the Baptist and Other Saintsbut Caravaggio negotiated with them to paint this instead.

In Rome at the height of the Renaissance it had not been unknown for a famous artist to alter the terms of a commission. Michelangelo had famously plucked up the courage … But in the provincial artistic milieu of Messina, Caravaggio’s assertion of independence was still being talked about a hundred years later.

caravaggio-raising-of-lazarus-1608

In 1609, also in Messina, the wonderful Adoration of the Shepards.

800px-caravaggio_-_adorazione_dei_pastoriBy September of 1609 he had returned to Naples, and the protection once again of the Colonnas, both Bellori and Baglione mention the enemies chasing him. Graham-Dixon argues that this return to the Colonna fold means that both his patrons had forgiven him for his escapades on Malta, but also that they had negotiated a truce with the knights there.

His fear was well-founded, he was severely wounded in an attempt on his life as he emerged from the Cerriglio — a rather famous brothel, his face disfigured — sfregiato, an injury inflicted to avenge an insult to reputation. Probably by Rodomonte Roero, the Conte della Vezza, who had indeed, almost certainly, been tracking him.

Caravaggio never really recovered. In Naples he painted the Martyrdom of St Ursula (1610), thought to be his last picture.

martyrdom_of_st_ursula1609-10oilcanbanca_intesa_coll_naples_-_version_2He traveled to Rome, with either a pardon in hand or on its way, and the lack of clarity surrounding his death seems characteristic of most of his life. He was arrested when he disembarked from his boat at Palo, a fort manned by the Spanish. Something went wrong and he was arrested, thus his belongings and the three paintings he had brought with him made the rest of the boat’s journey to the Porto Ecole. Bellori has him running from Palo to Porto Ecole and dying on his arrival from heat and exhaustion — but it was days on foot between the two.

He did die in Porto Ecole, however, of fever, in July of 1610. Then the feeding frenzy was on over the paintings he had left behind him.

This is one, an uncommissioned painting of melancholy treating a subject he had painted several times before. To me it embodies both his queerness (which I know I don’t look at enough here) and his regret and suffering.

st-john-the-baptist-iii-michelangelo-merisi-da-caravaggioA life that as I say, troubles me and sits with me.

Writing this I found that there is a show on at The National Gallery, Beyond Caravaggio, and I am looking forward to seeing it immensely. Graham-Dixon notes only a few of his influences — Ribera and Zurbaran in particular, through his work in Naples. Another wonderful story about the Madonna of the Rosary, which was brought to Antwerp through a joint effort spearheaded by Rubens, and involving Bruegel, Van Bael and Cooymans. But of course, I will be seeing more about this…

Save

Quarai and Abó, dust and rain

After the Turquoise Trail, after Los Cerrillos and Madrid, we headed south to Quarai, south through Moriarty (!) and McIntosh, Estancia to Mountainair.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-17-14-58

1143647We were driving through the countryside poet Jimmy Santiago Baca writes about so compellingly. I read Martín & Meditations on the South Valley, look how time and evil rewrites the nature of towns — driving now we would only know Estancia as home to yet another prison, networked into the US carceral nation. This is how Baca knows it from Martín:

III

The religious voice of blind Estela Gomez
blackened the air one day.
“92 years mijito. ¿Que pasó? There were no more
beans to pick, no crops to load on trains.
Pinos Wells dried up, como mis manos.
Everyone moved away to work. I went to Estancia,
con mi hijo Reynaldo.
Gabachos de Tejas, we worked for them. Loading
alfalfa, picking cotton for fifty cents a row. (11)

Here too, are the ruins of Quarai. Before looking for the hotel we stopped at the ruins, hoping for a sunset peak. It was all closed off, sadly, but the town’s church was beautiful:

Quarai

the countryside golden:

55

We came back in the morning, the church is mostly what is visible:

Quarai Ruins

There was once a great pueblo here too, up to three stories. It sat along the trails by which salt was once traded, another place of encounter (Three such church and pueblo complexes form the Salinas Pueblo Missions Natinal Monument — Quarai, Abó, and Gran Quivira, which we weren’t able to see).

Here is it’s reconstruction from about 1300 — fascinating that it seems to have been left to the ancestors for many years just around this time, and reoccupied just before the arrival of the Spanish:
IMG_7073

Like Cicúye / Pecos, this was a place of coexistence for a very long time after the Spanish Entrada. This is a reconstruction of the church.

IMG_7178

It is huge, making us feel small.

Quarai

Quarai

Called El Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Cuarac, it was completed around 1629, and for a while served as a seat of the Inquisition. That gives me chills, though the park service information boards focus on the inquisitions struggles with the army more than its actions surrounding native beliefs and religions.

