“Ev­ery­one’s DNA is on that land.”

The Los Luceros story

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

ON a misty day deep in the gold-vein of fall, the bosque of flam­ing yel­low cot­ton­woods at Los Luceros seems to con­jure the ghosts of those who have passed through these 148 acres on the Río Grande. From Tewa farm­ers tend­ing ter­raced gar­dens to Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors us­ing the river bend as a mil­i­tary out­post, from Ma­bel Dodge Luhan pic­nick­ing on the grounds with D.H. Lawrence to Leonard Bern­stein play­ing a grand pi­ano gifted to the Casa Grande by John D. Rock­e­feller, from Hos­teen Klah and Mary Wheel­wright hatch­ing plans for a mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian to Muham­mad Ali din­ing river­side with Gre­gory Hines, the his­toric es­tate of Los Luceros might just house the spirit of New Mex­ico it­self, en­dur­ing as a cen­turies-old sym­bol of re­gional her­itage.

“Ev­ery­one’s DNA is on that land,” said Michael Wal­lis, who wrote the new book Los Luceros: New Mex­ico’s Morn­ing Star (Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press). “There are adobes in that pantry at Casa Grande that al­legedly date to 1598.” Wal­lis is the au­thor of 19 books, in­clud­ing last year’s best­selling The Best Land Un­der Heaven: The Don­ner Party in the Age of Man­i­fest Des­tiny. He presents his tome — which ex­am­ines the sto­ried his­tory of the es­tate in be­tween Gene Peach’s strik­ing full-page pho­to­graphs of Los Luceros through­out the sea­sons — at 1 p.m. on Sun­day, Nov. 11, at Los Luceros His­toric Prop­erty off State Route 68 in Al­calde. An­other pre­sen­ta­tion and sign­ing takes place 6:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day, Nov. 14, at Col­lected Works Book­store in Santa Fe, and Peach’s pho­to­graphs of Los Luceros are on view at the book­store through De­cem­ber.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have found thou­sands of ar­ti­facts at Los Luceros, in­clud­ing pot­sherds from Pioge, an An­ces­tral Pue­bloan set­tle­ment dat­ing back as early as 1200. By the mid-1500s, those peo­ple had moved a few miles south to a place they called Ohkay Owingeh, or the Place of the Strong Peo­ple. They would need their strength for 1598, when Span­ish con­quis­ta­dor Don Juan de Oñate made them swear loy­alty to the Span­ish Crown and es­tab­lished the nearby San Gabriel del Yunque, the first cap­i­tal of New Mex­ico.

His­to­ri­ans spec­u­late that the site served as a de­fen­sive out­post un­til the 1692 re­con­quest of New Mex­ico by Don Diego de Var­gas. Then, a land grant of more than 50,000 acres was made to Se­bastián Martín Ser­rano, a capitán of the de Var­gas force that had taken back the prov­ince. Martín and his wife, María Lu­ján, set­tled in the ru­ins of Pioge while they re­built a nearby adobe house. The cou­ple had 10 chil­dren and in­creased the rooms of the house from four to 24. Some ex­perts posit that the cur­rent Casa Grande was built on the site of Se­bastián Martín’s orig­i­nal res­i­dence.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have found thou­sands of ar­ti­facts at Los Luceros, in­clud­ing pot­sherds from Pioge, an An­ces­tral Pue­bloan set­tle­ment dat­ing back as early as 1200.

The set­tle­ment Martín had es­tab­lished, La Soledad, be­came Plaza de los Luceros or Rancho de los Luceros by the mid-1800s, as heirs be­gan to sell off their parcels and the ti­tle for the large part of the land grant passed from the Martíns to the Luceros. In 1846, while Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny’s Army of the West de­liv­ered New Mex­ico into the arms of the United States, a son of Los Luceros, Diego Ru­perto Archuleta, plot­ted a re­volt against the grin­gos. When the plot was un­cov­ered, Archuleta fled — but in Jan­uary 1847, when the Taos Re­bel­lion came to pass, U.S. sol­diers burned Archuleta’s res­i­dence at Los Luceros to cin­ders, de­stroy­ing what had pur­port­edly been the finest li­brary in all of New Mex­ico.

