I lived in Albuquerque and then Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 1990s. I grew up in the Deep South but moved to New Mexico after college to pursue graduate studies. While there I started working at this grovy little health food store/vegan restaurant/market and began learning about all things alien. New Mexico seemed at the time to be kind of ground zero for alien/UFO culture and I soaked it all in like a true believer/skeptic. Friends from the vegan market turned me onto the Fortean Times and Art Bell; customers sipped wheatgrass juice while telling me about how they were not human but were actually from other planets and just visiting Earth for a short time; A friend from graduate school was doing their dissertation research on the conspirituality community in Taos and attended recruiting events held by the UFO cult Heaven’s Gate, where he learned about how to achieve the “Kingdom Level Above Human.” (It was only a few years later  when the group leader, Marshall Applewhite, and 38 group members died in a mass suicide, catalyzed by their belief that the Hale-Bopp comet was coming to pick them up and carry them to their next level.)
1997 was also the year I made my pilgrimage to Roswell, New Mexico, to see the 1947 “UFO crash site” and to visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center, which proudly displays one of the aliens supposedly found in the crash. I was lucky enough to be in Roswell for the 50th anniversary, and the small-town festival celebrating all things aliens did not disappoint, from the tent where folks displayed the implants they had found inside their bodies, made of “unknown metal;” to the expert lecturing on all the different kinds of alien eyes and hands; to the 25-cent “alien beanbag toss” some high school students had set up as part of the festivities at the local high school football field. I also rode a school bus from the football field out to the crash site, where folks were selling alien-themed antennae hats, and ice-cold Coca-Cola. I honestly never truly believed in aliens or UFOs, but I also don’t vehemently not believe in all of it. Mostly I was (and am) fascinated by the culture of it all, and by how fervently so many people DO believe. One thing is very true, though, New Mexico culture seems to be steeped in aliens/UFOs.
To my delight, I recently discovered an artist who is doing brilliant things with this New Mexican love of all things alien, by turning it all on its head and pointing to white settler colonists as the true aliens. New Mexico artist Eric J. García is currently participating in the Roswell Artist-in-Resident Program, where he has been spending his time creating “satirical sci-fi images of White colonization, painted with prickly pear ink.” In an article for Hyperallergic about his current work, García writes:
When I was studying Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico, my professor likened the Spanish conquest of México, to HG Well’s famous sci-fi novel War of the Worlds — a highly advanced alien army invading and conquering the world. From some perspectives, this is exactly what happened to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Although these space invaders were not from outer space, they did indeed invade space and space that was already occupied.
With this perspective, I began to create satirical sci-fi images of colonization. For example, I placed a Spanish galleon ship not on the water but in the air like a spaceship, with a tractor beam abducting Natives. The irony of so many UFO and alien encounters that happen “out West” reflects the real-life alien invaders who “explored” and colonized the “American West.” Another iconic vessel of colonization is the covered wagon, which I depict disembarking from a flying saucer driving right into the junipers of an iconic western landscape. These small humorous drawings are hopefully pointing out one of the biggest hypocrisies of the United States. Indigenous people have been conquered by aliens and are now made to feel alien in their own lands.
You can check out his brilliant pieces and read the rest of the article here.