A mesa is a table and it is also an elevated landform standing above the floor of the desert. For the Acoma it is also a home.
Yesterday at the Acoma village atop a mesa in western New Mexico, our guide explained his tribe's history to us tourists. We had driven off I 40 about 20 miles then boarded a small bus to climb to the top of the mesa.
As he led us past 900 year old homes where 35 families live here year-round. No electricity, no running water. Today there are soar powered communal showers and restrooms installed at the edges of the mesa. He told us of the move the Acoma made centuries before from a mesa nearby. A storm destroyed the steep stairs to the top of the mesa and the tribe sent out scouts in four directions to find their new home, where we now stood.
Children sped past us running to greet our guide with leaps and hugs. He greeted them warmly and led us through the village telling us about Acoma history and the contact with the Spanish military and religious. He spoke of the cruelty of the slavery the Europeans had imposed to build the Catholic Church here, but he included the education and care received by the Acoma people from the Franciscans in particular.
The mesa, like an island in an ocean of sky and endless desert, gives its people protection and a place to call their own. The survival of its residents through centuries of storms and invasion from foreign forces were reminders of the timeless qualities that drive our existence, such as faith and perseverance.
As we ended our tour, residents set up tables outside their homes to sell us samples of their beautiful pottery and jewelry. I had decided to leave my money in the car 350 feet below, so instead of shopping I scanned the horizon for the last time this visit before hopping back on the bus.
I was lost in the stillness and beauty of the moment when I was abruptly returned to the 21st century. A movement over my head caught my eye and I turned to see an Acoma man stretching his arm up, holding a smartphone and waving it in the air to catch a signal for the credit card purchase he was processing.