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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

New Mexico

Headquarters: Corner of Ripley and Broadway, Mountainair, NM; address, P.O. Box 517, Mountainair, NM 87036-0517.

Abó Pueblo and Mission

Location. Torrance County, on north side of U.S. 60, about 10 miles west of Mountainair.

Significance. The ruins of Abó represent a significant and relatively little-known period in Southwestern aboriginal culture. Occupied from late prehistoric times—about 1300—through early Spanish times, they typify the period in which acculturation began in the Southwest. San Gregorio de Abó Mission was the most important, perhaps the "mother mission," of the Salinas group of pueblos, which also included Quarai, Tenabo, and Tabira. Gran Quivira was a visita of Abó, and was not occupied continuously by a priest.

Abo Mission
Artist's conception of the San Gregorio de Abó Mission, in 1629. From a painting by Regina Tatum Cooke. (Courtesy, Museum of New Mexico.)

The first Europeans known to have visited Abó Pueblo were Antonio de Espejo and a small group of Spaniards, in 1583, when the pueblo had a population of about 800. In 1598, Juan de Oñate, first Governor of New Mexico, assigned Father San Francisco de San Miguel to Pecos Pueblo, where he also had the responsibility for neighboring pueblos, including Abó. He departed in 1601, in which year the people of Abó killed two Spanish deserters. When Oñate sent one of his lieutenants, Vicente de Zaldívar, to chastise the residents, a battle occurred.

Missionary efforts at Abó began about 1622. The missionaries brought about several changes in the Indian way of life by introducing a new religion, improving agriculture, introducing new domestic animals and plants, sponsoring new ideas in architecture, and bringing in Spanish goods. The mission and church are believed to have been constructed in 1629-30, under the guidance of Father Francisco de Acevedo. In 1641, the pueblo had a population of about 1,580. Drought and Apache attacks caused its abandonment in the early 1670's, when the inhabitants joined their Piro-speaking relatives on the Rio Grande. At the time of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, a number of them joined the Spaniards in their southward retreat.

Present Appearance. The ruins lie on a low promontory at the junction of Barranco Arroyo and another unnamed arroyo in the center of a natural amphitheater formed by low-lying hills. They consist of extensive mounds of earth, stone, and debris which cover walls that are probably several feet high. The mission is built of red sandstone set in adobe mortar. Portions of the church walls survive to roof height, as high as 40 feet above the ground. The convento was covered with debris prior to excavation, in 1938-39. The ruins of both pueblo and mission are in good condition. [41]

Abo Mission
Ruins of San Gregorio de Abó Mission, an influential Spanish mission in New Mexico.

Formerly a New Mexico state park, Abó is now part of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Gran Quivira

Location: Torrance and Socorro Counties, off U.S. 60, on N. Mex. 10, about 26 miles south of Mountainair.

The Mogollon Indian Pueblo de las Humanas (Gran Quivira) and two associated Spanish missions, all in ruins, are preserved in this National Monument, which commemorates 17th-century Spanish missionary activities among the Salinas pueblos of central New Mexico. Don Juan de Oñate, in 1598, was the first European known to have visited this pueblo, records of whose history are far from complete. About 1627 a missionary built a small church dedicated to San Isidro at the site, apparently a subsidiary to the mission of San Gregorio de Abó, 20 miles to the northwest.

Thirty years later another missionary enlarged the church facilities and rededicated them to San Buenaventura. His conversion efforts, however, did not flourish because the Indians, threatened by Apache raids, drought, famine, and pestilence, abandoned the pueblo sometime between 1672 and 1675. The survivors, and those from other villages of the area, moved to the Rio Grande Valley near Socorro to join their kinsmen or went down the valley to the El Paso area.

San Buenaventura Mission
Ruins of San Buenaventura Mission, at Gran Quivira, New Mexico. These and other ruins at the site commemorate 17th-century Spanish missionary activities among the Salinas pueblos of central New Mexico.

Gran Quivira National Monument, embracing 611 acres, was established in 1909. In 1980, it was re-designated Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument along with nearby Abó and Quarai Pueblos. The visitor center contains archeological and historical exhibits. From the center, a self-guided tour passes through the ruins of the old mission churches and the pueblo. Some of the ruins are completely excavated and some only partially. The tour demonstrates the evolution of pueblo life throughout many centuries, both before and after the coming of the Europeans.

Quarai Mission
Quarai Mission.

Quarai Pueblo and Mission

Location. Torrance County, just west of N. Mex. 10, about 8 miles north of Mountainair.

Significance. The ruins of Quarai Pueblo and Nuestra Señora de la Concepción de Quarai Mission reflect the involvement of Indians in the sharp church-state rivalry of the mid-17th century in New Mexico. Like those at nearby Abó, they represent an important and relatively little known period in Southwestern aboriginal culture, the period in which the native inhabitants began to become Europeanized.

Quarai may have been visited by Chamuscado and Rodrí1guez in 1581 and by Espejo in 1583. It is certain that Oñate visited it in 1598, while making a trip to the salt lakes on the west side of the Sandia Mountains. In that year, Fray Francisco de San Miguel was assigned to Pecos Pueblo, from where he also ministered to Quarai and other nearby villages. In 1628, Quarai received its first resident priest, Fray Juan Gutíerrez de la Chica. Until the 1670's, various Franciscans were in residence at the pueblo.

Serving as the seat of the Holy Inquisition in New Mexico during the 1630's, Quarai became a focus for the next several decades in the conflict of religious and secular authority in the province. In the late 1660's, its inhabitants, weary of being in the middle of the controversy, planned to revolt with Apache help. The Spanish discovered the plot, however, and executed the leader, Estévan Clemente.

The droughts of this period also weakened the pueblo, and in 1672 some 600 residents joined relatives living at Tajique, 12 miles to the north. In 1674, the residents of Tajique abandoned it in turn and moved to Isleta, another Tiwa-speaking pueblo, on the Rio Grande below present Albuquerque. At the time of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, many Isleta residents moved south with the fleeing Spanish survivors; they settled near the site of El Paso, Tex., and established another community called Isleta. After the abandonment of Quarai in 1672, Indians never again occupied it. The only known subsequent residents were Spanish troops who were based there in the 1750's to ward off attacks launched through Abó Pass by Apaches.

Present Appearance. Like several other pueblos in the region, Quarai contains two churches: A small early one, of which only wall outlines remain; and a large structure, in ruins, whose walls still stand to a height of 40 feet in places. Dates of construction and related data are not known for either church. During the period 1934-36, the Museum of New Mexico excavated and stabilized the massive sandstone walls of the large church and monastery and in 1938 and 1939 accomplished additional work. A small amount of archeological effort had earlier been expended on the pueblo ruins in 1916 and the 1930's. Quarai became a State monument in 1935. [46]

Established in 1980 through the combination of two New Mexico State Monuments and the former Gran Quivira National Monument, the present Monument comprises a total of 1,100 acres.

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005