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Gallup, New Mexico is located about two hours west of Albuquerque right on I-40 and the old Route 66.
Same Space - Different Place: Gallup's Multiple Meanings Part 1. Tourist Gallup.
The footprint or physical geography of Gallup is easy enough for outsiders to understand. A 1959 road map reveals that Gallup was a strung-out sort of town. The main thoroughfare was the east-west corridor of Route 66 and the adjacent railroad tracks, both of which roughly paralleled the riverbed of the oft-dry Rio Puerco of the West. For the length of a sixteen block stretch of Route 66, the town's width was several blocks deep on either side of that thoroughfare. To the west of this central business district, there was still some development to the south of Route 66 but not to the north. Road maps themselves served as one form of place-making. City Planners drew up the 1959 road map just described to deal with the traffic problems of Gallup. The 1959 map is concerned with the traffic flow of Gallup, how quickly people moved through town and whether or not they stopped. In the era before the interstate highway reached Gallup, such concerns were paramount for some of Gallup's residents and visitors. Traffic on Route 66 needed to move quickly, so that tourists would not become so frustrated that they would use a different route on their return trip, or worse yet, tell their acquaintances to take an alternate route. At the same time, traffic should move slowly enough that the town had time to show itself off a little. Gallup residents owned many businesses designed to separate tourists and travelers from their money. If traffic moved too quickly, the tempting store windows, signs, and billboards would not get the exposure time necessary to create a demand. Consequently, much of downtown Gallup focused on this tourist business.
Tourist Gallup developed differently than many other western tourist sites in the twentieth century. Unlike Santa Fe or the Grand Canyon, Gallup did not attract national or international capital to support its tourist development. Instead, the only significant outside capital in town, the Santa Fe railroad, withdrew from the town when the company closed the El Navajo Hotel in 1957. The railroad cited diminishing passenger rail traffic and the associated decline in revenue as reasons for shuttering the elegant hotel's doors. The corporation did not attempt to sell the hotel or attempt to renovate. The structure was demolished and the site was incorporated into the city-sponsored widening of Route 66 as it passed through downtown. The road renovations helped carry the ever-increasing automobile traffic through town. These automobile tourists were not interested in the ornate decorations of the El Navajo, its walls covered in museum-quality replicas of traditional Navajo sandpaintings, its furnishings covered in luxurious leather, all accented with fashionable Deco Pueblo touches. Instead, they wanted gas, maybe food, and possibly a cheap, clean room for the night that just maybe had a television. These travelers were the bread and butter of the Gallup tourist trade.
There were certainly plenty of these tourists on whom to focus. In 1950, Gallup had a daily average of over 1600 out-of-state cars a day passing through town. Considering the town had slightly over 9,000 residents at the time, this visitation was significant. Peak traffic appears to have been during the months of June through October. Over the course of the decade, the average daily tourist traffic increased 26 percent to over 2,600 out-of-state cars. Gallup's population in the meantime increased by fifty-four percent to just over 14,000.  Even with the healthy growth in population, a key objective for Gallup businessmen was getting tourist vehicles to stop in town. "The tourists were here," they argued, but Gallup's businessmen had "to find a way to stop them."
In 1951, tourists entering the town along Route 66 from the east were immediately confronted by a sampling of Gallup's merchants' attractions designed to stop them. They passed the Arrowhead Lodge Motel, the Blue Spruce Lodge, the Casa Linda Motel and the El Capitan Motel. To gas their vehicles they could choose from the Hilltop, Hedges, Dick's Shell, or Reo's Conoco. Hilltop also had cabins for those who could not afford motels while Hedges offered a trailer court. Also on that initial entry, tourists passed the Park-N-Eat Cafe and they were lured by two Indian traders, Tee Pee and K & S. All this welcomed travelers before they reached the first cross-street.
If the travelers had more money, some of the downtown establishments were probably more to their liking. Gallup's two best hotels were located downtown. These were the El Rancho - preferred spot for movie stars shooting on location - and until 1957 when it closed, the Fred Harvey-affiliated El Navajo. Also choosing downtown locations on Route 66 were the proprietors of Richardson's Trading Company, the Coney Island and Yucca cafes, and eight bars and liquor stores. These businesses were just a few of the hotels, motels, trading posts, and gas stations that comprised Gallup's downtown tourist establishments in 1951.
Together these establishments and their owners created Tourist Gallup. Tourist Gallup rarely extended off Route 66, aside from some trading posts located north of Route 66 downtown. Their location, although off the beaten path, put them squarely on the path to the park that was the home of the once-a-year Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonials. Held in August, the Ceremonials constituted the red-letter day of the tourist calendar in Gallup. Begun in 1922, the Ceremonials featured nightly performances of Native American dancers, a rodeo, wagon races and other contests, and craft and exhibit halls. For those who depended on the tourist dollar, the Ceremonial season was a one-week bonanza that could make or break their businesses for the year.
