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  • Writer's pictureE. Rael-Galvez

Imagining New Mexico in 1950

Updated: Jun 30, 2018

Because of the work that Chainbreaker Collective has been doing to address issues of gentrification and displacement, some policy makers are finally taking notice and some organizations are beginning to engage the imperatives. Although it is the present realities that we need to address in places like Santa Fe, the conversation in some circles seems to have turned to the future. As a negotiator of past, present and future, and on these issues specifically, this made me think of reflections that were made by a leading Spanish language editor in the early 20th century. More than one hundred years ago, in 1908, Enrique Salazar wrote an imaginative story entitled “New Mexico in 1950.”

Employing humor and satire, Salazar creates a tale of a New Mexican Hispano who dies at the beginning of the 20th century and is able to return to life fifty years later. When he returns, the former resident of Santa Fe wanders across New Mexico, informing himself of the changes that have come to his homeland. Like any good futurist, Salazar has his traveler inform his readers on the questions of politics, demographics, industry, agriculture, government, the military and the fate of his people.

He enters NM from the north and finds that northern New Mexico is dotted by many new towns and has vast tracts of land under cultivation. The Taos Valley has a population of 200,000 residents living in several medium-sized cities and in the story, the inhabitants of Taos Pueblo Indians have evidently disappeared for the most part, and the few who remained in the valley, he notes, have abandoned their customs of their ancestors. Most people in the area are not of the same races that had inhabited the region in his own lifetime. The traveler reports seeing few Hispanos, only in remote sites, on unproductive land, did he find villages and settlements, inhabited by the ancient settlers of the land who had been pushed there by a wave of immigration of new settlers.

Arriving in Santa Fe, he is astounded by the changes he sees. Everything was transformed and its residents were new people that had come from other places. He learns that NM has finally become a state, but that Santa Fe is no longer its capital. New Mexico is now called "Pujacante," a name adopted at the behest of “several influential Eastern senators, who detesting the name New Mexico and who admired names of Indian tribes long since gone.

News of other changes greets the traveler in Albuquerque, a town washed away long ago by the flooding of the Rio Grande. The former residents of Albuquerque have built a new town downriver near Americanopolis, the new capital of the state. Over half a million people now live between Americanopolis and the border. He learns that Congress is comprised of two new political parties. The Imperialista party defends interests of business and the Laborante party defends interests of labor. The United States has been involved in several wars in the 20th century. It has a standing army of two million solider and the most powerful air force. Canada has become a part of the U.S. and three of Mexico’s northern states have only recently been annexed to the United States.

Salazar was standing at the edge, the dawning of a new century. Embedded in the his imaginative story was loss. That story is transcribed below, followed by the original Spanish.

New Mexico in 1950 [A Prophecy from 1908]

Spanish follows English translation. New Mexico in 1950 What a Visitor From Another World Observed in the State of Pujacante When He Returned to Visit His Old Hunting Grounds

Fifty years after his death a New Mexican Hispano who died in New Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century felt a desire to visit the land of his birth and of his death, the land of his share of suffering and joy, and he asked for and was given permission to journey to the land of the living, something that many other dead folk have done as writers of imaginary works, novelists and other respectable authorities relate. His name and history from his time in life need not be mentioned, nor are they important here. Suffice to say, that in life he was a man of much learning and experience and that he knew the condition of his homeland well from 1887 to 1900, the time in which he lived.

He entered the territory by crossing the northern border with the intent of visiting what had been the major localities of New Mexico in his day and with a true interest in knowing what had happened in the fifty years of his absence, since he hadn’t received the least bit of news, for in the spirit world newspapers are not published and those errant souls that did obtain permission to visit the places where they had lived never took up the subject of what was happening in the land of the living.

This inhabitant of the “other neighborhood” traveled with much interest through sites across the north. He found many new towns and vast tracks of land under cultivation. He also noted that all these new people had distinct features and were of a different race from those who had lived in these same places before. Only in remote and uncultivated places did he find villages and towns inhabited by the old settlers of the land. These had been tossed there, bit by bit by the wave of immigration of the new colonists. In general, his homeland did not seem to be richer nor more prosperous than in his own time, but there were many more people, and indications of misery and poverty could be seen in greater or lesser degree among most of them.

Absent were the large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep that were once seen in the countryside and, only once in a while, did one find small herds of animals on private lands. In this way he traversed the county once called Taos and everywhere he observed the same changes in the character of the population. The Taos Valley was filled with dense population and several towns having the appearance of medium-size cities could be seen. The Pueblo Indians had entirely abandoned the traditions of their ancestors. According to the information he was later given, Taos Valley had a population of 200,000 inhabitants and all were of different nationalities.

