Hawk and a Hacksaw Trace Northern New Mexico Sonic Roots to Eastern Europe
The Northern New Mexico town of Espanola is not generally viewed in a romantic light, for those who view it at all.
Courtesy A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Set about 25 miles up the Rio Grande Valley from Santa Fe, right before you really hit the stretch of the Rocky Mountains that rise up through the rest of the continent, it's the gateway to a region with a colorful reputation -- the home and inspiration for artist Georgia O'Keefe; the setting for John Nichols' magic-realism classic 'The Milagro Beanfield War'; the site of the majestically mysterious and abandoned Chaco Canyon (capital of a large, ancient Anasazi civilization) as well as both active and archaeological pueblos throughout the area; the New Age/elite retreat Taos; even the Los Alamos National Laboratory (HQ of the Manhattan Project and much secretive research since).
But Espanola, itself, is a center of displacement and aimlessness, unemployment and disaffection, cruising and drugs.
Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost see something more engaging there, though. The couple, coming from Albuquerque a couple hours south, finds something vibrant about that community. Barnes singles out the low-riders who are so prominent.
"In New Mexico, Espanola has a bad reputation," he says. "The low-riders to me is a cultural phenomenon that is turned into high art. They're like mobile sculptures -- an identity, cultural identity. And I feel lucky to be around that stuff."
A few years ago he saw it all in a new light that expanded his vision and appreciation of that community. Oddly, it happened while he and Trost were living in Budapest, Hungary, and traveling around Eastern Europe. Anchors of the band A Hawk and a Hacksaw -- he on accordion and percussion, she on violin and viola -- they'd