Charlie, who has a strong connection with the past, insisted on taking me to visit the De Vargas Street House while we were in Santa Fe, the capital of the southwestern state of New Mexico, and the oldest capital in the United States. As you can probably guess, the city’s name means Holy Faith in Spanish. The city of under a million inhabitants seems timeless with its old adobe homes and stimulating blend of Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultures. Nomadic Indians arrived in this mountainous high desert area in around 10,000 BCE and their descendants were the original settlers of the area and also the architects of the adobe structures and Pueblo styles such as the one that we visited. Members of Native American pueblos have inhabited the area since 1050. The house we visited represents all the past struggles for power and dominance. The foundation of the house dates back to the 13th century, when it was a pueblo. The Native Americans who built the pueblo left it in the early 1400s, long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived. And when the Spanish did arrive early in the 16th century, they moved into the abandoned pueblo. They brought Tlaxcalans with them, and those warriors also ended up moving in and forming their own community. The Tlaxcalans were the fierce Indians who allied with the Spaniards against the Aztecs, and helped to destroy the Aztec empire. They stayed until 1680, when the Pueblo Revolt took place. That was the year when the Pueblo Indians overthrew Spanish rule in New Mexico for 12 full years. The Spanish ended up retreating, and the warriors went with them. Eventually, many of them returned, and Apache and Navajo natives also moved in. This little house, just as the state of New Mexico, was at different times claimed by the Spanish Empire, Mexico, and the United States. Up until the 1920s, it was continually occupied by different ethnic groups, which represented all the diverse cultures of the city and state. The house has been renovated, of course, but it still has dirt floors and the original foundation. Today it is a museum, and Charlie felt right at home with its small doors and windows, which were built that way because of the desert heat, and also because people were smaller when it was originally built.
Tattoos have been around for more than 5,000 years. Egyptians, for example, used tattoos to differentiate between peasants and slaves, a kind of social branding. But ink art, which is what some fans like to call tattooing, has really exploded in the past 25 years. But not all of us have succumbed to this fad. And many of us who don’t have a tattoo have a favorite mug. Having a tattoo or becoming attached to a mug are not dissimilar. According to research, 60% of Americans say they have an emotional attachment to a favorite mug. And about 40% said their special mug was irreplaceable, and about 1/3 of those said they would be devastated if it broke. Personally, I think that most of these people don’t have tattoos. Mugs and tattoos are both an extension of our personalities, and both express the way we would like the world to perceive us. That is not to mention, of course, that those of us who have tattoos or mugs are often irrationally attached to them.