Tourist Gallup depended on portraying Gallup in a particular way. Billboards at the east and west entrances of town on Route 66 articulated this vision with the following message: "Welcome to Gallup: Indian Capital of the World." Although highway welcome signs are ostensibly "to interest strangers in sampling the wonders of this extraordinary place," the real audience is, in fact, "not the potential audience but the local population itself." That is, welcome signs are acts of self-definition. Because Gallup had, at best, a limited role in the political and governmental life of Native America, the people of the self-proclaimed Indian Capital had a different role in mind for their city. The motel owners, gas station owners, jewelry traders, restaurateurs, and others who depended on tourists for their living thought of Gallup as the premier spot in America to experience and purchase Native American culture and artifacts. In 1950, some 345 tourist-related businesses were reported to be functioning in McKinley County, with most of them located in Gallup. Gallup was not the political capital of Indians, but it was the capital of Native-American-oriented tourist commerce.
One of the factors that made the city "the Indian Capital," was the large amount of Native American made arts and crafts that passed through Gallup. Over two million dollars a year in arts and crafts changed hands in and around Gallup. A brochure prepared by local businesses claimed that "more Indian hand-made arts and crafts are marketed through Gallup than any other city in the United States." Jewelry stores and trading posts dotted Route 66 as well as the downtown area. Among the more established trading stores were the two belonging to the Turpen family (both located north of Route 66 on the way to the Ceremonial grounds) and the three "Richardson's" stores (two on 66 itself, one around the corner in downtown).
For most of the year, tourist Gallup was an experience that was remarkable for its brevity. If they stopped at all, most tourists spent only enough time in town to gas up their vehicles; a few ate meals in town, and fewer still stayed the night. Once a year, however, that changed dramatically. For four days a year, usually in August, Gallup hosted the Inter-Tribal Ceremonials. Gallup's hotels bustled at full occupancy and Gallup turned into a destination for tourists from across the country and around the world. During these four days, Gallup went from being a place to spend the night to a tourist destination in its own right.
The first Ceremonial in 1922 had been little more than some dances performed by local Native Americans in an open field at the edge of town. Automobile headlamps provided lighting and spectators provided their own seating, if any was used at all. By the 1950s, a grandstand accommodated paying viewers, a parade marched through Gallup; a craft hall hosted jewelry and rug sales and exhibits; and a campground existed for Native American performers and viewers. The event lasted for several days and, in addition to nighttime dance performances, included daytime such as a rodeo, footraces, chuck wagon races, and traditional stick races.
The Ceremonials were sponsored by a group called the Ceremonial Association, the membership of which overlapped with the Chamber of Commerce. Members of the Ceremonial Association Board of Directors in the 1950s included car dealer Clair Gurley and E. W. Zimmerman of the eponymously named general store and trading post. Other Gallup notables served on a variety of committees. Indeed, the whole town mobilized for the event. If the picture of the Ceremonial Association's Board of Directors indicates that the backers were Anglo men of a certain age, the committees had at least some representatives of the rest of Gallup. Although only one Hispano, P. J. Vidal, sat on the Board of Directors, a few more served on various committees. Women, although absent from the Board, also helped out. For example, Kate Noe, served on the exhibit hall committee while Aileen Roat was on the seminar committee. Finally, the Gallup Woman's Club took responsibility for the information booth and their "Jr." counterpart ran magazine sales. The next generation of leadership, represented by the 20-30 Club, acted as ushers. During this period, no Native Americans served on any committees.
The 1956 Indian Ceremonial Magazine presented the Ceremonials as the organizers wished it to be viewed. Of course there were pictures of Ceremonial dancers, mostly from the surrounding Apache, Navajo, Pueblo, and Hopi nations. The stress on local Native Americans was so great that even the cover, which featured a photo of a Plains-style hoop dancer, credited the invention of hoop dancing to residents of Taos Pueblo even as the authors acknowledged that Taosans had "imported it from the Plains Indians." The articles also hammered home the points the Ceremonial organizers wished to stress. One article, by Museum of New Mexico-based anthropologist Bertha P. Dutton, presented background material on the various Native American peoples of the Southwest. A second academic, Volney Jones of the University of Michigan, argued for the creation of a national memorial for Native Americans as part of "The Debt We Must Repay." A third article pointed out how to tell real handcrafted Native American jewelry from imitation, machine made, or imported articles. A photo essay, composed from the New Mexico Tourist Bureau stock footage of Pueblo potter María Martínez, was the last major article. Sprinkled throughout the magazine were color plates and black and white prints of artwork, jewelry, dancers, and candid moments from past ceremonials.