The visitor did not ask, nor was he told more until he got to Santa Fe, the city where he had lived. There several surprises awaited him. He was astonished at not finding even a trace of what had been the ancient capital. Everything was so changed and the residents were new people who had come from elsewhere. He learned that the descendants of the original settlers had been dispersed and had taken refuge in the remote villages and towns of the county and that another group of them lived in some dwellings a few miles from the city where they still managed to keep some of their ancient customs, but they kept to themselves and were completely apart from the general life of the rest of the people. He was also told that Santa Fe was no longer the capital of New Mexico and that the name “New Mexico” was nothing more than a memory, and that the homeland that he once embraced was now a state of the Union that was called Pujacante. He learned that it had been given that name because several influential Senators from the East hated the name New Mexico and, since they admired everything concerning the Indian tribes, they had fallen in love with the name Pujacante, which according to them, had a mysterious and ominous meaning related to the rituals and ceremonies of the Indians.

Because of this they were of the opinion that the name was highly original and very characteristic and on a par with the new state and, as they were the arbiters of this matter, they imposed the name on the new state so that the New Mexicans of old had no other name than that of Pujacantes.

When they told the visitor that Santa Fe was no longer the capital, he immediately thought that it would now be Albuquerque, but they responded “no,” saying that that city was very diminished because it had been flooded by the Rio Grande on two occasions and that a channel had dug through the plaza and this had caused most of the residents to flee the city. He was told that they had founded a new town near Belen. He also learned that when Santa Fe was removed as the capital city that the capital had been moved to Albuquerque but, in the wake of the damage caused by the river, it was moved to Americanoplis which was the new town established by the people of Albuquerque. The whole of middle Rio Grande Valley was so crowded with people that it was estimated that from Albuquerque to the border there were no fewer than half a million inhabitants. He was also told that San Miguel county was divided into four or five counties and that Las Vegas and other nearby townships had all become one large city having more than 100,000 residents.

Concerning other prevailing conditions in the state of Pujacante he was told that it had been divided into more than sixty counties and that its population, according to the last census, exceeded two and a half million residents. Since the visitor had been very involved in politics in his own life, he asked how the parties were doing and he was told that the Republican and Democratic parties no longer existed. Both parties, he was told, had been dismantled and the two new parties that replaced them where set apart by their position on capital and labor. That the party that defended capitalism was called the Imperialist Party and the other, the Laboring Party. And, he was informed, that the former was in power and held a majority in Congress; and also, that there now was a standing army of two million soldiers, that the American Navy was the most powerful in the world and that the United States also had an Air Force composed of flying machines that were powerful instruments of war. He learned that in the past fifty years the country had had several wars with powerful nations and had emerged the victor of each. He was told that Canada was now a part of the United States and that three states of the Mexican Republic had been annexed only a short time before.

The visitor was not at all happy at learning of the changes that had occurred in what had once been New Mexico and he rejected the offer to see the rest of the land and returned unhappy and full of woe to the land of shadows, resolving never to return, nor to seek to inform himself of what was happening in the land of the living, since he was certain that his feelings and memories would be trampled over by all that was happening.

Nuevo México en el año 1950 Lo que observó en el estado de Pujacante un alma del otro mundo que vino avisitar sus antiguas querencias.

Un Neo-Mexicano que murió en Nuevo México a principios del siglo veinte, a los cincuenta años de haber muerto, sintió deseos de visitar el país que lo vio nacer y morir, y donde disfrutó la parte que le correspondía de goces y penas, y pidió y obtuvo licencia para hacer jornada al mundo de los vivos—cual lo han hecho muchos otros, según cuentan los escritores de obras de imaginación, los novelistas y otras autoridades respetables. Su nombre e historia de antes no son necesarios ni vienen al caso. Basta decir que en vida fue hombre de bastante instrucción y experiencia y conoció muy bien el estado que guradaba su país natal desde el año 1887 hasta 1900, que fue el período de la duración de su existencia.

Entró al territorio por la frontera del norte con intento de visitar los puntos principales de Nuevo México de su tiempo y con viva curiosidad de saber lo que había pasado durante los cincuenta años de su ausencia, pues, no tenía la más mínima noticia porque en la morada de las almas no se publican períodicos, y las ánimas errantes que de vez en cuando obtenían licencia para volver al lugar donde vivieron nunca se ocupaban en dar cuenta de lo que pasaba en el mundo de los vivos.

