Travel Guide to New Mexico

This guide tells you what you need to know about customs, culture, and weather when you travel to New Mexico.
By Rebecca Cecily St. John from Athanesia by way of Helix
July/August 1970
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There will be only enough for the people here and for the towns and farms we already have. The Navy says it takes a minimum of seven gallons of water per day to sustain a man.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/NATALIA BRATSLAVSKY


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We don't have magic wands in New Mexico.

If we could make it all beautiful, we would start with what we have. We would give the land peace and give the land water.

The snow pack in the mountains here this year is bad news. It is from 35 percent to 38 percent below average. Even in a normal year, this is one of the driest states in the country.

Water will be short this summer. There will be only enough for the people here and for the towns and farms we already have. The Navy says it takes a minimum of seven gallons of water per day to sustain a man. In New Mexico, labor camps by law must allow 35 gallons per man, per day for survival. It takes more water here to survive. This year, there will be barely enough.

With a dry summer, the government—which owns about 75 percent of the land here—closes the forest because of fire hazard. Even in wet years, there is a fourteen day camping limit for everyone. During the dry years when the fire hazard is high, no camping is allowed. Some years all but the paved roads on government lands are closed. That happened in '67.

This means camping will be limited, which is a hangup because it's hard to find a place to live, and there's nothing available for rent. Most places are full, and the ones that aren't rented are $125 and up a month. There's no place to crash. The communes have mostly closed their doors, and the rest of the heads won't take anyone but friends.

If you're coming, at least don't be like the teeny boppers and the trippers that came before. Be able to take care of yourself so you won't put the locals up by being stupid.

The nights are cold, even in the summer. Bring heavy work clothes, a warm sleeping bag, and some heavy work boots or shoes. Bring staples like rice and other food that won't spoil. The markets are limited. Bring implements like a shovel and axe so you can help yourself when you have trouble. You can use the shovel to dig latrines. Bring a tent or a canvas tarp for shelter when you can't find a place to sleep or live. Bring halizone tablets to purify the water so you won't get sick, and bring your own eating and cooking utensils.

Bring bread. There aren't any jobs. There's not much bread. Almost everyone trades for what he wants. Bring a kerosene-type stove. If the fire hazard is bad, no one is going to let you light a fire.

Before you come (if you come), learn about the locals.

There are three cultures here and you are not in the majority. Here, you're in the minority like every other Anglo.

The Spanish Americans value respect and dignity. They are insulted by newcomers, especially heads, making remarks and not understanding the way things are. Mother, church, home and family are the important things, and you should never insult them.

Most important, they are Spanish Americans, not Mexicans. Don't call them Mexicans, because they aren't.

If you are trying to buy land, you should be cool about it with the Spanish-Americans. They are poor people and they resent someone waving around a lot of bread. And remember, there's not much land left here to buy.

The Indians are another piece. Just because you have beads and feathers they are not inclined to accept you as their long lost brothers and sisters. It's very insulting to the Indians to see hips dressed like Indians. Don't steal other peoples' customs. It's ridiculous and maudlin to them.

The basis of the entire Indian culture is tradition. Change comes slowly if at all. Remember, you've come to learn something—not to teach—and you learn on their time, at their speed.

Don't trespass on Indian land, and don't visit sacred Indian shrines unless you are invited by a sober Indian.

The Anglos here are all new people, even the straight. We all got here last, but the straights have most of the bread and a lot of them won't serve hips in their restaurants and won't sell to the hips.

The communes are almost all closed to newcomers. They are overcrowded and most places don't welcome new people. There is a 1-day visit limitation currently in effect. They have been burned. Most of them came here to do something, and it's hard to work around people trying to crash. If you want to do something, do it yourself. Don't shoulder in on someone else's thing. You can do the same thing they've done in Montana, Utah, Nevada and other places on your own.

If you have an infectious disease, don't come. There are two hospitals to serve a county as big as L.A. county, and they are understaffed and they don't have any money. A lot of doctors turn hips away. People out here don't have much bread. Even the doctors, who treat a lot of the Spanish-Americans free.

Don't burn people. If you don't have the money, don't take their goods.

Be cool in everything, everywhere.


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