Day Journeys to the Middle of Nowhere: Cordova

Travel Column by Kirsten Laskey
Journey By Random Selection

When my sister and I were kids, we would spin a plastic globe, close our eyes and halt the sphere with our index fingers.

Wherever our fingers landed was where we would travel when we were older.

I can not remember any of the far-flung spots my fingers touched upon but I do know I never got around to seeing any of them. Until now.

Last week I did not spin a globe but used a similar method, a random Internet search, to determine which New Mexico town I should visit next.

Dragonfly painting on Cundiyo art gallery wall. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/

Browsing towns that dot the High Road to Taos, my eyes fell on Cordova. I knew nothing about it – the town was just a name on a map to me – but I decided for once I would follow through on a random selection.

Cordova, as it turns out, is not that far away. My mother and I took Highway 76 through Nambe and as we continued further and further down the road, it began to drastically change.

It swerved, curved, narrowed and widened. We never knew if the strip of asphalt would take us past idyllic farmland or rose-colored cliffs.

The car drove through Cundiyo, a tiny residential niche, that featured a small adobe church and an art gallery with a giant dragonfly painted on one of its walls.

Church at Cundiyo. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/

Getting out of the car on the shoulder of the road in Cundiyo, all was quiet save for a rooster crowing in the distance.

We pushed on down this tilt-a-whirl road toward Cordova. Exploring the town meant lots of stops and starts.

The car needed to make U-turns and perform backwards maneuvers to adequately view the surroundings. But the sights we saw were worth the tricky driving conditions.

Castillo Art Gallery. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/

Art was celebrated in every corner, whether it was a painting of the Virgin Mary on a cider block retaining wall, or a roadside sign advertising Sabinita Lopez Ortiz’s woodcarving studio, or a hand-painted sign informing visitors about Jerry Sandoval’s bultos and retablos.

The Castillo Gallery was a piece of art itself – the building was painted bone-white with the business’ name in elegant black font.

Peering into the glass windows, I saw an almost bare room with wood floors and a small hodge-podge of various art objects and furniture.

Religious wall art. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/

Reading a website, it appears art has been imbedded in the town’s history. It became famous for the Cordova school of woodcarving.

Interspersed in all of this were some vacant buildings with shattered windows and peeling grey stucco.

A group of men leaning against one peeling and flaking building looked just as tired and weathered.

All these sights pointed out that like anywhere else, Cordova seems to have its share of obstacles and struggles but possesses great beauty and character.

There are many stories and truths in the faces of its residents and within the walls of its buildings and these can benefit anyone including history buffs and art patrons – or even travelers who randomly choose their destinations.

It may seem incredible but there is much to be learned in venturing to the middle nowhere.



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