Like Cicúye, there are kivas here too amidst the Christian buildings. Like this one, square. That sits in my heart somehow. Change, contrariness built into stone and ceremony.

Quarai

The pueblo ruins remain at peace beneath great mounds, covered with melons.

Quarai

Jimmy Baca writes of how this place continues to live.

VIII

***

Dawn in the Manzano mountains.
Pine and piñón from chimneys
smoke the curving road
with resinous mist.
My black feathered heart
effortlessly glides
in the clear blue sky
above the pueblos
de Manzano, Tajique, Willard and Estancia.
At the foothills
my grandmother herded sheep
and my grandfather planted corn y chile.

I turn my motorycle off
next to QUARAI RUINS
and silence drops
into the canyon
sounding like an ancient song of sadness,
like a distant boulder
echoing into the blue sky and stubble grass

I step into the open rock pit
hollowed in the earth
with flat rock door facing east,
pinch red clay and chew
my teeth black with earth prayer,
then speak with QUARAI–

O QUARAI! Shape
the grit and sediment I am,
mineral de Nuevo Mejico. (38-39)

I am not sure how much work had been done here when Baca arrived, it it was closer to what we could see, or this view of the church in 1935.

Quarai was abandoned in the 1670s and fell to ruin. Above, the mission church before excavation and stabilization, c. 1935 Courtesy of the National Park Service
Quarai was abandoned in the 1670s and fell to ruin. Above, the mission church before excavation and stabilization, c. 1935
Courtesy of the National Park Service

 

We traveled down Highway 60.

Route 60

Abó is very similar, but people still live just to one side, and more recent ruins of settlement make this place feel a bit less like a ‘monument’. This is nice. They believe that while Quarai was of the Southern Tewa or Tiguex people, this was the place of the Tompiro. My favourite picture:

Abó Ruins

It is more lush here:

Abó Ruins

Another massive church here:

Abó Ruins

Abó Ruins

Again a kiva.

Abó Ruins

The pueblo hidden beneath mounds of earth. Bordered by flowers.

Abó Ruins

Abó Ruins

From here we drove on, drove on home

Route 60

A final poem from Baca’s Meditations on the South Valley:

IV

Send me news Rafa
of the pack dogs sleeping
in wrecked cars in empty yards,
or los veteranos
dreaming in their whiskey bottles
on porches
of the past, full of glory and fear.
The black smell of wet earth
seeps into old leaning adobes,
and prowls like a black panther through open windows.
Austere-faced hombres
hoeing their jardines
de chile y maíz in the morning,
crush beer cans and stuff them in gunny sacks
and pedal on rusty bicycles
in the afternoon to the recycling scale.
and at Coco’s chante
at dusk tecatos se juntan,
la cocina jammed like the stock exchange lobby,
as los vatos raise their fingers
indicating cuánto quiren.
There is much more I miss Rafa,
so send me news. (57)

Route 60

We ate lunch in Truth or Consequences. Were too tired to stop in Hatch. We hit rain and a huge dust storm just outside of Deming. Pulled to one side. They are terrifying if you live here, have grown up with the news of 10 (20 to 30 to 100)-car pile-ups along these freeways. Fatalities. People drive like where they got to go and the time they got to get there are more important than life.

I-10

Finally then…good to be home.

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Save

Resistance on the Turquoise Trail: Los Cerrillos

From Pecos Ruins we drove back towards Santa Fe and then down Highway 14 — tourism demands everything have a branded identity and the Turquoise Trail is no different. But it was awesome.

First stop, Los Cerrillos. I’ve always used cerrillos to mean matches, but it also means little hills (ooooh, cerros, cerrillos, I get it), which is where the name comes from.

There is a small, quite amazing mining museum there.

Los Cerrillos

Here we discovered that…

Indian Turquoise Takers are not a myth.

Los Cerrillos

I’ve transcribed some of the text, the column on the right is from the New Mexican (the orthographic curiosities are from the original, I kind of made up paragraphs). The Tiffany mine is called so because it was owned by the American Turquoise Company, who sold almost all of their turquoise directly to that Tiffany, the great jewelers empire:

After years of Effort J.P. McNulty Manager for Tiffany, Succeeds in Getting Four nabbed. The story of the removal of turquoise from the Tiffany mines by Indians who still feel that they have a right to the semi-precious stones used in the ceremonies appears to be anything but a myth. For years J.P. McNulty, in charge of the mines has been complaining that Indians stole the turquoise by night, especially on moonlight nights. but ti was an extremely difficult task to get proofs. There are now four Indians in the local jail, brought hither yesterday morning by Deputy Sheriff Montoya of Cerrillos. they will probably be given a hearing today or tomorrow. U.S. Attorney Francis C. Wilson will represent them.

