Gimme Shelter-in-Place

Aerial view of partially excavated eastern section of Arroyo Hondo showing Roomblocks 10 and 11 as well as Plaza C. Photograph by David Noble, courtesy the School for Advanced Research.
By Charlotte Jusinski

I report to you from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know that by the time you are reading this, the visceral panic will have passed. I am choosing to say I know this. (Truth is, I don’t know this. I hope for this. I am crossing my fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes for this.)

But right now, it’s very real. I’m stocked up on coffee and snacks at home. I’ve loaded my office plants into my back seat since I was just told to work from home for the next few weeks. I’m taking in a foster dog from Española Humane, because nothing but an empty house sounds like more than I could take. I’m refreshing news sites constantly.

I don’t know what is going to happen.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I do know one thing that is going to happen: We’re going to give you a magazine.

El Palacio has been a staple of the New Mexican cultural landscape since 1913. Since I took this job last summer, I have been approached by countless folks telling me what a gorgeous magazine I produce.

My response is always the same: Thank you, I’m thrilled that you love El Pal, but I can’t take credit. I inherited a beautiful magazine thanks to my predecessors at the helm, my hardworking Department of Cultural Affairs colleagues, a stable of immensely talented writers, and our truly world-class graphic design team.

And part of my inheritance is the strong legacy of El Palacio as a constant in turbulent times. Through the influenza pandemic of the teens, the depressed 1930s, the wartime 1940s, the protests of the 1970s, the murky early-aughts, and all the strange and beautiful and ugly times in between, El Palacio has been there.

El Palacio will continue to be here.

So as I write this, I’m transferring my files for this issue into a Dropbox folder I can access from home, I’m emailing my writers to make sure they’re calm and healthy, and I’m saving my colleagues’ cell phone numbers in my phone since we are no longer office neighbors for a bit after today. I’m taking the steps necessary to ensure you get an end product that is not reduced in quality, and to make sure I devote just as much time and energy to these stories as I would under normal circumstances.

Our culture is what we have when everything else is stripped away. When we worry for our friends and families, when our jobs are insecure, when our health wavers, when our children are afraid, art is something to which we can cling.

And so I offer you, dear reader, 96 pages of art: a scientific look at historic hide paintings, the dulcet tones of New Mexican music, innovation and imagination in the form of rockets, a rough-and-tumble pageant in Southern New Mexico, twenty years’ worth of exhibitions in Albuquerque, an exploration of a unique pueblo just south of town, poetry as medicine from two local poets laureate (here and here), words as art, lively koshare figures by Kathleen Wall, and a look at how those aforementioned historic hide paintings became graphic novels in the hands of a contemporary artist.

I offer all this with a humble heart and a grateful spirit. I am so lucky to live in New Mexico, this beautiful land of rich history and formidable people. I am so lucky to have you, dear reader, to pick up this magazine. I am so lucky to be able to offer you this gift of culture in trying times. I am so lucky to know you, and this place, and this art.

I am so lucky.