At Exit 102 off I-40, visitors to Acoma turn south. The road soon crosses up and over a ridge, and you may feel as though you’ve crossed through a pass into a Southwestern Shangri-La, for none of this great basin is visible from the highway. The route runs directly toward a flat-topped rock that juts out of the plain like a tooth.
Atop this rock is the original Acoma Pueblo, the village known as Sky City. The community covers about 70 acres and is built entirely of pale, sun-bleached adobe, as it has been since at least 1100.
Given the hardships of no running water or electricity, only 50 or so people live on the mesa top year-round. But many families maintain homes here, and the place is thronged on September 2, when the pueblo members gather for the Feast of San Esteban. The rest of the 2,800 Acoma (People of the White Rock, in their native Keresan) live on the valley floor, which is used primarily as ranchland.