National Park Service
Kiva, Crown, Crown


The Invaders

The New Mexico: Preliminaries to Conquest

Oñate's Disenchantment

The "Christianization" of Pecos

The Shadow of the Inquisition

Their Own Worst Enemies

Pecos and the Friars

Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas

Toward Extinction




The National Park Service has custody not only of the nation's great scenic parks and recreational areas, but also of historic sites that are among our most prized national treasures. In antiquity and historical importance, few surpass Pecos National Monument (since redesignated Pecos National Historical Park), New Mexico, which preserves the impressive ruins of an Indian pueblo dating from prehistoric times and a Spanish mission from the colonial period.

Set amid piñon-studded mesas with the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo peaks looming in the north, Pecos is unusually free of the works of the modern world that inhibit a mental leap into the past. Here, a fortified native town afforded the point of contact for trade between the Indians of the Great Plains and the Pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley. Here, Coronado obtained the guide who led him in the fruitless quest for fabled Quivira. Here, Spaniards built a succession of missions that endured, with one interlude, for almost two centuries. The interlude followed the bloody Pueblo Rebellion of 1680, in which the Pecos people participated prominently, and which drove the Spaniards from New Mexico for twelve years. The historic Santa Fe Trail passed by Pecos in the nineteenth century. And a century after the last remnant of this once-powerful people abandoned their town and joined kinsmen in another pueblo to the west, Pecos was the scene of momentous developments in the history of American archaeology. Here, fifty years ago, the late Alfred V. Kidder shared with his colleagues his brilliant breakthrough findings on cultural sequences. At those "Pecos Conference" meetings, which continue today, the fruits of the studies in Southwestern archaeology are presented and discussed. Truly does Pecos National Historical Park boast a long and engrossing history and tangible remains that are graphically evocative of its past.

Pecos National Monument became a unit of the National Park System in 1965 and was redesignated Pecos National Historical Park in 1990. Although long a subject of interest and study for professional historians and archaeologists, whole chapters of its story remained vague or unknown. Much, it was predicted, would be found recorded in old Spanish script on documents buried in the archives of Spain or Mexico. We turned to Dr. John L. Kessell for aid in searching out these documents and weaving their elusive Pecos threads into a richer fabric of history than has hitherto been available. The choice of Dr. Kessell was indeed fortunate, as we knew it would be. Once a historian for the National Park Service, he returned to school for postgraduate work and has since devoted his career to full-time research and writing. Several fine books on the history of Spain in the Southwest show him to be a meticulous, thorough researcher and an outstanding stylist. He carries on the traditions of Herbert E. Bolton, the great historian of the Spanish Borderlands.

Dr. Kessell's history of Pecos fully meets the standards of excellence set by his previous books. He has brought to his task insights based on long study of original sources and first-hand experience with the actual places where his history was made. He has given us what we wanted—a firm base for the management and interpretation of Pecos National Historical Park. But he has given us much more as well—solid history that is also good reading. Here is the story of real people, of friars and conquistadors, colonial governors and common bowmen, of Indian caciques, simple communicants, war captains, rebels and patriots.

The National Park Service is proud to publish this book for the edification and pleasure of both the specialist and the general reader.

F. Ross Holland Jr.
Chief, Division of Cultural Resources Management
National Park Service

June, 1978

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