Abó Circular Kiva

The circular kiva at Abó.
The circular kiva at Abó.

NPS Photo


To understand just how strange a kiva located in a Spanish mission convento is, you first have to know what a kiva is. A kiva is a usually circular subterranean structure often considered a Puebloan religious area. This is an oversimplification. A kiva was not just a ceremonial area; it was used to educate children, for storage, for meetings, a place to tell stories, a space for weaving, etc. More specifically, a kiva is the Puebloan equivalent of a community center. That said, a kiva is also where Puebloan religious ceremonies were held. So why was a kiva built into the Abó Mission's convento?

Sadly, the answer is we are not sure. What we do know is that this kiva was built about the same time as the Abó church and convento between 1623 and 1628. Possibly this structure was used in early conversion efforts. This may suggest that early on, the relationship between the two faiths was more complex then we currently understand. To further complicate the matter, archeological evidence suggests that following the renovations and expansion of the Abó Mission beginning in 1640, the kiva was filled in and used as a dump for the scraps from the nearby kitchen. Does this show a growing divide between the Spanish and the Puebloans? Or could it show the successful conversion to Catholicism? At this point we do not know. None the less, a kiva within a Spanish Mission raises many questions.

Last updated: January 27, 2020

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