El habitante del otro barrio recurrió con interés las localidades del norte y encontró muchas poblaciones nuevas y vastas áreas de terreno bajo cultivo, observando al mismo tiempo que toda aquella gente era de otro aspecto y de raza diferente a la que antes habitaba aquellos lugares. Unicamente en sitios apartados y poco productivos halló aldeas y poblaciones habitadas por los antiguos pobladores del país que poco á poco habían sido arrollados allí por la ola de inmigración de los nuevos colonos. Por regla general, el país no parecia más rico ni más próspero que en su tiempo, pero había mucha más gente, entre cuya mayoría se notaban señales de miseria y pobreza más o menos manifiestas. Echábanse de menos los inmensos rebaños de ganado vacuno y lanar que antes se veían en las campiñas y únicamente se observaban de vez en cuando pequeñas partidas de ganado en terrenos de particulares. Recorrió de esta manera los antes llamados condados de Taos y dondequiera se observaban los mismos cambios en el carácter de la populación. El Valle de Taos estaba llena de una populación dense y se veían varias plazas que tenían el aspecto de ciudades más o menos grandes. Los indios de los pueblos habían abandonado enteramente las costumbres de sus antepasados. Según le informaron después, el Valle de Taos tenía más de 200.000 habitantes todos ellos pertenecientes á diferentes nacionalidades.

El visitante no había preguntado ni se había informado de nada hasta que llegó a Santa Fe que era el punto donde vivó, y allí le esperaban varias sorpresas. Sorprendió no hallar ni traza de la antigua capital y que todo estaba trasformado y sus moradores era gente nueva que había venido de otras partes. Supo que los descendientes de los antiguos pobladores se habían dispersado refugiándose en aldeas y poblaciones remotas del condado y una pequeña proporción residía en caserías distantes algunas millas de la ciudad donde todavía conservaban algo de sus antiguas costumbres, aunque enteramente desviados de la vida común de la demás gente. Dijéronle también que ya Santa Fe no era la capital de Nuevo México y que el nombre de Nuevo México no era ya más de un recuerdo, y el país que antes abrazaba se había convertido en un estado de la Unión, que se llamaba Pujacante. Que le habían puesto ese nombre porque varios senadores influyentes del oriente detestando el nombre de Nuevo México y admirando sumamente todo lo que se relacionaba a las tribus indígenas, se habían enamorado del nombre de Pujacante, el cual, según ellos, tenía una significación misteriosa y terrible en los ritos y ceremonias de los indios.

Por tal razón opinaron que el nombre sería muy original y característico, y a la par, muy propia para el nuevo estado, y como ellos eran los árbitros del negocio plantaron el nombre al nuevo estado de manera que ya los neo-mexicanos de antes no tenían otro nombre que el de Pujacantes.

Cuando le dijeron al visitante que ya Santa Fe no era la capital, al punto se le ocurrió que sería Albuquerque, y le contestaron que no, que dicha ciudad estaba muy menoscabada por razón de que ya dos veces la había invadido el Río Grande y había hecho canal por la plaza; que esto había ahuyentado a la mayoría de la gente, la cual había fundado una plaza nueva cerca de Belén. Supo, además, cuando quitaron la capital a Santa Fe la trasladaron a Albuquerque, pero después de los estragos hechos por el río la misma fue mudada a Americanópolis, que era la plaza nueva fundada por los de Albuquerque.

Toda la parte central del Río Grande estaba tan atestada de gente, que se calculaba que desde Albuquerque hasta la frontera había nada menos que medio millón de habitantes. También le informaron que el condado de San Miguel estaba dividido en cuatro ó cinco condados y que las plazas de Las Vegas y las poblaciones circunvecinas se habían convertido en una gran ciudad que contaba más de 100. 000 habitantes.

Respecto a las demás condiciones prevalecientes en el estado de Pujacante le dijeron que estaba dividido en más de 60 condados y que su populación según el último censo excedía de dos millones y medio de habitantes. Como el visitante fue en su tiempo muy aficionado a política, preguntó como estaban ahora los partidos y le respondieron que no había partidos Republicano ni Demócrata; que ambos se habían demolido y desbaratado y se habían organizado dos partidos nuevos cuyos principios se destinguían por sus respectivas actitudes hacia al capital y el trabajo. Que el partido que defendía al capital se llamaba el Imperialista y el otro el Laborante; y que el primero estaba en poder y tenía mayoría en el Congreso; que ahora había ejército permanente conteniendo dos millones de soldados; que la marina de guerra americana era la más poderosa del mundo, y que los Estados Unidos tenían también una escuadra aérea compuesta de máquinas voladoras que constituían una arma potente en la guerra; que en los cincuenta años pasados, la nación había tenido varias guerras con naciones poderosas y había salido vencedora; que el Canadá formaba ya parte de los Estados Unidos y que tres estados de la República Mexicana habían sido anexados hacia poco tiempo a la Unión.

El visitante no quedó nada a gusto al saber los cambios que habían ocurrido en lo que era antes Nuevo México, y renunciando a visitar lo demás del país se volvió triste y pesaroso a la tierra de las sombras, tomando la resolución de no volver a procurar informarse acerca de lo que pasara en el mundo de los vivos, porque estaba seguro de ver ultrajados sus sentimientos y recuerdos con lo que estaba sucediendo.

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