Student Adventures Around The World

Albert Gonzalez

Albert, SMU-in-Taos

Albert is a University of Texas at Dallas graduate student engaged in historical research and archaeological training at SMU-in-Taos. He plans to become a historical archaeologist. For more information and photos, see Albert's personal blog site.

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June 23, 2006

It's been a while since my last post, I know. But a lot has happened since then. And the time to write has simply not materialized until now. In any case, I hope you can forgive the delay (and the textually impoverished post).

The Research Continues (if slowly):

I've continued interviewing people in the plaza, though the pace has slowed down a bit. My excuses: I caught a bug late last week, my brother visited me last weekend, and my wife arrived on Wednesday of this week (she's still here too), and I started my first excavation on Thursday. But, with the exception of the bug, I can't say that I mind the distractions.

I leave for Connecticut on Tuesday, so I probably won't post again until I get there.

June 12, 2006

Meetin' and Muddin':

The San Francisco de Asis church, an adobe structure, requires a good deal of upkeep, including an annual plastering (or "mudding," as the locals refer to it). The mudding is done by volunteers, and this year SMU-in-Taos sent some troops in to help out. The students and faculty that helped out did a fantastic job. I was really impressed.

The faculty members and I met with the parish priest while the students learned the basics of plastering. Our goal was to allay any fears the community might have with regard to the historical and archaeological research that's taking place. Frankly, I wasn't entirely sure that such a step would be necessary, as I truly did not anticipate any problems with the community. After all, who doesn't like history -- or archaeology??

Rejection:

I quickly discovered why meetings like this morning's are an absolute necessity. Communities that posses special and unusual features (like having one of the world's most famous churches smack in the middle of their neighborhood!) are approached by people interested in those features on a regular basis. I'm nothing new to them, in other words.

I tried this afternoon to set an appointment up with one of the neighborhood "old timers." But, to make a long story short, the guy didn't want to talk to me -- not now, not ever. And with good reason! Apparently, he's been burned multiple times in the past. I can't say I blame him for being cautious. I'll have to interview some other folks for now, but I hope that this guy changes his mind eventually. I have a feeling he might have more information than anyone else in the neighborhood with regard to the history of the plaza.

I think my greatest challenge will be convincing the people of the plaza that I'm not doing this for profit. They've had bad experiences in the past with people desperate to sell the plaza's history in one way or another (books, films, etc.). Unfortunately, it looks like these issues are going to affect my work. Well, I'm just going to have to deal with it!

Stay tuned...

June 08, 2006

New to the blog? Hereís the long to short:

Iím a (proud) UTD graduate student engaged in historical research and archaeological training at the SMU-in-Taos campus. Iím a history major, but I love archaeology and I hope to become a historical archaeologist one of these days. I plan to spend my time at Ft. Burgwin doing preliminary research on my masterís thesis and learning the basics of archaeology. I leave the fort on the 27th to start my ďofficialĒ field school in New London, Connecticut.

Competing Commitments:

What a week it's been! My research, my archaeological training, and my Dallas commitments are all competing for my attention right now, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.

The Historical Research:

A recent visit to the New Mexico State Historic Preservation office (SHPO) has kicked my research into high gear. I found a lot of good data there, though not without difficulty and I certainly didn't find all that I was looking for.

One of the functions of a historic preservation office is to house data tied to the historical significance of certain structures or historical "zones." Since Ranchos is registered with SHPO (pronounced *shippo*), they have a nomination on file. Ideally, all I should have had to do is visit their neatly ordered file room, pull the file, make the copies, and be on my way.

That was not the case.

The folks at the New Mexico SHPO, as nice as they are, appear to be strapped for cash, as all of the files are housed along the sides of hallways and in closets, and are in a state of perfect disorganization. I played stock boy for about an hour before I finally found the boxes I needed! Who says history isn't a physically demanding discipline!

A slight disappointment: I was hoping to find some leads on the history of the Plaza during the Spanish and Mexican period. But what I found instead were hundreds of docs tied to the plaza in the twentieth century alongside a few drafts of a nomination essay in which the periods I'm most interested in were quickly glossed over. It looks like I may have to write my master's thesis, the social history, on the plaza during the twentieth century.

Another slight disappointment: The box containing the nomination for the Turley's Mill site is missing! It's going to be pretty tough to start research on that project without it. What to do?

The Archaeological Training:

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I learned to use the old-fashioned compass this week for the first time! Sunday Eiselt, my archaeology instructor (and someone I now consider a friend), is doing everything she can to teach me the tricks of the trade before I start my field school in July. I'm learning not only how to use a compass, but also how to identify flakes, points, sherds, and even rock types that "don't belong." I'm not yet ready to refer to myself as an archaeologist, but I'm getting closer everyday.

My first field experience took place this week on an amazing piece of land called Petuca Wash. The wash is dominated by Basalt boulders and is covered in a sea of sagebrush. We visited the wash in order to document the presence of a few petroglyph panels. The "few" turned into much more than that by the end of the second day. We found glyphs ranging in age from 50 to 5,000 years, many of which have never before been seen by any other researchers.

I made my first archaeological discovery yesterday at the wash, a large "Puebloesque" figure abraded on the top of a boulder. That was one of the most thrilling moments of my life! My first find! Iím almost ready to buy a whip and a brown hat. In fact, I may soon demand that the other students call me ďIndy.Ē Thatís not going too far, is it?

The Dallas Commitments:

Iím the president of the UTD chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honor society. Weíve decided to start a graduate student journal, and Iím its managing editor (scary!). How I thought I could juggle all of these responsibilities this summer, I donít know! In any case, weíre trying to get this journal off the ground and Iím doing the best I can to run the show from Taos. Needless to say, itís darn tough!

If youíre a grad student at any college and you have a history paper you want to submit, click the following link to see the official call for papers: www.historyhonorsociety.com.

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