Mission Santo Domingo -- Spanish Colonial Missions of the Southwest Travel Itinerary

Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa) mission church. Photo by Davidhc9. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mission Santo Domingo
Kewa Pueble, New Mexico
Coordinates: 35.514999,-106.358368
Discover Our Shared Heritage
Spanish Colonial Missions of the Southwest Travel Itinerary

Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa) became a stop on Route 66, l
In the 20th century, Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa) became a stop on Route 66, leading to the creation of trading posts for tourists at the pueblo. Today, the trading post is on the National Register of Historic places.

Photo by Svobodat, c. 1971. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Called Kewa (Khe-wa) in the native Keresan language of its inhabitants, and previously known as the Pueblo of Santo Domingo, this traditional pueblo is located on the Rio Grande River between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The pueblo is home to the Mission Santo Domingo which the Spanish first established when Oñate's expedition divided New Mexico into missionary districts. The first church was built in 1607. The mission, like the pueblo, moved locations several times as a result of flooding. Eventually Santo Domingo became a major stop along the railroad and later historic Route 66. Today, in recognition of its long history, Santo Domingo is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Mission Santo Domingo

The people of Santo Domingo are considered the descendants of groups who lived atop the Pajarito Plateau. They have a long history in the region, and the Eastern Keresan groups have been living there since A.D. 1200 when their ancestors move south during the Pueblo Migration. The site of the current village is of recent origin, as late as 1866, when the previous pueblo was destroyed by major flooding.
Mission Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, New Mexico. Date c. 1871-1907. The mission can be seen in the distance, just right of center.

Photo by John K. Hillers, 1843-1925. Bureau of American Ethnology. Courtesy of the National Archives.

Upon the arrival of Spanish explorers and colonizers in the summer of 1598 many Pueblo people initially aligned themselves with the Spanish as means of combating Apache and Comanche raiders. By 1610, the Spaniards had designated Santo Domingo as the ecclesiastical or mission headquarters for New Mexico. The pueblo mission church had been constructed by 1607. Because the alliance failed to stop the raiding and the Spanish rule proved oppressive, in 1680 Santo Domingo became a staging area for Pueblo resistance to Spanish rule. Governor Antonio de Otermín came to Santo Domingo as he retreated in the winter of 1681-1682. The people of the Pueblo had killed the three priests there, then burned and demolished the churches, vacating the pueblo to avoid the governor's reprisals. The Spanish could not safely return to New Mexico until 1692, and it was several years before all uprisings stopped and missionaries returned to Santo Domingo.
Jar from Santo Domingo Pueblo c. 1920s
Jar from Santo Domingo Pueblo c. 1920s.
Slip used as the background color on Santo Domingo wares tends to be creamy or yellowish.

Courtesy of Bandolier National Monument Museum.

Presumably the old church was repaired after the Spanish returned. According to historical documents, Fray Antonio Zamora built a new church at his own expense in the mid-1700s. At this time the pueblo had two churches side-by-side facing south with the older one primarily used for burials. Farming on the Rio Grande had the advantage of a year-round water supply, but flooding was one consequence of living so close to the river. Disastrous floods in 1780, 1823, and 1830 had struck and destroyed parts of the pueblo. American archeologist Adolf F. Bandelier visited in 1885 and observed that the river was encroaching again on the church. The people of Santo Domingo built levees to keep the water away, but eventually the community was forced to remove the church doors and carry out the paintings, statues, and anything that could be moved from the buildings. The floodwaters in June 1886 destroyed the church as well as the cemetery, leaving a steep bank where the building had been.
8Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa) mission church.
Pueblo of Santo Domingo (Kewa) mission church.

Photo by Davidhc9. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

What You Can See Today

The pueblo was without a church for 10 years. The new church constructed after the flood that destroyed the old adobe mission was built to resemble the previous church in style and construction. Local French priest Father Dumarest could not convince the conservative councils of Santo Domingo to rebuild the church in a more modern design.

During the latter half of the 19th century, when New Mexico became part of the United States, Kewa Pueblo and its residents experienced new cultural and economic influences, largely due to the pueblo's location along the major transportation arteries of the Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s and Route 66 in the 20th century. The pueblo was a stop called Domingo Station and railroad boosters and entrepreneurs actively promoted tourist interest in Pueblo culture and handicrafts. Many automobile tourists visited Santo Domingo Pueblo in the mid-1920s after the completion of Route 66. Along the highway, tourists and pueblo residents bought and sold crafts attuned to the new market, particularly pottery and jewelry made for the tourist trade. Residents of the pueblo maintain many traditional religious practices and social structure and have adjusted to the many cultures they have encountered over the past centuries. Visitors to the pueblo can attend ceremonial events on feast days. The National Park Service listed Santo Domingo Pueblo in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Kewa Pueblo has a museum and cultural center that provides visitors with the opportunity to learn more about the area and its inhabitants including joining in to celebrate the annual Feast Day festivities on August 4.

Plan Your Visit

Santo Domingo Pueblo (now Kewa Pueblo) is located approximately 35 miles north of Albuquerque and 25 miles south of Santa Fe, NM, via the Santo Domingo exit on Interstate 25. For more information, call 505-465-2214 or visit the tribe’s official website or the New Mexico Tourism Department's website.

Last updated: April 15, 2016


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