Here, then, were the three themes of the Ceremonials as Gallup's businessmen saw it. First, to educate whites about the local Native American populace; second, to promote and show appreciation for the contributions that Native Americans made to the larger society; and third, to promote the market for Native American crafts by awarding prizes and educating the public about quality and authenticity. Only incidentally, in a small one-page article, did Gallup's businessmen look out for themselves, pointing out that Gallup was "Gateway to the Enchanted World."
Ceremonial Magazine included comments from previous year's visitors to help get the organizers' points across. Some tourists, perhaps caught up in the spectacle of the event, thought it was "exciting," "wonderful," and "quite thrilling." Others were more in line with the Ceremonial Association's thinking. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jensen of Colorado found the program to be "an education you cannot get out of books." A Mr. and Mrs. Laurence of California felt that the Ceremonials "taught us many ways to appreciate the Indians." Although carefully selected by the magazine's editors, these comments reflected what at least some visitors experienced. Since these were comments selected by the editors, the remarks reflect what the Ceremonial Association thought visitors ought to have experienced.
There are, however, at least some other reactions available that did not filter through the hands of the Ceremonial Association first. One white teenage tourist described her day at the 1957 Ceremonial as part of a report on her summer activities. She thought the "the rugs and jewelry were gorgeous, and weaving, silversmithing, and sandpainting were fascinating to watch. ... The [evening] performance was marvelous; the costumes were fantastic; and the rhythm and the footwork were beautiful." Two years later a similar young woman thought the parade was "fascinating" as much for the spectators as for the "Indians in their various attires." The afternoon performance was impressive, although she preferred the evening because it was "all dances and songs, instead of contests, races, etc." The highlight of her day, however, was in the afternoon in the exhibit hall "when PANK! I bought a rug." Her act of consumption was hardly unique. She wrote that she and her fourteen comrades "came out pretty loaded with ceremonial souvenirs."
Souvenir purchasing may well have been in the minds of the Ceremonial Association members as a "way to appreciate the Indians." Ceremonial Magazine was loaded with gorgeously photographed jewelry and craftwork. The back cover had a full-page color photograph of a squash blossom necklace. A Zuñi inlay pin surrounded by white shell necklace strands also received the full-color, full-page treatment. To fully experience the Ceremonials, tourists were to not only view the performances, they were also to visit the craft hall and use their newly acquired knowledge to purchase Native American crafts. "True Indian craft will never fall into a 'souvenir-type' price class," the Ceremonial Association argued. Such items could be "a permanent keepsake of pride and pleasure."
The Ceremonial Association sought to create a difference between machine-made and imported jewelry, on the one hand, and Native American handmade craft items. If tourists valued "Black Hills Gold" jewelry or machine-made knockoffs sold at the roadside tourist trap the same as handmade Navajo silver sandcasts or Hopi silver overlays, the whole industry as it was practiced in Gallup and the surrounding area was in trouble. Therefore, the Ceremonials sought to educate the public to the difference between "real" and "fake" Indian jewelry. In doing so, the event organizers also created a demand and price premium for the types of objects they sold in their. stores. Of course, when they recommended buying only from reputable dealers, they left out a second option. Tourists could try to buy direct from the Native American producers. Gallup businessmen who depended on jewelry and craft reselling for their livelihoods apparently did not, or would not, suggest this option.
Revisiting the Ceremonial Association's stated goals for a moment reveals a different agenda beyond the ones they presented. The purpose of the Ceremonials, according to the Ceremonial Association, was to celebrate Native American contributions to American society and educate the wider public about those contributions. However, the Ceremonial Association defined those contributions in strictly commercial terms. Jewelry and rugs were at the top of the the list. Dances, for which spectators had to buy tickets, were also important. In effect, the Ceremonial Association sought to market Native Americans to a wider audience while acting as mediator between tourists and Native Americans and arbiter of what was and was not authentically Indian.
Traders and other Anglo and Hispano businessmen were not the only ones who catered to tourists for the Ceremonial season. An Anglo anthropologist noted one Navajo man who also played to the tourists during an evening Ceremonial performance. The man "sang two songs by himself He ended the first by saying 'That's all right' and the second by saying 'O.K.' as if that were the only English he knew. The crowd loved it. He really speaks good English. If I remember correctly, he did the same thing last year.'" Apparently the man acted as if he had no knowledge of English -- that is, as a stereotypical "wild" Indian minimally altered by contact with the larger world-- to satisfy the crowd's expectations at the performance. Whether this posturing was suggested by the Ceremonial Association or his idea alone, we will never know.
