Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coronado (“Kuaua”) State Monument

Just down the road apiece from the J&R Vintage Automobile Museum was the Coronado State Monument (Bernalillo, NM), so we made the stop before heading back to Santa Fe.

Except for a ceremony occurring in 1940, this park would more accurately have been called Kuaua ("Kwah-wah"), since this is the name of the Pueblo Indian farming village located here on the western bank of the Rio Grande River.

The view of cottonwood trees and the Sandia Mountains in the distance was a beautiful welcome upon our arrival.

Walking the marked trail from the Visitors' Center, we sensed a peace-fulness that must have contributed to the selection of this site for the construction of semi-subterranean earthen dwellings around 600 A.D. by the Anasazi culture.

By the 13th and 14th centuries, drought-driven immigrants from the north and west joined groups living along the Rio Grande.

From a hilltop along the trail, we could see that the Rio Grande (upstream, left; down-stream, below) could support the people that occupied the 1200 rooms in the multi-storied pueblo.

But this peaceful, agrarian way of life was to change, when in February of 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado left Mexico in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, spurred by hopes of finding gold and other treasures.

The Coronado party was initially welcomed, but acts of brutality by the Europeans and resultant retaliation by the people of the region ultimately resulted in warfare, and the Kuaua way of life was never the same. The Coronado expedition left in the spring of 1542.

Any records which might explain what became of Kuaua were likely to have been destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Following 100 years of forced labor, tribute, and education of Indian children in missions, the banning of ceremonial rituals, feuding between Spanish governors and clergy, and drought culminated in 1680 with most Indian Pueblos joining together and attacking missions, ranches, and government officers, killing priests and settlers. Spanish citizens fled south.

While little remains of the pueblo of Kuaua (four photos; the fifth is a re-built example of the walls), it is the remarkable murals that were discovered in one of the ceremonial kivas in 1935 that, according to John Sinclair of the Santo Domingo Pueblo (as quoted in the Monument's brochure), "are everything we believe. They show how we live. To us, these paintings are everything to live for."

The process of recovering these murals was amazing. Ceremonial figures, animals, plants, clouds, rain droplets in the murals were painted on 17 out of 85 different layers of adobe. An elaborate process removed the images (each about 1/30 of an inch thick) from a layer of adobe.

We could only marvel at the images, regarded as among the finest examples of prehistoric mural art in the United States, that have been preserved on the roughly 8' x 4' sections of material on display.

About a half dozen of these murals are displayed in the Visitors' Center in a "No Photographs" room; many others are on display at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

Coronado State Monument was dedicated amid great fanfare on May 29, 1940. It was New Mexico’s flagship event of the 400th anniversary of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s exploratory expedition into the Southwest.

The Kuaua story through its murals is far more compelling compared to Coronado’s short stay that had the monument been opened at any time other than on the 400th anniversary of Coronado’s expedition, it would likely have been named “Kuaua.”

To the northwest, the Jémez Mountains provided a final beautiful memory of our visit.

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