San José de los Jémez Mission and Gíusewa Pueblo Site
Sandoval County, New Mexico Coordinates: 35.779438, -106.687794 #TravelSpanishMissions Discover Our Shared Heritage Spanish Colonial Missions of the Southwest Travel Itinerary
About 50 minutes northwest of Albuquerque is a pueblo settlement along the Jémez River just south of the Jémez Mountains and Santa Fe National Forest. Mission San José de los Jémez and Gíusewa Pueblo Site in Sandoval County, New Mexico, includes the remains of an early 17th-century mission complex and a Jémez Indian pueblo associated with both Native American and Spanish colonial history and an integral part of the heritage of the United States. The ancestors of the present-day people of Jémez (Walatowa) Pueblo built the village of Gíusewa in the narrow San Diego Canyon. The site includes the stone ruins of the pueblo and Mission San José de los Jémez, constructed around 1621. The Franciscans abandoned San José de los Jémez about 1639 although the Jémez continued to live there until about 1680, when they joined other pueblo peoples in successfully driving the Spaniards out of New Mexico. The Spanish later returned, and the histories of the American Indians and Spanish in the Southwest continued to be interwoven in the following centuries. Today, San José de los Jémez Mission and Gíusewa Pueblo Site is a National Historic Landmark and part of the Jémez State Monument Heritage Area.
Jémez people are a Towa-speaking people who migrated to the Cañon de San Diego Region from the Four Corners area in the late 13th century. By the time of European contact in the year 1541, the Jémez Nation occupying numerous villages that were strategically located on the high mountain mesas and in the canyons that surround the present pueblo of Walatowa. One of those pueblos was Gíusewa Pueblo, which was established around A.D. 1450-1500 and is an ancestral village of today's Jémez Pueblo located 12 miles to the south. "Gíusewa" is a Towa word that in English means "place at boiling water," because the pueblo is located near a thermal spring. New Mexico's Pueblo peoples, including the Jémez, first made contact with the Spanish in 1541 when explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led a large expedition through New Mexico as they traveled north from Mexico. Forty years passed until an expedition led by Francisco Sánchez Chamuscado and Fray Agustín Rodríguez briefly visited the Gíusewa Pueblo in 1581. Later, in 1598, Don Juan de Oñate, the first governor of New Mexico, led an expedition to colonize the province.
Missionaries at Gíusewa
Missionary efforts at Jèmez began when one of the five Franciscans from Oñate´s expedition, Fray Alonso de Lugo, moved to Gíusewa to establish a mission at Jémez, building a small convento and church. Big architectural changes were not seen at the site until Fray Gerónimo de Zárate arrived at the mission in 1621. Unlike many other friars, Zárate Salmerón had a background in architecture. Prior to leaving Mexico City, Zárate Salmerón designed and oversaw the construction of at least two large causeways, at Ecatepec and Xuchimilco near Mexico City. From 1621-1623, Zárate Salmerón planned and managed a major project to construct a large church near the pueblo that incorporated Fray Lugo's small convento and church buildings. The Jémez residents built the mission buildings according to traditional Pueblo practice. Jémez women constructed the massive church walls by laying the cut yellow limestone and spreading plaster. Jémez men cut, carved, and placed wooden beams, intricate interior woodwork, and crosspieces. The church was unusual for its massive size and rare, octagonal bell tower.
Although the Pueblo Revolt is the best-known uprising against the Spanish in New Mexico, resistance to Spanish presence and missionary efforts began long before 1680. In the early 1630s three missionaries at Hawikuh and Awátovi were killed and the Franciscans began withdrawing from outlying missions including San José de Giusewa at Jémez, leaving the mission empty around 1639. Missionary efforts instead became focused at San Diego de Jémez from 1632-1639.
Intertribal attacks, the repression of native culture, and dissatisfaction with Spanish leadership led the Pueblo to stage a highly coordinated revolt against the Spanish in 1680. Po'pay (Popé), a Pueblo man of San Juan de Ohkay Owingeh, led the revolt. The Jémez participated by killing a Franciscan in their province and working with the other Pueblo groups to force the Spanish out of New Mexico. The Pueblo first removed the Spanish from power in their own villages and then assaulted the capital at Santa Fe where 2,500 Pueblo warriors drove all of the Spanish colonists out of the city and forced them out of the province of New Mexico. The Spanish returned and recolonized New Mexico 12 years later but the Jémez continued to war with the Spanish until 1696. After suffering a heavy defeat, the Jémez survivors left their villages and some of them joined neighboring pueblos of the Acoma, Zuni, Laguna, and Hopi. By 1706, the Spanish moved the remaining Jémez to Walatowa, which is about 12 miles south of Gíusewa Pueblo and is the site of the modern Jémez Pueblo.
What you can see today
The site of the San José Mission and Gíusewa Pueblo fell into ruins after the Spanish and Jémez left it in the late 1600s. In 1849, members of the United States Topographical Corps recorded Gíusewa Pueblo during a land survey. The ruins of the massive San José church, which rose to 39 feet tall at its top parapet after completion, stand out among the surrounding pueblo ruins. In the latter decades of the century, farmers and ranchers occupied the abandoned San José convento. Soon, tourists, scholars, and photographers began to visit the ruins. The first excavation of San José de los Jémez took place in 1910 and excavations continued sporadically throughout the 20th century. Private land owners donated the land that contains San José and Gíusewa to the Museum of New Mexico and the School of American Research in 1921, and the State of New Mexico turned the property into a State monument in 1935. In the land included in the Jémez State Monument, believed to contain only 20 percent of the original Gíusewa Pueblo, archeologists excavated 62 of approximately 200 ground floor rooms, three Pueblo kivas (underground ceremonial rooms), and two plazas. Spanish and Pueblo artifacts recovered from the site are housed at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe.
Jémez State Monument, a unit of the Museum of New Mexico and a National Historic Landmark, is an hour and a half drive north of Albuquerque and west of Santa Fe. The ruins bring into sharp focus the difficulties inherent in the Spanish efforts at conversion of the pueblo's inhabitants, and their impact on the daily lives of the Jémez people. At the monument entrance is a visitor center that exhibits Pueblo artifacts and provides information about Jémez history. A paved trail, lined with information panels, weaves through the excavated mission and pueblo site. Nearby attractions include the National Park Service Bandelier National Monument and the Jémez Hot Springs.
Plan Your Visit
San José de los Jémez Mission and Gíusewa Pueblo Site is a National Historic Landmark located at 18160 New Mexico State Highway 4 within New Mexico’s Jémez State Monument in Sandoval County, NM. The Jémez State Monument is open Wednesday-Sunday from 8:30am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. General admission is $3. For more information visit the New Mexico State Monuments website or call 575-829-3530. San José de los Jémez Mission and Gíusewa Pueblo Siteis also featured in the National Park ServiceAmerican Latino Heritage Travel Itinerary.More information about the designation of San José de los Jémez Mission and Gíusewa can be foundhere.