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Jornada del Muerto desert

The Jornada del Muerto ("journey of the deadman" in Spanish) was the name given by the Spanish Conquistadors to the 1660s route northward from New Spain, or Mexico. This route northward, taken by the earliest European settlers, by horseback, oxen and foot, led to what is now the State of New Mexico, in the U.S.. It covers harsh territory, called to this day, in Mexico, El Fronterizo, 'The Frontier'. The name doubtless was applied to the valley surrounding a major river, called Rio Bravo, now called the Rio Grande, in the U.S.

After this journey, these earliest Spanish settlers encountered, not the Seven Cities of Cibola, but the humbler walled villages of the Pueblo dwellers, who had a well-developed agriculture and a peaceable tradition, and enslaved them. They stood the situation for twenty years, and then arose in revolt. According to the lore of this area, even the sacrifice of a maiden failed to improve the situation. It is said that they passed along a knotted rope to inform the other pueblos to rise up. The conquistadors were forced to retreat two hundred miles southward, along with a faithful few from Isleta Pueblo, to the south of the Rio Grande at El Paso del Norte, 'the Pass to the North', which is now the site of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A., and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The town of Ysleta, in El Paso County, even now houses the Tiwa descendants of those Pueblo dwellers.

After regrouping, the Conquistadors returned to the North for good. Today the term 'Jornada del Muerto' is applied to the adjacent valley to the east of the Rio Grande valley, between the Organ Mountains and the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, which is much drier. It contains a large lava flow (the Malpais), near the site of the first atomic bomb detonation, code-named Trinity site, which is open to the public only twice a year. Travellers on the road between Las Cruces and the towns of Alamogordo and Tularosa, will glimpse the more accessible dunes of the White Sands National Monument, the occasional Stealth aircraft rising from Holloman Air Force Base, and the White Sands Missile Range. Now, the Rio Grande valley grows pecans, the White Sands Missile Range tests anti-ballistic missile systemss, and the Native Americans run ski resorts.

The top half of the image, which is oriented with the top to the northwest, is the Jornada del Muerto. The bottom half of the image is the Tularosa basin, and the forested Sacramento mountains to the east, with the tallest peak, Sierra Blanca, a ski resort, at 12,000 feet altitude. The White Sands are in the Tularosa basin. The Malpais is the dark streak of lava, north of White Sands. Trinity site is northwest of the Malpais credit: NASA, Astronaut Mission-Roll-Image ISS008-E-5616, from altitude of 198 miles, looking northwest. Earth Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center. 29 Dec. 2003. The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth