Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument


The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument consists of three separate sites—Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira--within the Estancia Valley of central New Mexico.  The missions were built by the Pueblo Indians that lived here when the Spanish soldiers and Franciscan monks arrived in the early 1600s.  These Pueblo Indians were dry-land farmers who lived in apartment-like complexes or pueblos.  The Spanish ruled through a system based on tribute, and the friars viewed the pueblo Indians religion as idolatry.  The church, the state, and the Spanish settlers needed Indian labor—to build churches, to grow food, to provide supplies, … .  The Indians were caught in the middle of squabbles between the monks and the Spanish government, and their culture and way of life were attacked on numerous fronts.  Moreover, the Apaches increased their raiding as pressures on their way of life also increased.  Several years of severe drought led to famine, and the Salinas pueblos and missions were abandoned during the 1670s. 

The pueblos eventually collapsed into piles of rubble, which were filled in by blowing sand where grass and shrubs took root.  Only the standing pueblo ruins at Gran Quivira are extensive enough to give the visitor a good feel for what the pueblos must have been like.  When the Spanish arrived,  the Pueblo de las Humanas (later called Gran Quivira) had about 3000 inhabitants.

The Quarai mission ruins with its tall, massive walls are quite beautiful.  The deep red sandstone is far more appealing to the eye than the stark gray limestone of Gran Quivira.  The second Abó mission church was much grander than the others as it was build with a sophisticated buttressing technique.  It was also wealthier, sufficiently so as to be able to purchase an organ in 1661.  Although plans were made and construction started on a second, and larger church (128 feet in interior length), at Gran Quivira, it is doubtful that the walls ever reached above 24 feet.


Nave wall of Abó Mission Nave of Quarai Mission Nave of Gran Guivira Mission

Salinas Pueblo Missions (NPS)


Trails and Treasures Home Page   Journey to the American Southwest 2003