A representative of the New Mexican Interviews one of the Indians this afternoon in jail. Ne, like his three companions of turquoise taking propensities, wore a red scarf around his black locks and held a lighted cigarette in his mouth. The red man punctuated his sentences with puffs from this cigarette, “My name it is Marcial Quintana” said the Indian, “I live at Cochiti. I go to Turquoise mine to get turquoise, that is true enough, we want turquoise. Indians from Santo Domingo bring us turquoise to Cochiti, that is true enough, but they ask big prices for it. We hear this mine was open, and nobody watched it or care about it. We see sheriffs coming but not try to escape. We think we can get turquoise from mine which nobody watched.”

Column to the right: Letter written by McNulty to R.A. Parker, President of the American Turquoise Company

Cerrillos
New Mexico
Dec 21st 1910

R.A. Fulton Esq
81 Fulton Street
New York City
Dear Sir:–
As I have written you many times that I could get no assistance from the Authorities in Santa Fe to capture the Indians I offered a reward of $25.00 two week ago to Apolonia Mariz + for him to get some one to assist him to capture the Indians, so he got another Deputy Sheriff to come with him. I was in Cerrillos on Saturday + paid for a telephone message to Sheriff Closson to meet the two Deputies at Bonanza (two miles from the mines) + he promised to meet them @ 11-pm, but failed to come; but through my instructions the two Deputies caught four of the Cochiti Indians in the Castillian mine about 2-30 Saturday night (on Sunday morning) + there were six Santo Domingo Indians in the mine with the Cochiti Indians up to ten o’clock but the six left the Castillian mine + came to the Muniz mine.

There’s no real way to know for sure, but I might have been a little pissed at the Santo Domingo Indians had I been one of the four arrested. But it turns out that the mine owners weren’t actually working the mines anyway. From the friends of the Cerillos State Park site:

The price of turquoise declined in the late 1890s and collapsed between 1909 and 1912. The American Turquoise Company developed another turquoise mine near Hatchita in southwest New Mexico but it was closed prior to 1909. By 1912 an oversupply caused a crash in turquoise mining …. After about 1909 McNulty was only doing assessment work at the Tiffany Mine (MRUS, 1911, p. 1070). Even the annual assessment work stopped with the  patenting of the claims, and thus a reasonable ending date for turquoise mining on the hills is 1912.

What they don’t mention is that the mine was also subject of a court case disputing the American Turquoise Comapny’s ownership. this is from The Sandoval Signpost:

In 1896, McNulty encountered a group of four men on the mine’s grounds, claiming to be picnicking. He accosted them, and escorted them from the property. One of these men, Mariano F. Sena, soon filed a claim in the local courts, saying the mine was part of an old Spanish land grant, and that the ATC had to vacate and pay him $50,000. The lawsuit dragged on until 1911, when it was finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. By then, the ATC had spent so much of its profits on legal fees that debt began a slow suffocation, finishing the company off in 1917.

Of course, in terms of ownership and rights, we all know who was there first and who had been mining there for centuries. The same site notes that:

The Spanish word for turquoise, turquesa, has the same origin as the English word, “turkish stone”, but the word turquesa was generally not used in New Mexico. The word Chalchihuite or Chalchihuitl, from the Nahuatl Indian language of Central Mexico was used in New Mexico by the Navajos and other groups for turquoise into the late 1800s.

Which is rather fascinating.

I found some amazing old photos of the mine itself:

Herculano Montoya at the Tiffany mine (1937). Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
Herculano Montoya at the Tiffany mine (1937). Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
Herculano Montoya of Cienega at the Tiffany Turquoise Mine near Turquoise Post in Cerrillos, New Mexico
Herculano Montoya of Cienega at the Tiffany Turquoise Mine near Turquoise Post in Cerrillos, New Mexico

More views of the museum, which is an immense collection of all kinds of things collected from the surrounding area:

Los Cerrillos

Los Cerrillos

And this wonderful old town of old adobes and frame houses and even an old opera house:

Los Cerrillos

Los Cerrillos

Los Cerrillos

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank

Save

Save

Save

From Cicúye to Pecos Ruins — Coronado’s expedition and Spanish settlement

I read The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542, by Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera several years ago —  a bilingual version, which I love because the Spanish is old and Spain’s Spanish not mine, though the quotes here are from the online version you can find here, translated in 1904. As we drove to what are now called Pecos ruins from Chama, I thought I remembered this place mentioned — it was a curious text, tragic in what it meant and yet leaving you with little sense of tragedy, perhaps because it was so strangely matter of fact, even boring. But what I remember was that the Spanish were welcomed in village after village, and in village after village they killed and stole and demanded gold and anything else they wanted. Women seem to have been included in this.

