Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe -- Spanish Colonial Missions of the Southwest Travel Itinerary

Zuni Pueblo, looking east. Sept. 15, 1850. Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is on the right. Sketch by Richard Kern. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Halona Pueblo Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico

Coordinates: 35.075123,-108.775169
Discover Our Shared Heritage
Spanish Colonial Missions of the Southwest Travel Itinerary

Ashiwi Polychrome Water Jar, 1700-1750.
Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Pueblo, Zuni (Native American). Ashiwi Polychrome Water Jar, 1700-1750.

From the Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1903. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Halona Idiwan'a –the Middle Place –also known as Zuni Pueblo was one of the original six Zuni settlements that existed at the time of contact with the Spanish in 1539. Following the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, it became the central pueblo of the Zuni people. Today, Zuni Pueblo is among the largest of the still inhabited or "living" pueblos in the United States. Franciscan missionary efforts began in the region in 1629, and by the 1660s, a mission was built at Halona. Today, visitors can tour the historic Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, a fascinating result of the complex history of different cultures coexisting together for centuries. Located about 150 miles west of Albuquerque, the church is a part of Halona Pueblo, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Zuni Pueblo, originally known as Halona, likely was first inhabited around A.D. 1100 by the ancestors of the Pueblo peoples. During the following centuries, the small agricultural communities became concentrated in large pueblos with many rooms, the largest being Hawikuh, also featured in this itinerary. The Zuni grew corn, beans, squash, and other crops using "waffle" gardens, sunken squares that help trap and concentrate water run-off, making the region one of the oldest continually cultivated areas of the United States. This technique has survived at Zuni Pueblo. Today, waffle gardens have been adopted as part of sustainable gardening throughout the arid regions of the Southwest.
NMission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
This plan map from the Historic American Building Survey shows the mission church, the convento, and the cemetery, and how these buildings are in the middle of several pueblo structures.

Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zuni

Tales of the Seven Cities of Cibola lured Spanish expeditions north from Mexico to the Zuni region in the early colonial period. Coronado encountered the Zuni settlements in his 1540-1542 expedition, and later expeditions noted the pueblos there. Long term Spanish presence in the region, however, did not occur until the mid-1600s. The Spanish considered Halona a distant and dangerous outpost, 75 miles from the mission at Acoma and 125 miles from the Spanish settlements along the Rio Grande. Missionary contact with the Zuni began in 1629 A.D. The Mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zuni was one of the three 17th century Spanish Franciscan missions on the Zuni Indian Reservation. The other two, La Purísima Concepción de Hawikuh, and the unexcavated church at Kechipan near Ojo Caliente, are now in ruins. The date of the establishment of a mission at Halona, though, is the subject of some controversy among historians. The first specific reference to a mission at Halona occurs in comments about the region written between 1663-1666 A.D., at which time it is referred to as Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Halona.

This mission building was destroyed at the time of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the friars in Zuni communities were killed or driven out. The Zuni population gathered into a fortification and village on Dowa Yalanne (Corn Mesa). They lived at Dowa Yalanne for several years during the Pueblo Revolt, and withstood raids from the Apache. The Spanish returned in 1692 and re-established themselves in what is today New Mexico, and made the Zuni come down from the fortified settlement. Rather than reoccupy multiple settlements, the Zuni all chose to live at Halona, which then became known as Zuni Pueblo.

The Franciscans returned, and the church was rebuilt and renamed in 1705, and rebuilt again in 1780 during a period of relative peace. Unlike the rest of the pueblo, whose buildings were made of stone held together with mud mortar and covered in mud plaster, the church was constructed with molded adobe bricks. In the late 1700s, the church façade had two bell towers and a balcony. By July 1821, following Mexican independence from Spain and the secularization of missions throughout Mexico, the Franciscan priests left the mission and no new priests were assigned there. The building fell into disuse and disrepair, but was revived when priests were reassigned to the pueblo beginning in 1921.

The Zuñi Pueblo
The Zuñi Pueblo

Photo courtesy of Fern L. Honawa, Pueblo of Zuñi

What you can see today

The mission underwent a variety of repairs during the 20th century. It was re-roofed in 1905, but more significant alterations took place in the 1960s. The three-way partnership between the Zuni Tribe, the National Park Service, and the Catholic Diocese of Gallup resulted in the excavation of the mission and convento from 1966-1967, and the reconstruction of the church in 1969. Zuni artist Alex Seowtewa began life-size kachina murals in the restored church, and he and his sons completed the work in 2006. The work is a unique incorporation of Zuni traditional religious figures into a formerly Roman Catholic building. Upkeep and maintenance of the adobe church continues today.

Halona Pueblo is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and today the pueblo incorporates the church, adobe house blocks, modern sandstone dwellings, plazas, hornos (outdoor baking ovens), traditional "waffle gardens," and corrals. Zuni Pueblo is among the largest of the still inhabited pueblos in the United States, and is known for its exceptional artwork. Visitors are welcomed and encouraged to stop at the Zuni Visitor and Arts Center to make reservations for tours and purchase photo permits. Nearby regional attractions include El Morro National Monument and El Malpais National Monument.

Plan Your Visit

Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is part of the Halona Pueblo (Zuni Pueblo) on the Zuni Indian Reservation and is located on NM 53 in Zuni, NM. Photography is allowed by permission only. Before your visit, check with the Zuni Pueblo Department of Tourism website regarding access to the church. The Zuni Pueblo offers tours of the site for a fee. Call the visitor information center at 505-782-7238 to make reservations for a tour and further information. Visitors should make reservations at least a week in advance to ensure availability.
Zuni Pueblo is featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary and has also been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Last updated: April 15, 2016


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