In the early 20th cen­tury, af­ter New Mex­ico achieved state­hood, the prop­erty was sold out of the fam­ily, but that mort­gage was even­tu­ally fore­closed upon and Los Luceros fell into dis­re­pair. “Then, in the early 1920s, a ray of hope ap­peared,” Wal­lis writes. “A woman from an aris­to­cratic Bos­ton fam­ily came to the res­cue of the sag­ging prop­erty on the Río Grande. Mary Cabot Wheel­wright, a pa­tron of the arts look­ing for a bit of ad­ven­ture, pur­chased Los Luceros.”

To­day, the Wheel­wright era of Los Luceros is known as the Re­nais­sance of the ha­cienda. Wal­lis tells the story of Wheel­wright’s 35 years at Los Luceros through a zigzag­ging tale of sev­eral ranches in what he calls “the king­dom of North­ern New Mex­ico” — many of them run by Carol Bishop Stan­ley, who sold Los Luceros to Wheel­wright. Wheel­wright’s stew­ard­ship of the ranch in­ter­sects with the sto­ries of sev­eral strong-minded women who made their marks on New Mex­ico be­gin­ning in the 1920s. “I think it’s im­por­tant to tell the story of that, what I would call cross-pol­li­na­tion, par­tic­u­larly start­ing in the 20th cen­tury, when the An­glo in­flu­ence was re­ally be­ing felt on the North­ern New Mex­ico cul­ture and way of life,” Wal­lis said. “All of those ranches touched each other be­cause of the peo­ple who were there.”

Ma­bel Dodge Luhan, doyenne of Los Gal­los in Taos, met the new owner of Los Luceros at a San Gabriel party hosted by Stan­ley and her hus­band, and soon in­tro­duced Wheel­wright to an in­flu­en­tial co­terie of writ­ers and artists. Santa Fe pain­ter Olive Rush came out to Los Luceros to paint whim­si­cal — and en­dur­ing — fres­coes on the sec­ond-floor fire­places, as Wheel­wright ren­o­vated the ram­shackle Ter­ri­to­rial-style Casa Grande, de­vel­oped gar­dens, and of­fered lodg­ing to her friend Hos­teen Klah, the Diné artist and medicine man with whom she would even­tu­ally found the Wheel­wright Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian. In 1934, a young woman named Maria Chabot ar­rived un­der the cot­ton­woods to pho­to­graph Wheel­wright’s Na­tive Amer­i­can art col­lec­tion. She struck up a friend­ship with the lady of the house that would last 25 years, and even­tu­ally came to man­age both Los Luceros and Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe’s Ghost Ranch.

Wheel­wright’s suc­ces­sors at Los Luceros, the art col­lec­tors Charles and Nina Col­lier, also ben­e­fited from the in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity of the New Mex­ico arts scene. Charles was the son of John Col­lier, a na­tion­ally known ac­tivist who cham­pi­oned the rights of Pue­blo In­di­ans. Charles Col­lier en­joyed a col­or­ful up­bring­ing dur­ing ex­tended stays in New Mex­ico in the 1920s and ’30s, and never for­got the im­pos­ing cot­ton­woods, the deep flow­ing río, and the el­e­gant Casa Grande he saw dur­ing his fam­ily’s oc­ca­sional trips to visit Wheel­wright. As a young man in 1934, he had been the first to show an­other fam­ily friend, O’Ke­effe, the majesty of the Chama River Val­ley, driv­ing the artist out in her Ford sedan to see the bad­lands near Ghost Ranch for the very first time. O’Ke­effe never for­got the fa­vor that changed her life, and in 1958, she re­turned it, no­ti­fy­ing Charles Col­lier that Los Luceros was for sale.

