Those bags with sand and candles that are a New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition; the correct name for them is farolitos.

Often farolitos are called luminarias. Lumanarias traditionally were actually small bonfires.

Farolitos (literally “little lanterns”) replaced lumanarias (“altar lamps”) as towns became more densely populated. The purpose of both was to light the path to midnight mass.

Farolitos are the coolest Christmas decoration ever, especially when whole neighborhoods line their sidewalks, driveways and even roof-lines with them. (Electric versions are common and can be found throughout the season. The real deal are candles and displayed only on Christmas Eve.)

Buy some sand (for ballast), some votive candles and some lunch bags and bring a beautiful New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition to your neighborhood this year. Get your neighbors to join you. You could become famous if it’s never been done in your area. And the kids love it.

Why I Like Living in Albuquerque

Seven years ago, driving along Tramway across Sandia Pueblo, I was reminded of one of the best things about living in Albuquerque. I began to think, NewMexiKen you can live anywhere, why do you stay here?

There are a lot of ways to answer a question like that. One way is to make a list.

These aren’t the only reasons, and they aren’t in any particular order, but these are ten that came to mind.

  1. The weather, except sometimes in March and April. Four seasons, all of them distinct, none of them oppressive, or too long. And September and October — amazing!
  2. The food, red and green — and sopapillas with honey.
  3. The Rio Grande, though we fail to do anything with it. A historic river — third longest in America — how about a river walk with cafes and shops (tastefully and environmentally correct, of course)?
  4. The Plaza. Not as historic as Santa Fe, or even Taos. Still it’s always inviting and often filled with people celebrating a wedding at San Felipe de Neri. In other words, while a tourist attraction, it’s still “our” plaza.
  5. Santa Fe, Taos, Chaco Culture, Pecos, Valles Caldera and more, world-class tourist venues that are day trips for us.
  6. The sky, whether bluer than blue, or lit dramatically by sun or twilight, or with clouds, white or dark. Our sky is always something to behold, most gloriously at sunrise over the mountains and sunset over the volcanoes.
  7. The pueblos nearby with their cultures, feasts and dances.
  8. The Sandia mountains right here, rising a mile right above us (and the tram).
  9. The diversity of people. It’s a community without a majority population.
  10. The Indian land north and south of the city, the National Forest land (and wilderness) east of it. If it weren’t for the permanently undeveloped land that surrounds so much of Albuquerque, I fear it all would look like Phoenix.

And a few more.

  • The Buckhorn, The Owl and Los Ojos, the funkiest saloons with the best green chile cheeseburgers anywhere.
  • The Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge and the Festival of the Cranes.
  • The Sunport.
  • Living, as I do, at 6,000 feet above sea level.

And one visual aid.

The Wages of Sin Were a Little Low

New Mexico Magazine had this item for May 19th. It took place in 1893.

Clandestine leader Vicente Silva kills his wife north of Las Vegas and hires five henchmen to dispose of her body. Dissatisfied with the paltry $10 payment each, they also rob and kill Silva. Two years pass until the Silva deaths are known. Silva ran a prosperous business by day and at night he was the leader of a feared outlaw gang.

Why We Like Red or Green

Found this in a 1992 New Yorker article about chiles and New Mexican cuisine.

According to scientists who have studied the effects of fiery food, a very hot chili sends the nervous system into a state of panic, and the brain reacts by flooding the distressed nerve endings with endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers—a sort of friendly morphine. The sudden shot of endorphins is what transforms the pang of hot food into pleasure, and also what makes it considerably more tolerable after the first few bites.

The article, by Jane and Michael Stern, is not available online.

First posted here May 2, 2008.

Ah Choo!

Cottonwood Canopy

The Rio Grande Cottonwood, a welcome sight to pioneer desert caravans because it often signaled water, typically reaches 50 to 60 feet in height, with a trunk of three feet in diameter. Some of the grand old cottonwoods in the Rio Grande Valley have reached 90 feet in height, with trunks five feet across. In open areas, the tree may divide into branches near its base, producing a spreading crown. . . .

The Rio Grande Cottonwood reproduces by seeding, unlike many other flood-plain trees which regenerate by sprouting. It flowers in the spring, before it leafs out. It releases its seeds, each carried by downy white tuft, or “parachute,” in anticipation of traditional spring floods and winds, the principal mechanisms for dispersion. A mature Rio Grande Cottonwood can produce as many as 25 million seeds in a season, covering wide areas with a blanket of “cotton.”

Rio Grande Cottonwood – DesertUSA