Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Our first full day in Santa Fe included a visit to Pecos National Historical Park (NHP), 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe.

During our travels, we have been learning about the history of different groups of people living in what was to become the United States long before the Jamestown Settlement (1607) or the Plymouth Colony (1620), so when we read the information about the Park "embracing 10,000 years of human history," we knew we wanted to visit Pecos NHP.

Acting on the tales of Cabeza de Vaca of seven cities of gold in New Spain's northern frontier, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, in 1540, led his army into a cluster of pueblos, Cibola, near present day Gallup (NM). He attacked the Zuni and took over the town. Moving on to Pecos, Coronado was welcomed and was told of riches to the east.

Wandering as far as today's Kansas without finding any riches, Coronado returned empty-handed to Mexico, where he endured ridicule.

After a period of quiet, explorers began prospecting for silver in the land of the pueblos. They failed to find riches, but they realized that the pueblo Indians' abilities to farm and herd made them targets of Cross and Crown. They could be converted, and their lands could be colonized.

In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate marched north to claim for Spain the land across the Rio Grande. He assigned a friar to the Pecos Pueblo, the richest and most powerful New Mexico pueblo, but it was only after Oñate assigned veteran missionary Fray Andres Juarez to Pecos in 1621 that the opposition to the Church decreased.

Photo 1 above shows a peak from the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Photo 2 shows a low stone wall which marked the boundary of the pueblo. Photo 3 is South Pueblo, believed to be a separate, Spanish-linked community.

Photos 4 and 5 show the remains of walls of more than 600 rooms, four to five stories high. The dark "bricks" on the top layers are recent additions to help reduce the erosion of the adobe bricks on the lower levels. Photo 6 shows storage spaces.

Under his direction, the Pecos people built an adobe church, which was the most imposing of the New Mexico's mission churches. For the next 13 years, the Church's influence in the lives of pueblo grew. With its growth came conflicts between church and civil authorities over the Indians' labor, tribute, and loyalty.

Figures 7 to 11 show different views of the last Pecos Church, completed in 1717.

Resentment over both Church and Spanish demands led to the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. In the following years the Indians united to drive the Spaniards back to Mexico and destroyed the church, building a forbidden ceremonial kiva.

Twelve years later, the Spaniards were welcomed back to Pecos, and a smaller church, built on the old one's ruins, was the first mission re-established after the Reconquest. And Pecos sustained Spanish rule until it ended. The last survivors left a decaying pueblo and empty mission church in 1821.

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