How Flagstaff embraces the story to write itself.

By: Carlos Dragonné

The real reason for my trip to northern Arizona was slightly modified by the global warming. The winter that never came, took me away from the mountain and I did save the skis for another year -although I have in mind a destination before the end of the season – but it gave me the opportunity to discover the spaces where you hide a target that, for many, it is a simple scale and that, ironically, for many it was the point where, in the middle of the mountain, set up the culture that would provide the basis and strength for many other things. Welcome to Flagstaff.

The dawn in the Coconino Forest has the romantic charm that will attach to any awakening in the middle of the mountain in winter. The steam that comes out of the natural way of the coffee cup with which to welcome the day; the animals visitors on the ledge of the window; the cold that motivates you to seek shelter… But you have to go out and explore the Historic Route 66 and walk away, about 15 minutes from the small college town to get to the Walnut Canyon State Park.

Here, hundreds of years ago, communities of native americans -Hoppi, Zuni and Navajo to be more specific – they made their home in the steep canyon, creating a show that plays with our imagination trying to embrace the idea of what they had to live to achieve the day-to-day. Having previously heard a little of this episode in the history of Arizona at the Riordan Mansion, due to the efforts of the brethren for safeguarding the vestiges that used to be poached by those who were in the process of populating Flagstaff, come down and find me sitting in spaces that were home to families in conditions that we would today call “rugged” makes me question the sense of what we are leaving to learn.

And it is then that I understand that this journey has tried to reconnect with the base of that which makes us not immediate, that builds us as a family and that gives us identity as a society. The Hoppi built its history through the words that were in these caves and the traditions that were surviving each time with greater complication and disappearing with some ease in the maelstrom of the NINETEENTH century and the beginning of the TWENTIETH century.

Here, in these stones that were homes, in these caves that no one can escape the cold, I can imagine the warmth of entire families around their legends, with the protection of the spirits that were represented in the Kachinas, a kind of equivalent to our nahuales, concerned with the day-to-day and, at the same time, because of the importance of their culture and their families.

And I wonder where you got the traditions and the defense of the stories told and by telling the native american tribes of the united States. Then, when I come back to the city, with the mind in the search for answers, I detour and take the road that thousands of mexicans heading to the Grand Canyon have been taken. Only that was only about 5 miles after starting, I stop at my destination: Northern Arizona University Museum.

I think that for anyone it is a secret that I am not very fond of spending my days in museums. However I had been warned that the mission of this division of NAU was fair to the preservation and dissemination of the traditions of the tribes that interest me. And that you had to add that, in origin, being part of an educational institution, the importance of the dissemination of the diversity was inscribed in their DNA.

This space is a journey about traditions that lead us to the lives of the cultures that have called me and that have brought me here. It is then that I realize that, as I advance, the photographs that I teach traditions of growth, rites of passage, evolution and learning are recent, very recent. Even in the last few years and I understand the greatness of these communities that have managed to adapt and keep his legacy alive in the midst of a TWENTY-first century that, at times, seems determined to leave behind everything without having learned anything.

There, in the halls of NAU, I can see closely the representation of those spirits that feed to the old and wise men of different traditions; the collars of silver that represent the growth of hunters or the conquest of the heart of women who will have to take with force the reins of the family. There, among photographs of women nixtamalizando as part of the rituals of adulthood, I understand that Arizona is, at the time, the place where understand the origin and the challenge facing every day the sounds of tribes that refuse to be turned off.

Because that seems to be one of the challenges which meets NAU, as part of the philosophy college, which fuels the life and the heartbeat of this place: to shorten the distances not only with the past but with the present that seem to want to turn away more and more each day. Behold, the tourist value of a place like Flagstaff, so the more that show the more beautiful, and make up a destination’s great about Arizona, what happens is a day by day of what will generate the visions of those who fill the streets and the classrooms at the same time.

I climb the road that leads me to the highest point of Flagstaff: Lowell Observatory. From the same place where they discovered Pluto in 1930, I see how it has been extended under this mountain. And I think that since 1876, when it was founded the first settlement of this city, until the day of today in which the research has led the professors to define the coordinates of the Mars Rover from the university building that I can see despite the night, there is something that has not been and will not be forgotten: the history. Because, after all, you can’t keep history in the making if you don’t respect the origin of the own.

To read anything more from our trip to Arizona, den-click here.