Socorro, juncture between worlds
Just 412 years ago, on June 14, Juan de Oñate’s band travelled the Camino Real and arrived at the area’s native villages. Locals gave them a welcome that would last for centuries and would reach, in a sense, to distant galaxies. The newcomers renamed the Indians’ home Socorro for the succor they received, and the name was later transferred to a village a few miles north. It was among the first European settlements in what is today the United States.
In so many ways since then — and, indeed, before — Socorro has been a crossroad between worlds, a fulcrum at the edge of unstoppable energies, a touchstone amongst divergent paths, and a fault line that marked the march of history and the handing on of pivotal movements on the stage of time.
When the Spaniards came onto the scene, they entered as late comers in this crush of creation, though today we see them as foundational from our perspective of life and history. Already beneath present-day Socorro and its vicinity there had formed the seismic structures that last year brought on some 80 quakes in a single month, leaving no doubt of the movements here of great masses below the earth’s crust, which have been in motion for millennia.
These were among the first of the collisions, perhaps, that have creased the surface of this place. Many more were yet to come.
The Españoles left deep foot-prints here, crossing those of the Piro and, later, so too did the Whites. Their worlds would cross and commingle, and would conspire to effect the new civilization that arose on this spot and transformed what had come before. Socorro would at length embrace these divergent peoples and be comprised of them. There were the farmers, the miners, the merchants, and the Tech scholars, and their paths would intersect and converge.
In this place where desert rose into mountains and the fabled river valley intertwined and traversed the land, these sculptures preceded the peoples who strode in and called home what welcomed them there. These were the primordial worlds that crossed at Socorro, more ancient than the Indian dwellings, and earlier than San Miguel, which predated other churches across the land. These contours stood for us, with our highs and our lows, both old and new, and now the locus of our attachments and fulfillments, as well as the desert of our longings and desires.
As immigrants continue to pass through the city today, it is still a crossroad. And since colonial days, Socorro stands not just over fault lines beneath the earth and the highway that connects worlds. By colonial edict, the baseline from which properties and geographies were measured throughout the Southwest lies just north of town. The marker still signs the spot where calculations cross and territories are measured. In this, too, Socorro is the crossroad, the point of traverse, the fulcrum that balances the lands, and the intersection of divergent paths.
Even the atomic age, which came to symbolize the new era, began just 39 miles south, where the first explosion occurred. And people from distant places visit the Wildlife Refuge, where fowl of the entire continent meet, 18 miles south of town.
If it is worlds that cross in Socorro and horizons that kiss, none can be as stark as the universes that pass before its gates. That is so because the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and the Very Large Array are both at its doorstep, just a few miles away. It is there that distant galaxies are charted and stars brought close at hand.
You knew all of this, of course, you who live in Socorro. That is because you are citizen of this city of crossroads and, because of that, you yourself embody the collisions and reconciliations of many streams and energies. You are the reconciling of opposites. You are the oneness among many galaxies, the unity of multiple peoples, the coming together of terrestrial variations, and the crossing of divergent paths that join and intermingle — right here within you.
Kozeny works for Socorro Mental Health Inc. His views are not necessarily those of his employer. He can be reached by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom, this isn’t the same as fault lines in tennis, right?