The Quarai unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is the smallest of the three units at approximately 90 acres. Pueblo Mounds at the site suggest that prior to Spanish contact, Quarai was a very large pueblo. This fact is mainly due to the presence of a year round water source flowing from springs along Zapato Creek. Like at Gran Quivira, this thriving city is what Don Juan de Oñate found when he arrived at Quarai in 1598. The Quarai Mission and Convento were established at Quarai in 1626 overseen by Fray Juan Gutierrez de la Chica. Construction began on La Purisma Concepcion de Quarai in 1627 and continued to 1632. Curiously, within the newly built convento, a Square Kiva was built. Like the other Missions of Salinas Pueblo Missions, a combination of disease, drought, famine, and Apache raiding led to the abandonment of Quarai in 1678. Settlers would return to Quarai in the early 1800s constructing the Lucero Structures which included a defensive Torreon and the later Manzano Church.
Did You Know?
There are only six seventeenth-century Spanish Colonial churches in the United States and all six of them are in New Mexico, with four of those being part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions.