A ripple of energy was building within the crowd like that of static electricity. On this warm September evening, residents of the greater whole of Santa Fe and the surrounding area had packed themselves onto an athletic field in the northern part of the city to witness a yearly tradition. Of the thousands of people present, perhaps the ones in most awe were the 18 Castleton State College southwest pioneers.Zozobra is an annual tradition for the great city of Santa Fe in which they celebrate the passage of summer to fall with the burning of old man gloom, a forty-foot tall paper giant loaded to the brim with fireworks.
“Everyone in the city comes here to jam out to good live music and to just have a good time and celebrate” said student Rain Nissen-Reilly. “Tom Petty cover bands and fire dancers who light 40-foot paper giants on fire would be pretty entertaining to most people I would think. It certainly was for me!”
The event also marked the beginning of Fiesta de la Santa Fe, a weekend long festival in which vendors, artists, street musicians, and food purveyors of all sorts gather within the central plaza to celebrate their heritage.
This would also be the last full week in which the Castleton semester in Santa Fe group would remain in the city before embarking on two incredible anthropological expeditions.
Chaco Canyon, the first, is located in the middle of an arid, extremely hot desert 12 miles down a stretch of bumpy dirt road off the main highway and houses some of the oldest and most perplexing Native American ruins in the Southwest.
Braving the long, blistering four days in the Canyon, students successfully learned about the culture of the site by moving from ruin to ruin and bonded further through comfortable nights in their campground.
“There were a few days where your motivation was just to get more water,” student and videographer Nathan Dunn said. “But having gone there, we got to experience something that only a handful of people get to see, and that makes me grateful to be here with this group of awesome people.”
The next trip, to Mesa Verde, offered an atmosphere quite the opposite. Located atop a vast Colorado plateau further north, the group would this time be climbing 15-foot tall ladders along precarious cliff faces to reach ruins embedded high above canyon floors.
Although the second day brought heavy rains, fog, and a late night thunderstorm that destroyed almost half of the group’ site, both students and professors alike remained stalwart against seemingly unyielding odds.
“We’ve already gotten to see and do so many things in the course of just four weeks here” says student Zachary Richards. “Why the hell would a little rain stop us from doing what we’re good at?”
In the upcoming weeks the Santa Fe students will have more challenges to come with three more outings in the works, including a potential visit to the Grand Canyon.