Cicúye, now known as Pecos ruins, was no different. Upon their arrival:

Five days from here he came to Cicúye, a very strong village four stories high. The people came out from the village with signs of joy to welcome Hernando de Alvarado and their captain, and brought them into the town with drums and pipes something like flutes, of which they have a great many. They made many presents of cloth and turquoises, of which there are quantities in that region. The Spaniards enjoyed themselves here for several days … (40)

This is what this thriving, welcoming village looks like now. Great mounds with a few of the walls and structured excavated.

Pecos Ruins

Pecos Ruins

Pecos Ruins

After such a welcome…well, this is what greed and conquest look like.

When Hernando de Alvarado reached Tiguex, on his way back from Cicúye, he found Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas there, and so there was no need for him to go farther. As it was necessary that the natives should give the Spaniards lodging places, the people in one village had to abandon it and go to others belonging to their friends, and they took with them nothing but themselves and the clothes they had on. (41)

It is clear who the barbarians are here, demanding lodging. And then the manufactured incident, the kidnapping…and yet they still manage to see themselves as victims through the whole of the narrative.

The general sent Hernando de Alvarado back to Cicúye to demand some gold bracelets which this Tm’k said they had taken from him at the time they captured him. Alvarado went, and was received as a friend at the village, and when he demanded the bracelets they said they knew nothing at all about them, saying the Turk was deceiving him and was lying. Captain Alvarado, seeing that there were no other means, got the Captain Whiskers and the governor to come to his tent, and when they had come he put them in chains. The villagers prepared to fight, and let fly their arrows, denouncing Hernando de Alvarado, and saying that he was a man who had no respect for peace and friendship. Hernando de Alvarado started back to Tiguex, where the general kept them prisoners more than six months. This began the want of confidence in the word of the Spaniards whenever there was talk of peace from this time on, as will be seen by what happened afterward. (45)

The Spanish were demanding gold, to know where these fabled cities of gold they sought could be found. The demanded at gunpoint, through the holding of hostages, and believed everyone lied to them when they denied knowledge of such a place. A place that did not in fact exist. So this little stratagem of the people of Cicúye seems pretty brilliant.

The general followed his guides until he reached Quivira, which took forty-eight days’ marching, on account of the great detour they had made toward Florida. He was received peacefully on account of the guides whom he had. They asked the Turk why he had lied and had guided them so far out of their way. He said that his country was in that direction and that, besides this, the people at Cicúye had asked him to lead them off on to the plains and lose them, so that the horses would die when their provisions gave out, and they would be so weak if they ever returned that they would be killed without any trouble, and thus they could take revenge for what had been done to them. This was the reason why he had led them astray…They garroted him… (74-75)

Cicúye was once a great center of trade, sitting here close to Glorieta Creek and the the Pecos River, commanding great visibility across the valley and sitting near Glorieta Pass, it was where the Indians of the plains, Apaches and Comanche came to trade with the Pueblo Indians, they would set up their camps outside the walls of the pueblo that rose three to four stories. This was a place of cultural encounter and exchange, a place of openness. A map of the pueblo, what has been excavated so far:

IMG_6897

What is here now represents the curious melding of cultures that happened in the centuries after Coronado. Because of course the Spanish would not leave such a strategic village to their traditions and ways of life. By 1598 colonization had begun. They started to build this:

Pecos Ruins

The museum details a complex system of both tribute and forced labour demanded from residents of Pecos Pueblo, tensions between priests and landowners. The great pueblo uprising of 1680 defeated the Spanish — I am looking forward to learning more about this. They were forced from the countryside for over a decade. Clearly their reign wasn’t quite as benevolent as it feels from National Park Service descriptions.

But the Spanish returned. Rebuilt. Bigger.

Pecos Ruins

Pecos Ruins

I love, though, that a kiva exists even here, in the Spanish section of this settlement. It is unknown when or how this was built, if it was constructed as part of the church’s cooptation of native tradition or as resistance — perhaps there is more in the books written from the pueblo perspective.

Pecos Ruins

And so the Spanish continued there. Where there was once usually plenty of grain to trade with Apaches and others, there was no longer enough after the encomendero and their own survival — this is noted in the museum but its consequences not followed through. The Spanish presence, and the violence and disease and crushing taxes they brought with them, had surely destabilised everything. When there was no corn to buy, there was probably little left to do but raid or starve for traditionally nomadic tribes.

I don’t know, after this did they in fact build a peaceful community anew together with the Spanish? Was it one of equality and true faith? Was it just the raids and maybe some weather that forced people out? I am perhaps willing to believe this, people grow together sometimes, but not from just one source. Given the ongoing prejudice against dark skin, indigenous language and tradition, against anything indio, I am doubtful.

By 1838, the last residents of Pecos left the pueblo to the spirits of their ancestors, a living memory of the place that they made and their connection to the land there. They moved to Jemez Pueblo, where they continue to keep their traditions.

