By CHARLES ANDREWS
ADOBE NOT IVY
Would describe the look of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, which finally, if reluctantly, granted me a degree, after a nearly decade-long on-again off-again undergrad career.
(Hard to put off getting drafted into the Army during Viet Nam, or the opportunity — tiny windfall — to travel Europe for a year in a VW camper.
Being married and a father at 22 was a bit of a distraction too.) “Offering a distinctive campus environment with a Pueblo Revival architectural theme, the campus buildings echo nearby Pueblo Indian villages,” is the way they officially describe it.
We who come from New Mexico are usually dang proud of our tri-cultural heritage. First and foremost, we love our unique cuisine: sopapillas (with honey, of course), posole, pinons, blue corn enchiladas, biscochitos, and anything made with our famous homegrown green and red chiles (NOT “chili” — that’s Texas, son, a place and state of mind New Mexicans are mostly none too fond of) — carne adovada, chile rellenos, cornbread, green chile stew, huevos rancheros with “Christmas” (when you can’t decide between red and green on any dish, you order both and “Christmas” solves the problem deliciously).
We revel in the amazing, goes-on-forever sky and the most spectacular sunsets you can find anywhere on earth. We love our lobos and coyotes, the mythical thunderbird and the strange but real roadrunner, our state bird (that would rather run than fly — that’s okay, pequena, we embrace the peculiar in the Land of Enchantment).
AS FOR HUMANS
Either born or lived a significant period of time in NM: authors Tony Hillerman (chaired the Journalism Dept.
when I was at UNM), D.H. Lawrence, N. Scott Momaday, Rudolfo Anaya, Edward Abbey, George R.R. Martin, Robert Crichton and Charles Fletcher Lummis, painters Georgia O’Keefe, Peter Hurd, Nicolai Fechin and R.C. Gorman, Pulitzer-winning war correspondents Bill Mauldin and Ernie Pyle, Cochise and Geronimo, Conrad Hilton, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, music’s James Mercer, Norman Petty, MJQ’s John Lewis, John Denver and Jim Morrison, Hollywood’s Mike Judge, Dennis Hopper, Julia Roberts and Bill Hanna, rocket man Robert H. Goddard, fashion’s Tom Ford, current politicos Bill Richardson and Janet Napolitano, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, racing’s Unser family, and we can’t forget the beloved mustachioed TV weatherman-science guy Dr. George Fischbeck.
We love the endless stretches of mesmerizing flat desert punctuated by mesas, the soaring mountains, White Sands, the Rio Grande and the mind-blowing Carlsbad Caverns, ancient ruins and the old church at Taos and the hot air balloon fiesta, and pueblo feast days and dances. The pueblo art is unique, beautiful and culturally significant.
I have kachinas and Acoma and other pottery in my home. A whole lot of place names are Spanish, mostly pronounced correctly.
WE LOVE THAT ENGLISH
AND Spanish are the official languages of government, unique among the 50 states — oh wait, that’s a popular misconception. But it was true when I was a kid. The state constitution, written in 1911, wouldn’t have passed without that provision, but it was only good for 20 years, renewed a couple of times. But many accomodations still exist, by law.
If you’re picked for a jury and can’t speak English (only Spanish, or Navajo, or some
Pueblo tongue), you’ll get a translator.
Another lore we grew up with in Albuquerque was our doomsday scenario: everyone knew there were incredible piles of atomic bombs stored at a secret Air Force facility in the Manzano Mountains at the edge of town (true: largest stockpile in the world), and a direct hit would obliterate most of a four-state area. It actually seemed kinda cool that we were such a target for the cold war Ruskies. Yeah, they’d go for Albuquerque first. (Take that, LA and New York.)
But back to UNM and those gorgeous adobe-style buildings.
UNM is pretty old. 1889. Its first building (and only building for 10 years), Hodgin Hall, stuck up like a hitchhiker’s thumb on the flat landscape of dusty old Albuquerque. Built Richardsonian Romanesque style in 1892, it was reborn in 1908 in it present adobe style, and everyone liked it so much it spread across the campus.
But those are slowly disappearing now, I noticed on my last trip back in September, being demolished and replaced with shiny glass and steel ones. ¡Que lastima! Don’t you know when you’ve got a good thing? In a land considered ancient in the US, where is the respect for history and tradition, especially when it’s so distinctive and aesthetically pleasing? Must you look like everywhere else?
WHAT ABOUT SAMOHI?
Santa Monica High School is five years older than UNM. Its list of famous grads would almost equal that of the whole state of NM. Are its buildings historic, beloved, famous? My daughter was horrified to learn of the 35-year plan to remake Samohi by tearing down nearly every building now there. “What?! Every time I watch ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ I smile — that’s MY high school! They can’t do that!”
Well, it’s already moving forward, with a total campus remake that will leave only
Barnum Hall, the Greek Theater, and the new Innovation Building standing.
Everything else will be… history. But history for the books, not for the living. How many hundreds of thousands of students have spent an important part of their lives in those buildings?
Do we really want to make Samohi unrecognizable?
Come on, every place except the USA values its history and restores and renovates buildings that matter. But there’s more money to be made in tearing down and building new.
This is an initial study, the SMHS Campus Plan Project, and though most of these things are decided behind closed doors long before the public gets to see the plans and “comment” on them, the school district is soliciting public response, by Nov. 27.
Once our history is torn down, it’s gone forever. Or what?
I know the school desperately needs to be modernized, but Rome, London and Paris seem to be doing just fine in the 21st century in their adapted ancient buildings.
Study the plans, online now, and send your thoughts by email to the school district, or to Carey Upton, Chief Operations Officer, email@example.com, 310-399-5865 x79383.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Red, or green?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If we don’t care about our past, we cannot hope for the future… I care desperately about saving old buildings.” — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org