With the exception of the Ceremonials, tourist Gallup stretched along a thin strip of Route 66. Tourists rarely strayed even one block away from the highway. They experienced with Native American culture either though commerce mediated by Anglos who peddled Native American wares or as completely passive spectators at the Ceremonial spectacle. Gallup's business community played a role in creating the circumscribed world of the tourist in Gallup, but Gallup tourists rarely took the initiative to do more than shop, eat, sleep, gas up, and move on.
David Harvey, Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1996), pp. 289-326, but especially his discussion of Times Square, pp. 316-317.
Hal K. Rothman, Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1998) Rothman's argument is compelling for the sites he studies. However, for every Aspen, Santa Fe, or Las Vegas, there are communities like Gallup that exist on the fringe of the totalizing tourist economies and experiences that Rothman describes. Sally Noe, Welcome to Gallup: 66 Years on Route 66, (Gallup:, N.M.: Gallup Downtown Development Corporation, 1991), pp. 56-60.
Zickfoose, p. 11, New Mexico State Highway Planning Division, Gallup Traffic Study, 1959, p. 11. Actually, even more out-of-state cars were entering Gallup, but surveyors tended to believe that those entering Gallup not on Route 66 but from the north were Navajos who lived across the state line in Arizona but for whom Gallup was the closest city and should not be counted as tourist traffic. I followed their counts. However, this method of computation, which counts cars registered out-of-state misses any rental cars. In the fifties, such cars were probably few.
Chamber of Commerce News (Gallup, N.M.: September 1948), "Report to the Membership" p.1
Hudspeth's Gallup Directory of Householders, Occupants of Office Buildings and Other Places, Including a Complete Street and Avenue Guide, 1951 (n.p.: Hudspeth's, 1951) pp. 150-152. I use several different Hudspeth's directories. They will hereafter be cited as Hudspeth's followed by the date of the directory. I stayed at the El Rancho during September 1994 with my family. Although now somewhat run down, the El Rancho hangs signed photos in its lobby of the many Hollywood stars who slept there. The El Rancho also names rooms after stars who have stayed at the hotel. We did not get the Ronald Reagan suite.
Terry Lee Carroll,"Gallup and her Ceremonials" (Ph.D. diss., University of New Mexico, 1971).
Wilbur Zelinsky, "Where Every Town is Above Average: Welcoming Signs along America's Highways," Landscapes 30:1 (1988): pp. 1, 10 Quoted in Kent C. Ryden, Mapping the Invisible Landscape: Folklore, Writing, and the Sense of Place (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1993), pp. 2, 5.
Several Bureau of Indian Affairs offices were located in Gallup including the Window Rock Area offices of construction, maintenance, communications, roads, and irrigation. (Hudspeth's, 1951) p. 147.
New Mexico State Highway Planning Division, Economic Survey of Gallup, New Mexico, 1950-1960: Of a Highway Relocation Impact Study the Before Portion by Paul W. Zickefoose, Bulletin 24 (Las Cruces, N.M.: 1962), p. 11 (Hereafter cited as Zickefoose).
An Economic Survey of Gallup, New Mexico and its Trade Area (n.p: np, 1954), p. 12 found in "Gallup Economics" Vertical File, Octavia Fellin Library, Gallup.
Hudspeth's, 1951 pp. 147-8, 152.
"The Men (and Women) Behind the Ceremonial," Indian Ceremonial Magazine and Official Program, (August 1956): p. 3.
Bertha P. Dutton, "Old People of the New World,"; Volney Jones, "The Debt We Must Repay,"; "Indian Craft, Creative and Counterfeit," "Maria the Potter," Indian Ceremonial Magazine and Official Program.
"Gallup: Gateway to the Enchanted World," Indian Ceremonial Magazine and Official Program.
"Everybody Likes It," Indian Ceremonial Magazine and Official Program, p. 44.
Anonymous entry, "Log of the Turquoise Trail Expedition, 1957," Archives of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, Thoreau, New Mexico.
Ellie Macneale, "August 15, Log of the Turquoise Trail Expedition, 1959," Archives of the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation, Thoreau, New Mexico, capitals in original text.
"Indian Craft: Creative and Counterfeit," Indian Ceremonial Magazine and Program, p. 29.
Harmon D. Maxson, Fieldnotes, "Comparative Study of Values in Five Cultures," Aug. 14, 1949. Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Hereafter Rimrock Field Notes).
Despite the limited nature of most tourist encounters in Gallup, tourists always could move throughout the town freely. Some tourist sites in New Mexico, such as Acoma Pueblo, restrict tourist movements by allowing entry to the pueblo only as part of a carefully controlled group tour.