The death of a community, and it was not the only one. But another post for more on Quarai and Abó.

It remains, in spite of all of this white greed and empire building, in spite of the civil war battle of Glorieta Pass and proximity to the Santa Fe Trail a peaceful place, a good place. And it is still full of life.

Pecos Ruins

Navajo Nation to Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Before leaving Tuba City, we went to the museum right next to our hotel, one of my favourite stops on this trip.

Navajo Interactive Museum

The Navajo Interactive Museum shares some of the Navajo’s own history. It is the first place I have ever been that does not try to whitewash the history of conquest. It does not shy away from how people were killed, enslaved. It tells of the forced march, relocation, return. The immense loss. Grief. It shows how much has been saved, how custom and belief are not things of the past but of the present. It shared versions of the creation. Methods of weaving, the sheep that are the sources of wool. The building of hogans and some of their spiritual meanings. It is divided by the four directions, reclaims history for its own people, and offers it as a gift to us.

From one of the signs:

Indigenous languages are holistic, fluently expressing intrinsic human relationships with everything. Navajos believe that their language is a spiritual gift from the Holy People, for it connects them directly to the entire universe. It is a language of webs and motion, relationships and process, not of nouns and objectivity.

I have been thinking so much about language and patterns of thought, the limitations of science and how perhaps it is built into the English language itself. Spanish too, but just knowing two languages helps you understand language’s limits. There is still so much I cannot express, I wish that I had been honored to speak such an indigenous language. It is not hard to see why conquerors would work so hard to destroy language, it is so intertwined with culture, with worldview. It is always a place of strength and resistance.

Next door was a small museum in honour of the Navajo code talkers, the men who joined the US army and used their language to keep our transmissions from the Japanese. The whole text of the ‘Navajo Code Talkers Act‘ was on the wall, and it surprised me. I have put in bold the things I never though the U.S. government would say out loud, and we circle around language…

(1) On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor and war was declared by Congress the following day.

(2) The military code, developed by the United States for transmitting messages, had been deciphered by the Japanese and a search by United States military intelligence was made to develop new means to counter the enemy.

(3) The United States Government called upon the Navajo Nation to support the military effort by recruiting and enlisting 29 Navajo men to serve as Marine Corps radio operators; the number of enlistees later increased to over 350.

(4) At the time, the Navajos were second-class citizens, and they were a people who were discouraged from using their own language.

(5) The Navajo Marine Corps radio operators, who became known as the Navajo Code Talkers, were used to develop a code using their language to communicate military messages in the Pacific.

(6) To the enemy’s frustration, the code developed by these Native Americans proved to be unbreakable and was used extensively throughout the Pacific theater.

(7) The Navajo language, discouraged in the past, was instrumental in developing the most significant and successful military code of the time. At Iwo Jima alone, the Navajo Code Talkers passed over 800 error-free messages in a 48-hour period.

(A) So successful were they, that military commanders credited the code with saving the lives of countless American soldiers and the successful engagements of the United States in the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa;

(B) So successful were they, that some Code Talkers were guarded by fellow marines whose role was to kill them in case of imminent capture by the enemy; and

(C) So successful were they, that the code was kept secret for 23 years after the end of World War II.

(8) Following the conclusion of World War II, the Department of Defense maintained the secrecy of the Navajo code until it was declassified in 1968; only then did a realization of the sacrifice and valor of these brave Native Americans emerge from history.

I am unsure what the U.S. government has done since then to grant full, respectful, honoured citizenship or to encourage the speaking of indigenous languages, but I suppose medals were something. It would take a few years before other tribes were honoured for similar roles, the Comache and Choctaw among them, in WWI as well as WWII.

navajo_code_talkers_617_488We drove and drove, Northeast, out of the red rocks towards New Mexico. We passed Black Mesa, and the Peabody Company’s coal mine — another reminder of exploitation, another form of resource extraction.

EACH YEAR PEABODY COAL COMPANY PUMPS MORE THAN 4,500 ACRE-FEET OF PRISTINE NAVAJO AND HOPI DRINKING WATER FROM THE “N-AQUIFER.”

Peabody uses this pristine water supply simply to mix with crushed coal-called “slurry.” This “slurry” is then pumped through a pipeline over 275 miles to the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada.

With every breath we take, 50 gallons of pristine ground water has just been pumped from the dry lands of northeastern Arizona. On Black Mesa, home to the Hopi and Navajo people, more than 300 gallons of potential drinking water has, in the last 10 seconds just been mixed with crushed coal. In the time it took to read these sentences Peabody Coal Company pumps over a thousand gallons of the cleanest groundwater in North America, simply to transport coal. Today, Peabody Coal pumps more than 3,600 acre-feet (equivalent to 4,600 football fields, one foot deep) per year of pristine water from the Navajo Aquifer.

