900 Years of History in Sandstone – The Salinas Pueblos, NM

“Long ago a Pueblo man showed Salt Woman hospitality, even though her body was rough and scaly. In return, she made her home nearby in a lake, so that people might come here with offerings and take away the salt that is her body.” Pueblo Legend

The stunning Abó Ruins (1622-1678). The circular structure is thought to be a kiva, used in Pueblo religious traditions. The structure behind is the church. Thus, the two faith's may have overlapped during conversion.

I’m standing in the middle of a brilliant red sandstone structure, bounded by blue sky and the Manzano Mountains. Inside these walls are the echos of 900 years of history linked with the rich trade of salt, Indian settlements and Spanish conquest. These are the stunning  Salinas Pueblos where both wealth, change and tragedy have sown their seeds. It’s yet another of New Mexico’s hidden treasures and like everything here it’s practically deserted, totally affordable (free in fact), completely accessible (you can enter into the ruins), dog friendly (pooch is welcome on leash) and utterly fascinating.

But I digress and must get back to the story.

Paul is dwarfed by the 40-feet high walls of the Quarai church ruins

The seed of these amazing structures starts around 1100-1300 A.D. This was a time where migrating indians settled down and stone villages grew and flourished in the Southwest. Along the eastern slope of the Manzano Mountains,  NM close to the precious salt flats, the Tompiro and Tiwa-speaking peoples of the Rio Grande established a cultural cooperation and thriving pueblos. Here they lived and traded corn, blankets, pottery and salt along massive trade-routes that passed through from the Pacific Ocean to deep inside Central America.

History changed in 1598 with the arrival of the Spanish expedition led by Juan de Onate. Prompted by fables of gold and riches they established a colony in the area. Although gold was never found, the salt flats proved a rich resource and in the early 1600’s Franciscan priests were sent to build missions and convert the locals to Christianity. Thus developed the churches and missions in the pueblos of Abó, Quarai and Grand Quivira.

Rooms at Abó used for cooking, herding stock and maintaining the mission

But the union was a difficult and tenuous one. The Apaches, formerly trading partners of the indians, held raids on the missions for food and retribution against the Spanish slave trade. Then, in the 1660’s and 70’s massive drought devastated the region, starving hundreds of indians, forcing pueblos to be abandoned and finally resulting in revolt. By 1680 the Spanish had been expelled from New Mexico and the local indians had moved on.

The fine remnants of that time are where my shoes are treading today. The Salinas Pueblos are stunning ruins beautifully located, and deserted enough to send you deep in meditation to time long ago. We did a lazy drive around two of the three main pueblos, absorbing the history and stopping to peruse the visitor center, shops and galleries in Mountainair (for those with a sweet tooth, pick-up an authentic old-fashioned Ice Cream Milkshake in town). A fabulous day-trip and just another of those hidden treasures that have me falling head over heels in love with New Mexico.

We may be at 6,500 feet or so, but this is still Rattlesnake country

More recent remains from hispanic resettlement in the 1800's at Abó
The Quarai Ruins. Some 600 people lived around this mission.
Side entrance to the main church at the Abó Ruins
Exploring within the walls of the Abó Ruins
Natural springs fed the red sandstone creeks in Abó, flanked by the Manzano Mountains in the background.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

    • libertatemamo says

      It was absolutely gorgeous. Hard to believe how many treasures are hidden here in NM.

    • libertatemamo says

      Barb, I have to admit I was in photography heaven when I took those shots.
      I couldn’t believe how cool those clouds were!
      This kind of photographic eden only happens once in a while :)

    • libertatemamo says

      Mark, Arn’t they amazing? I’d never heard of them until I got here and
      wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were just spectacular. I’m definitely
      with you that these are treasures!

  1. says

    Not only have you again bolstered our desire to spend more time in New Mexico, you have upgraded that desire to a burning need. We are going to start plotting all your wonderful finds on our GPS program, and make a pilgrimage!

  2. Bob says

    How do you find the interesting places that you visit? Is there a program you use or an internet site, possibly books? Thanks for your help.


    • libertatemamo says

      Hi Bob,

      I can’t really say I have any definite procedure. I do a mix of online RV forums (always helpful), other RV blogs,
      looking at online maps, and chatting to people at the campground.
      For example, the Manzano Mountain State Park I found by using
      the online maps in the link above, and the Salinas Pueblos we
      found by talking to our neighbors when we got to the campground.
      I’ve always been a sociable girl, so I guess that helps :)

      I do have a copy of Microsoft Street & Trips (mapping software)
      where I’ve downloaded all the POI’s for the public campgrounds.
      In that same program I can add “pushpins” with info.
      So, if I read or hear something interesting which I want
      to remember I stick it into the map program for that location.
      That way, if we’re ever in the area, I’ve got the info all ready.


      • says

        Nina, how do you like the Microsoft Streets & Trips? We won a free copy at a RV seminar but haven’t started using it yet. Do you use the GPS? Ours didn’t come with one so we bought the GlobalSat BU-353 USB GPS Navigation Receiver that came highly recommended. We’re looking forward go getting statred.

        • libertatemamo says

          I like it, but I use it in a pretty basic manner…mostly for finding campgrounds, next destination and keeping track of tips & recommendations from other people we meet along the way. I haven’t linked it to the GPS, so not sure how well that works, but I know others who use it that way and like it alot. Since you won a free copy (cool!) it’s worth a try. Download the POI Megafile from here:
          POI Mega File – pushpin collections for truckers, RVers, and other travelers
          It has tons of info incl. ALL the public campgrounds, Walmart locations, truck stops etc.

    • libertatemamo says

      Nonono…they were really there. It was a rare photo day I must admit. The best clouds were at Abo. By the 2nd spot they’d moved on. Quite the special moment :)

  3. Terry & Linda says

    So there we were at the Salinas Pueblos and were enjoying the fabulous ruins. We had traveled past the snake warning sign and had come to a kiva that had been reconstructed with a roof. There was a ladder that went down into the kiva and a sign said we were welcome to enter the kiva for the full experience. Linda declined to go down the ladder saying with her luck the snakes would be in the kiva (like in Indiana Jones). She started to walk away from the kiva when I spotted the rattlesnake that she was about to step upon. I just about yanked her out of her shoes and away from the snake. No worse for wear, we and the snake parted company. Now my sweetie owes me for eternity. She says being married to me is an eternity…


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