Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a complex of three Spanish missions located near Mountainair, New Mexico. The area was originally inhabited by the Tiwa and Tompiro language-speaking pueblo people who operated a thriving trade community.
In the 1620’s, however, the Spanish missionaries and government came to the area. The Franciscan friars tried teaching and enforcing their faith on the Indians. At first the Indians were cooperative as the Spanish brought useful tools and other materials. For over 15 years, they helped the missionairies build big churches and learned their ways.
But once the Indians were not allowed to practice their rituals resentment grew. At the same time, the Spanish soldiers demanded payment from the Puebloans to protect them from the Apache raids. These enforcements along with famine and continued Apache raids caused the suppressed Puebloan people to revolt in 1670 and expel the Spanish from New Mexico.
Soon thereafter, these once lively pueblos and missions were abandoned. Now, they are part of the National Parks System. The three Salinas Pueblo Missions include Quarai, Gran Quivira, and Abó .
Annie and I visited the Quarai Ruins first. They are located approximately eight miles north of Mountainair. The site includes a small visitor center and museum, a half-mile trail through the ruins, as well as another mile trail through the woods. I was enamored with the walls of the Quarai Mission which were nearly five-feet thick. I can only imagine how grand this complex once was.
From Quarai, we drove to Gran Quivara, 25 miles south of Mountainair. Gran Quivara also has a small visitor center and a half-mile trail the winds through the ruins. It is the largest of the Salinas Pueblo Missions, covering 611 acres. And originally, in 1909, the National Monument only included this site and it was so named Gran Quivara National Monument. The monument renamed Salinas Pueblo Missions when it was expanded to include Quarai and Abó.
What struck me the most about Gran Quivara is that this mission was made of grey stone, completely different from both Quarai and Abó. Being so near one another, I expected they would all be made from the same local materials.
After meandering through Gran Quivara, Annie and I visited Abó which is located 10 miles west of Mountainair. This Salinas Pueblo Mission stands on 370 acres and also features a walking path through the ruins and the nearby meadow. The mission also includes a gravesite of Fred Sisneros whose ancestors resettled the area 100 years after it was abandoned. When Abo became part of the National Monument, Fred became known as the nation’s oldest park ranger.
I would have stayed a little longer at Abó if it weren’t for the overzealous ranger who kept exiting the visitor center to greet people in the parking lot and enforce rules. I was more in the mood to let my mind wander while trying to imagine life on these dry plains than to be chased down because she wanted to meet Annie. And later, when I was experiencing an attack on my stomach and cut across the field (rather than following the path) to shorten a hastened trip to the restroom, she came charging out of the visitor center to scold me!
Despite Gran Quivara being larger, Abó drew most the visitors. I’m not sure if it is because it is right off the highway or because I arrived later. I was the only one at the previous two missions, but three or four cars came and went while Annie and I were exploring Abó. Obviously, this is still not many people. It’s just an observation.
In fact, I’m surprised the Salinas Pueblo Missions do not attract more people. Perhaps it is because the missions are sort of in the middle of nowhere. It takes 1:45 to reach them from Albuquerque and 1:30 to get there from Ruidoso. Regardless, anyone interested in history or ruins would like the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. ETB