You can find out more on the Southwest Research and Information Centre site. These beautiful lands are also be exploited for their uranium, in summary of the report on uranium mining on the Navajo Nation from Brugge and Goble:

From World War II until 1971, the government was the sole purchaser of uranium ore in the United States. Uranium mining occurred mostly in the southwestern United States and drew many Native Americans and others into work in the mines and mills. Despite a long and well-developed understanding, based on the European experience earlier in the century, that uranium mining led to high rates of lung cancer, few protections were provided for US miners before 1962 and their adoption after that time was slow and incomplete. The resulting high rates of illness among miners led in 1990 to passage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

You can read and listen to more on Democracy Now’s program ‘A Slow Genocide of the People’.  Even now people gather to stand against another exploitation of the earth and threat of contamination for land and water — the North Dakota pipeline.

In North Dakota, indigenous activists are continuing to protest the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River. More than a thousand indigenous activists from dozens of different tribes across the country have traveled to the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, which was launched on April 1 by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

I wish I could be there too. Instead I am here, writing. We drove onward. It looks pristine, but corporations are poisoning this land.

Road Trip Tuba City to Chama

Shiprock.

Road Trip Tuba City to Chama

Road Trip Tuba City to Chama

A sea of crushed metal, old cars left here.

Road Trip Tuba City to Chama

Up to the ‘Aztec’ ruins. Midway between Chaco and Mesa Verde, this was an incredible Anasazi construction, planned and for the most part built within a very short time. Labelled Aztec because that’s all people apparently knew of indigenous cultures building in stone, too ignorant or racist to ask its real name. The National Park Service did try to give a ‘balanced’ history, but such radically different ways of seeing the world sit uneasily next to each other. There could be nothing too critical of the role archeology has played in the mythologizing of western expansions, nor of those expansions, nor the disrespect of native histories. A disrespect that stems from their attempted destruction. But it was good to hear native voices here, and the contrasting ways of seeing.

Aztec Ruins

This is a place that feels good, a place left to the ancestors before white men arrived, like Chaco, like Mesa Verde.

It’s construction is beautiful, full of details. The corner openings:

Aztec Ruins

T-shaped doors

Aztec Ruins

Stones rolled smooth from the river

Aztec Ruins

And other bands of decoration:

Aztec Ruins

Aztec Ruins

Once standing three stories high

Aztec Ruins

This wall traces exactly the path followed by the sun during the summer solstice

Aztec Ruins

It is a beautiful place. To see with eyes open and with eyes closed. The ground story of storage rooms still stand

Aztec Ruins

Aztec Ruins

Aztec Ruins

They open into other rooms, a mat left behind is still here, hundreds of  years old.

Aztec Ruins

From archaeology we see the map of the whole. Almost all of it built between 1100 and 1130, which is amazing. Then slowly added to.

IMG_6069

This map shows its symmetries, though it cannot explain their meaning.

Aztec Ruins

They have reconstructed the great kiva here, I am not sure about entering such a place of ceremony without ceremony. Without invitation. So I didn’t take pictures, but I did give thanks to be there. With mum. They are wonderful sacred spaces.

Aztec Ruins

Several of them, along with the large central one, are surrounded by smaller rooms. I have never seen this before.

Aztec Ruins

I didn’t love the small museum as much as the one in Tuba City, but the pottery was beautiful (so much here, as in the other NPS museums, on loan from far away. Pottery and artifacts taken away as property by the institutions who sponsored digs, I do not understand how they do not see this as a living place to which things still belong). Apart from the maps of the place itself, the trade routes were also wonderful:

Aztec Ruins

From here we continued on and on, up to Chama. A good day.

Mummies, lizards, stones: the wondrous ingredients of old medicines

Again, the line between alchemist and apothecary was once very fine, and the things once used to create medicine were wondrous indeed. Many also suspicious, invented, disgusting. And far too many argued as aphrodisiacs.

Of course there were herbs, wondrous herbs. The smell in the attic of Krakow’s wondrous Pharmacy Museum was amazingly pungent and sweet.

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Dragon’s Blood, sadly only a combination of powdered plants with astringent qualities:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Mandrake, not a screaming homunculus pulled from the earth, but a funny shaped root:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Herbs, roots, flowers, leaves, seeds were not the only things used in medicines, however. Clay and other minerals dug from the earth such as lazurite, orpiment, sulphus, chalcanthite, and talc were also used. Here is cinnabar for treating wounds and ‘women’s problems’, and today used for acne — I love these intensely coloured powders.

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Hematite powered and used to cleanse wounds and to treat blood diseases. Copper sulfate good for scars, and for its antibacterial properties.

