About 18 miles west of Albuquerque , I-40 crosses the border onto the 45 square miles of Laguna Pueblo (505/552-6654, www.lagunapueblo.org ), on which nearly 8,000 Keresan-speaking Ka-waikah (Lake People) live in six villages.
From the highway, the only impression you get of Laguna is its Dancing Eagle Casino, but if you have time, it’s worth getting off at Exit 114 to visit the San José Mission Church (8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.). Built around 1700, it is immediately distinguished by its stark white stucco coating, but this is a relatively recent addition.
Inside is the really distinctive element of the church: Between a packed-earth floor and a finely wrought wood ceiling, the fine late-18th-century altar screen commands the full focus of the room. It’s the work of the unknown “Laguna Santero,” an innovative painter who placed his icons inside a crowded field of decorative borders and carved and painted columns, creating a work of explosively colorful folk art that was copied elsewhere in the region in subsequent decades.
Each of the six villages of Laguna celebrates its own feast day, and then the whole pueblo turns out at the church September 17–19 for the Feast of San José, one of the bigger pueblo events in the Albuquerque area.
Along with traditional dances and an arts-and-crafts market, the pueblo hosts the All-Indian Baseball Tournament, in which the very sports-minded pueblo fields five semipro teams.