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As you drive towards Sky City, we are greeted by Enchanted Mesa.  The top of Enchanted Mesa was once occupied by the Acoma people.  Today, the top of the mesa is off-limits to everyone.
The mission church on top of Acoma mesa was built by the slave labor of the Acoma people under the orders of the Spanish conquerors.  Construction of the church was begun in 1698.  All the rocks and dirt for mortar used in the construction were hauled from the valley floor by hand.
Despite Catholicism being forced on the Acoma people by the Spanish, the church today plays a vital part in their spiritual practices.  They have combined the church’s teachings with their own traditional beliefs.  Mass is celebrated in the old mission church twice a year on feast days.
Adobe architecture was developed in Africa and spread around the Mediterranean world.  Traditionally the Native Americans in the SW used stone and mud mortar.   After the Spanish introduced adobe to the Pueblo Indians, they began incorporating it in their buildings.
The Santa Maria de Acoma Mission Church is on the valley floor, not on the mesa top.  It was built in 1933 in traditional Spanish Colonial style from the native sandstone.  It is not open to the public, but it is lovely to photograph on the exterior.
The views from on top of Acoma mesa are just spectacular.  There are no guardrails or other barricades around the edge of the mesa, so extreme caution is necessary when exploring and photographing.
The Ice Cave near Grants, NM is a remarkable geologic formation that for centuries was used as a source of ice and refrigeration for the Native Americans and the Spanish settlers.  Today, no ice is taken out and it being preserved for the enjoyment of visitors..
Part of the fun in western NM is a drive along the actual roadway of historic Route 66.  Many old signs and abandoned businesses remain from the days when Route 66 was the Mother Road, the path to imagined riches in California.
Ventana Arch and the other sandstone bluffs create an alien landscape south of Grants, NM.
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