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Skinks! Dried and ground they became a ‘panacea’ for many things, and the old aphrodisiac standby…

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Powders of scorpions, snakes and lizards — powdered cockroaches, crab’s stones, powdered oysters, sea sponges, musk, earthworm oil and leeches were also of course in use:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Castor, or the powdered glands of beavers — look at that picture! A stimulant, antispasmodic, good for hysteria from sexual causes…

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Spermacetti, or sperm whale oil…

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

‘Unicorn horn’, powdered, good as a universal antidote and of course, an aphrodisiac. Really, narwhal of course, or anything approaching powdered horn…

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Powdered horn, and ivory looks just like it, tusks of walrus and hippopotamus…once believed a universal cure and aphrodisiac:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Bezoars! found in the stomachs of ruminants, they look very cool but are really just hollow spheres made up of fur and undigested plant remains. But I still love imagining them as universal cures…

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Spanish flies, whose smell alerts you to their presence, who blood causes painless blisters. Crushed they were used as a diuretic, but more famously as an aphrodisiac and older form of viagra — but you had to be very very careful you didn’t get it wrong…

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Human scalp made into a panacea — also collected and used were human fat, ox bile, bull’s blood, and calf’s stomach.

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Powdered mummy:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Dried lizards, coral and pearls:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Pharmacists were also apparently the principal makers and purveyors of candles and sealing wax until the 18th century, as wax was another key ingredient in ointments and plasters. I loved this way of making them:

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

And of everything, perhaps this was the most incredible…Multiple use laxative pills of antimony. Crikey. You had to swallow — retrieve — clean — repeat.

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow

Suddenly I realised it is not just the rows of bottles and jars, the mysterious names in Latin, but also the colours, smells, madness of what they held within them. The dreams they represent of cures for everything, of magic in the form of a powder or oil or pill. The intellectual endeavour they also represent, to explore the world and uncover what within it can ease our way through life and improve the days and years we are given. I owe so much to medicine as we know it, and its origins are here in these bottles and in this lore drawing on centuries of experimentation and learning.

For more on apothecaries:

More posts on Poland:

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Queen Philippa’s ordinances: A View Into Medieval life

[Originally written for the St Katharine’s blog] Of all the different rules and regulations that have guided the Royal Foundation of St Katharine over the years, Queen Phillipa of Hainault’s (1314-1369) ordinances from 1351 are by far the most fascinating. In all of their glorious detail, they offer an extraordinary glimpse into medieval life and day-to-day Christian belief.

Found in full in Catharine Jamison’s The History of the Royal Hospital of St Katharine by the Tower, they detail the life and customs of this growing community of Brothers, Sisters, scholars and alms-women.

They did not emerge from nowhere of course, in 1147 Queen Matilda founded St Katharine’s as ‘My hospital next to the Tower of London’, establishing a community of 13 ‘poor persons’ to pray for her soul and that of King Stephen and their children.

In 1273 Queen Eleanor established a more detailed set of instructions for St Katharine’s by the Tower, specifying the community of 13 as a Master, three sisters, three brothers and six poor scholars.

But Phillipa took a greater interest in St Katharine’s and more actively regulated the life of those who lived here. Her portrait is found carved in the remaining misericords still present in the chapel. At the same time she opened up a window that we can look back through and imagine what life here might have been like.

It is therefore ordained that there shall be in the Hospital three Brothers, who shall be priests of good behaviour, virtuous and of holy life, and that they shall every day perform divine service in the church of the Hospital of St Katharine, assisted by six or more Poor Scholars, who shall be supported daily with food and clothing from the alms of the Hospital. Item, it is appointed that there shall be Sisters and Poor Women, according to the Charter of Queen Alianor, formerly Queen of England and foundress of the Hospital.

The rules lay out an austere way of life for the brothers and sisters, free from the burden of possessions (unless by permission of the Master, Keeper or Warden – how did they exercise this power and were they harsh or lenient?). They wandered St Katharine’s cloistered halls in dark monastic habits and cloaks:

Item, a Brother or Sister shall not own any property without permission from the Master, Keeper or Warden. Further, they shall wear the habit of religion and over it a cloak, black or dark in colour, bearing the emblem of St Katharine’s wheel; they shall not wear any green or all red or striped stuff, which might tend to dissoluteness.

I am wearing a green jumper even now, it is a bit startling today to think it would have once been seen as a particularly dissolute item of clothing by virtue of its colour.

The duties of St Katharine’s occupants were also proscribed, particularly the men:

They are to visit the sick or infirm staying there, both saying divine service and doing other works of charity for them. Item, the Brothers shall proceed from the refectory or chamber to the church with humility and devotion, and conversation between them shall be holy, quiet, pleasing to God and pious, so that it may not only instruct but refresh those who see it.

