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LAMY, NEW MEXICO
April 19, 2015
 
Our driver was shouting over his shoulder at us all the way from Santa Fe. He's very hard of hearing.

SEE THAT NOTCH UP THERE AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN? THATS WHERE THEY GOT ALL THE LIMESTONE FOR THE CATHEDRAL OVER IN SANTA FE. DID YOU SEE IT?

YES, WE DID, I shouted back. BEAUTIFUL!

ARCHBISHOP LAMY BUILT IT ABOUT 150 YEARS AGO. THATS WHY THEY NAMED THE TOWN AFTER HIM.

Lamy has 218 residents, according to the latest census. I'm pretty sure that it hasn't had many more than that, ever. The nearest town of any size is Eldorado, about eight miles from here. That's where people buy their groceries and where children go to school. There's a saloon across the dirt parking lot from the train station, but it's been closed for a while. I peeked in the window and saw a gorgeous old mahogany bar, an upright piano in the corner of the room, wooden chairs and tables. It could have been the set for Kitty's saloon in "Gunsmoke." A museum stands next to the saloon: "Open by Appointment" reads the paper sign on the door, and there is a phone number to call.

THE ARCHBISHOP SPENT A LOT OF TIME OUT HERE. THAT WAS BEFORE THE TRAIN CAME IN -- THEY BROUGHT ALL THAT STONE DOWN AND HAULED IT OVER THERE IN WAGONS. TOOK FIVE YEARS. .

THAT MUST HAVE TAKEN A LOT OF WAGONS, I shouted.

There wasn't really a town here at all before the archbishop hatched his plan to relocate all that rock. Just some people chronically in need, I'm guessing, who had gotten five years of steady work thanks to him, and were glad of it. The stone itself is a forgotten symbol of the strained relationship the archbishop, born and trained in France, had with the people in his new archdiocese. Both the cathedral and its companion, the Loretto Chapel, stand out in Santa Fe: they are elegant stone structures in the European style, while virtually every other building there is adobe. Lamy viewed many of the Mexican clergy in his diocese with suspicion, and they returned the compliment-- he had to hand-deliver the papal letter appointing him to the previous incumbent (a fifteen-day trip on horseback) before the locals would agree to recognize his authority, and that agreement was both grudging and fragile.

GOT OUR TWO CHAIRS READY? the driver shouted to another elderly man waiting outside the station. And to me, WE SIT HERE EVERY DAY TO WATCH THE TRAIN!

The train was an hour late, but it finally arrived and we got on, westward across New Mexico toward Albuquerque. Today Santa Fe is proud of Archbishop Lamy's neo-Gothic line in the sand -- it is a beautiful building, and they have enough distance from its troubled beginnings to appreciate it now for what it is. All human conflict is like that -- wait long enough, and it takes its place in the past. It must, or we will have no room for a future.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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