Many people are familiar with the major National Parks we have in the United States- Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial. But, here in New Mexico, we have a lot of AMAZING littler parks that deserve mentioning.
The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is one of several small parks in New Mexico. The main Headquarters is located in Mountainair, New Mexico on the main highway through town. I say this because, there are three small, separate sites that actually make up the monument. Over one day, Justin and I were easily able to visit two of the sites- the Gran Quivira and Quarai sites.
We visited the Quarai site first, as this was the one I was itching to see because of the really easy 1.5 mile hiking trail it offers.
The mission, or old church, at this site is mostly still intact. It’s built of stone, and was most likely built by women and children.
It’s impressive, to say the least. Anyway, the whole point behind these missions was to control the Native Americans that once lived in the area. The Spaniards had come up from Mexico seeking resources that they could harvest and sell for a profit. Noting that New Mexico didn’t have many valuable resources, they soon learned that the Native American tribes were in fact the most valuable assets around. They began to force the Native Americans in to a serfdom-like lifestyle.
Along with the Spaniards came the Catholic Church, looking to save the souls of all these new-found people. Many of these Fathers were well-intentioned and worked alongside their congregation, but the leaders of the church, and the high-ranking Spaniards eventually began to fight over the Native Americans and to whom their first loyalties should lie- the church, or their overlord.
The revolt that followed is more evident at the Gran Quivira site.
The Gran Quivira site was originally more developed than the Quarai site. They had built houses on site, Kivas- or meeting places, and had started construction on a second church. The first was was finished but had become a meeting site rather than an actual church.
When the Native Americans finally revolted, they had no choice left but to completely leave the area. Their crops had been devastated by drought, their animals were taken by the Spaniards, and their skills lost to the winds. They moved on to other pueblos such as Isleta, Zia, and Taos.
This site is well worth visiting. Not simply for the history it preserves, but for the beauty it displays. If you ever have a chance to stop, even if it is just at one of the three sites, take it!
I would like to thank the United States National Park Service, and the rangers who serve for the opportunity to learn, photograph, and share this beautiful treasure. For more information on this park, and others, please visit: www.nps.gov