© Author Adventures

Willa Cather’s Ultimate New Mexico Book

Willa Cather’s book, Death Comes for the Archbishop, is set in New Mexico. I carried a worn 1927 edition of the masterpiece during my New Mexico travels, and the book attracted conversations everywhere I went.

Readers, scholars, and a wide range of natives will tell you the book is a great tool for understanding the history of parts of New Mexico and its bordering towns, up to Colorado. The pace of the writing is relaxed, with her writing reflecting the steady desert sun, so it is an awesome companion for a long trip.

In 2007, The New York Times published an excellent article, entitled Entering the World of Willa Cather’s Archbishop, about the book’s connection to three pueblos in the area, beginning with Laguna Pueblo, right on Route 66. However, we chose to visit Isleta Pueblo because it was in more convenient proximity to Albuquerque, where we had already visited the Ernie Pyle Library. (Read about the Ernie Pyle Library here: Ernie Pyle Library in New Mexico.)

Once inside the pueblo grounds, photography is not allowed so we stored our cameras away as soon as we passed the entrance sign. Even if you are on the pueblo site and see no signs that prohibit photography, New Mexico residents will strongly advise against photography of pueblos as a sign of respect. The Isleta Pueblo has a closely congregated population of a typical mid-size town, so it is unlikely that your activities at the site will go unnoticed.

You can also get a strong sense of the presence of Willa Cather at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear, known to the locals as the Witter Bynner house, because she stayed there and still has a room named for her.

More about Willa Cather

Read more about Willa Cather (1873-1947) here: britannica.com and Willa Cather in Nebraska, as well as Willa Cather in New Hampshire.

Laguna Pueblo is the first stop on our New Mexico Author Adventures Trail. It can also be swapped with the Ernie Pyle Library stop in Albuquerque, depending on which you prefer to see first, before heading northward to Santa Fe.

Patricia Smart