The early history of St Katharine’s was punctuated by complaints of drunkenness and unseemly behaviour, and clearly such was on the Queen’s mind as she laid out her rules. There is in fact a lot of emphasis on the chaste and proper behaviour of Brothers, Sisters and Bedeswomen, and a request that they not talk to each other in a way that gives rise to scandal.

There is also a focus on money, ensuring that this remain a charitable venture – another early cause of complaint. All income from lands and goods were to go to upkeep and support of the community of thirteen, and any moneys above that were to have been distributed as alms to the growing numbers living around St Katharine’s or to improvements in the area.

It is hard to tell, now, just how much was going to upkeep despite the details – yet how fascinating to find out the diet of the sisters:

Food for each sister: two loaves a day, one white weighing 60 sol. and the other black of the same weight, one gallon of ale or 1 den. instead, two dishes of different meats, of the value of 1 den. and 1 ob. or fish of the same value and a pittance of the value of 1 den.

Wheat and white bread, ale (this is from the days when water was dirty and dangerous to drink you must remember), two kinds of meat and fish! I suppose fruit and vegetables were included as a matter of course, perhaps being provided from St Katharine’s own gardens and orchard these were not seen as an expense. At least I hope so.

There was also a system of checks and balances in place giving the brothers AND sisters some level of control over big decisions.

Item, no letter, concerning any important or prejudicial business, shall be sealed with the common seal of the Hospital, without the assent of the Brothers and Sisters of the Hospital: but from now on, the said seal shall be kept and preserved under three different keys, one of which shall be in the custody of the Master, Keeper or Warden, the second in that of the Eldest Brother and the third in that of the Eldest Sister. (31)

What is perhaps most extraordinary is that the women received the same allowance as the men – an equality of pay many of us have not yet regained seven hundred years later.

There is also an attempt to ensure that the Master remain as part of the community and to keep his focus on a Christian and charitable mission. Later history shows this was not always successful given the patronage systems of crown and church where such livings were often seen as simply sources of income. But there were a few early Masters who made names for themselves through their work and adherence to this rule:

Whoever shall be elected or appointed by us or by succeeding queens of England to be Master, Keeper or Warden, and admitted to the charge of the Hospital, shall be a priest and shall assume the ordinary habit of the Brothers and dine with them in the refectory, unless prevented by sickness or the necessary business of the Hospital. And it is ordained that he shall dwell there and have a suitable room for himself near the rooms of his bretheren, residing there continuously; he shall be present at the celebration of the divine offices and at the saying of the canonical hours by the Brothers, unless he is reasonably occupied by the necessary business of the Hospital. (31-32)

These ordinances tell us so much – and yet obscure so much.

Marconi State Park

A privilege to come to a conference on landtrusts here at Marconi State Park, to stay in this amazing place of beauty. From the website (accessed August 2017, stumbled across these pictures almost 13 years later to the day, so I’m cheating a bit by setting this to publish back then, but why not honour chronology?):

Marconi State Historic Park has a rich human history that dates back hundreds of years. The Tomales Bay ecosystem has supported the livelihoods of people—from the pre-historic villages of the Coastal Miwok to the farming communities of today.

On past genocide (not noted), Russian settlers, farming, to Marconi…

In 1894, across the Atlantic in Bologna, Italy, a young man by the name of Guglielmo Marconi began experimenting with Electromagnetic Waves (Radio Waves). In an unused portion of his parents’ attic, Marconi constructed devices for sending and receiving Morse code across the room without the use of wires. Through trial and error he steadily improved the distances he was able to send a signal, and soon outgrew his attic laboratory.

Within a year, Marconi was able to transmit a telegraph signal a distance of two miles. By 1897, he had increased the distance to 15 miles, proving that man-made and natural obstacles did not interfere with the transmission of radio waves.

And the hotel itself:

In order to achieve a signal powerful enough to cross the Pacific Ocean, a new, more powerful station was built on the Marin Coast. This station was designed and constructed by J.G. White, a New York engineering firm. All Marconi’s transoceanic stations were “duplex” stations, geographically separated complexes for transmitting and receiving. The geographic separation was necessary because the noise of transmission obstructed clear reception. All these stations were nearly identical in construction. The imposing, two-story staff and visitors’ hotel with its wide veranda is the centerpiece of the receiving station. In addition to its thirty-five rooms – ten complete with private baths – the hotel boasted such comforts as a library, game room, lounge, and dining hall. Flanking the hotel to the left are two single-story bungalows for the chief and assistant engineers. To the right lies the powerhouse that contained the boiler, transformers, storage batteries and a workshop. The operations building, located a short distance from the bungalows, housed the receiving and printing equipment as well as the station’s administrative offices.

All the buildings are similar in architectural style, which might be described as Mediterranean Revival with Craftsman allusions.

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: WP Frank