“The Col­liers were re­mark­able peo­ple,” said Wal­lis, who came to know the cou­ple and their es­tate in the early 1970s, when his fu­ture wife Suzanne was em­ployed at Los Luceros as a trans­la­tor for the Col­liers’ In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Iberian Colo­nial Art. While the post-Col­lier ex­is­tence of Los Luceros

con­tin­ued from Page 33 was check­ered by mis­man­age­ment, in 1999 the his­toric prop­erty was bought by Frank and Anne Perkins Cabot, dis­tant re­la­tions of Wheel­wright. The Cabots over­saw a care­ful re­build­ing of the un­sta­ble Casa Grande led by Santa Fe ar­chi­tect Bev­er­ley Spears. Spears en­listed adobe restora­tion ex­pert Ed Crocker to work on the orig­i­nal struc­tures of Los Luceros. “They are re­build­ing his­tory — brick by adobe brick,” said one on­looker dur­ing the early-2000s restora­tion pe­riod. The Cabots also fos­tered the es­tab­lish­ment of a 5,000-square-foot vis­i­tor cen­ter, com­mer­cial kitchen, and liv­ing quar­ters for a care­taker — a $3.5 mil­lion project in its sum. The wool sheared from the res­i­dent churro sheep was do­nated to a group of I tra­di­tional lo­cal women weavers, the gar­dens were brought back to life, and the land was cleared of non­na­tive in­va­sive plants and trees.

2008, the New Mex­ico Depart­ment of Cul­tural Af­fairs signed with the Los Luceros Foun­da­tion to pur­chase the prop­erty, ush­er­ing in a new era of as­sured cul­tural preser­va­tion. Af­ter Wal­lis was com­mis­sioned to write the story of Los Luceros by for­mer New Mex­ico His­toric Sites di­rec­tor Richard Sims, the au­thor spent a mem­o­rable Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber stay­ing in the more re­cently built River House next to the Río Grande, soak­ing up the am­biance of the vi­brant fall col­ors and abun­dant ap­ple har­vest. “I wanted to reac­quaint my­self with the land and the whole spirit of the place,” he said. “In the morn­ing, I’d get up quite early and take my cof­fee out­side on the top ve­randa, and look at the Río Grande lit­er­ally right be­low me, and watch the dance al­most ev­ery morn­ing of not only golden ea­gles, but bald ea­gles fish­ing those wa­ters. And then a lit­tle while later — it was al­most like clock­work — three ju­ve­nile coy­otes who lived down in the bosque would come ram­bling and sniff­ing by, and they’d kinda cut their eyes up at me.”

At first, Wal­lis was ap­pre­hen­sive about the state’s own­er­ship of the prop­erty. “When I heard the state bought it, I had mixed emo­tions, be­cause it could ei­ther be good or it could be the doom of Los Luceros. It just de­pended on what they did with it, how it was han­dled, who got cus­tody of it.” A 2009 project helmed by Robert Red­ford — to trans­form the prop­erty into an in­sti­tute that would of­fer job train­ing for Na­tive and His­panic film­mak­ers — col­lapsed in 2011, when Gov. Bill Richard­son left of­fice.

Wal­lis has since cau­tiously changed his tune. “I’m de­lighted that Cul­tural Af­fairs has em­braced this place — es­pe­cially now, with a change of lead­er­ship in New Mex­ico, there’s a chance for that morn­ing star to shine brightly again,” he said. “The state is wel­com­ing cam­era clubs, civic meet­ings to be held in the bot­tom of the River House, the an­nual open ap­ple har­vest for peo­ple, school­child­ren — I mean, what a tool that is for the kids.”

“It’s kind of like the Plaza in Santa Fe. The Plaza, I con­sider a stage for his­tory,” he con­tin­ued. “Los Luceros is the same kind of place. All kinds of things have hap­pened there. A lot of tears, a lot of joy, a lot of sorrow — the whole mix.” ▼ ▼ ▼

Clock­wise from top: Horses at Casa Grande and Mary Cabot Wheel­wright on bal­cony, Los Luceros, 1923, Wheel­wright Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian; Maria Chabot at Los Luceros on trac­tor, un­dated, Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum; Wheel­wright and Amigo at Los Luceros, 1924, Mary Cabot Wheel­wright Col­lec­tion; his­toric im­ages from Los Luceros: New Mex­ico’sMorn­ing Star, cour­tesy Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press

All con­tem­po­rary color pho­tos by Gene Peach from Los Luceros: New Mex­ico’s Morn­ing Star, cour­tesy Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.