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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Salinas Pueblo Missions

Rick Morgan


What a long day…yet a wonderful day exploring the Salinas Pueblo Mission National Monument which are made up of three separate pueblo and mission ruins! The ruins are not easy to get to but oh my goodness; it is well worth the 200 mile adventure from our home base at Valley of Fires. Each mission had its own unique flavor, beauty, history and story, leading each one to being "our favorite" for a different reason.

The route we traveled took us first to  Gran Quivira (also known as Las Humanas). This is the largest of the three Salinas Pueblos. They were an important trade center before the arrival of the Spanish. With the existing church structures and previously excavated and  explored mounds (some now covered) it was an impressive site. 



I would like to mention here, that each ranger we met at each of the ruins were all were very receptive to our multitude of questions and most helpful in providing history  stories and background information. They explained the religious strife between the Pueblo peoples and the missionaries and filled us in on the daily life at the pueblo and mission. 


The conflict between the traditional tribal religious leaders and the Spanish Catholic missionaries lead to the burning of the kivas. Add to that the Apache raids and a severe drought caused famine and it is easy to understand why the 500 inhabitants abandoned the pueblo in the 1670s. This site was our favorite in terms of size and history.




The next stop was the Quarai ruin. WOW! The red stone walls of this old Spanish mission are spectacular. I’m not sure if the photos depict how your breath is taken away by their beauty…but it was!

This mission was established around 1629 on an existing Tiwa pueblo. This mission was also vacated in the 1670s due to the constant Indian raids and drought. An interesting historical tidbit: the practice of the Spanish Inquisition took place here. This was our favorite in terms of beauty. 



The last stop was Abo, probably the most interesting in that the Sisneros family who lived in the area before this was part of the US still live on the site. The grave of Park Ranger Don Federico (Fred) Sisneros (1894-1988)  is located a few steps away from the ruins. 

A condensed history of “Fred” the Park Ranger: Fred had close ties to the Abo ruins. His father helped to resettle the Abo area in 1869. Since his father owned the land, he charged his young son to care for the old mission. Fred was still the caretaker of the ruins when it became a State Monument.
In 1981 when the site became part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Fred became known as the “oldest Park Ranger” – and his wish was to be buried near the mission under the old Juniper tree, and by special permission the Park Service allowed the burial. Abo was our favorite in terms of personal history.



The Salinas people of this community also met the same fate as the other missions …they vacated the mission sometime between 1672 – 1678 taking refuge along the Rio Grande.

As we drove from one site to another, I could only imagine the diversity of cultures and the religious, cultural and political clashes that dominated the history of this area. It makes me wonder about our own intolerance and why we are so eager to change others to our way of thinking.

We loved the missions; the history, the beauty and the stories…yes, each was indeed a favorite.

PS A sign on the path at Gran Quivira. 


No argument here!