Monday, January 6, 2014

Ancient cities

Ruins at Quarai








Ruins at Abo
 






Old cottonwoods at Quarai

Drive east on Interstate 40 out of Albuquerque to NM 337 and south to Mountainair. Here, you'll find the headquarters of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, a group of three historic sites of great importance to New Mexico history. Pueblo peoples lived at these sites from the 12th century, or earlier, with Spanish Roman Catholic missionaries arriving by the 16th century. The sites included in the monument are at Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. Each site is home to distinct Spanish missions and Native American pueblos and other historic buildings and structures. Each is unique in its architecture and historical background and each offers a fascinating look into our state's diverse history.

The monument is discontinuous, in that the sites are fairly widely scattered. You have to drive between them. We had visited Abo once before, about six years ago, but had never been to the other two sites. We decided on this day to visit both Quarai and Abo, which are roughly 17 miles apart on rural roads. We visited Quarai first. This site is newly restored, with a brand-new visitor center. The ranger there really knows her stuff. Quarai includes a Spanish mission and convento, built with flagstone and adobe. The walls of the church are high, with turrets. You feel like you're in a cathedral. There's also an unusual square kiva, an underground Pueblo religious structure, probably built for conversion purposes. The missionaries were keen on conversion.

Abo, a short drive away, includes another flagstone-and-adobe structure built by the Spanish, but there is evidence that this site was home to a thriving Pueblo population for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived. At Abo, there is a circular kiva, and recognizable church features - remnants of the altar, nave and sacristy, and wooden stairs which once led to the choir loft.  Both sites offer self-guided tours on concrete paths, using brochure-maps which highlight important points around the sites, such as the architectural features of the church buildings, the kivas, the living areas and gardens once used by the people who lived and worked there until they were driven away by prolonged, severe drought. Both sites offer excellent learning opportunities; map skills, orienteering, history and architecture can be explored. At both sites, the LB navigated and we followed, listening as he read aloud.

The first thing you notice is the quiet. You're in the middle of nowhere, really, sixty-odd miles from Albuquerque. You wonder how people manage to live in this area now, let alone hundreds of years ago. A supply caravan came through here every three years during the mission era. It's strikingly beautiful, but desolate. The plains spread, vast and low, toward distant mountains. Calling ravens cast soaring shadows on field and flagstone. There is much vegetation - cholla, mountain mahogany, scrub oak, massive old cottonwoods and wild berries in the lowest hollows. The monsoon must bring swaths of desert wildflowers to these fields in high summer, but in December they are dry and brown. In the grass, the rangers warn, there are rattlesnakes.

It's lonely at these sites but the sense of history, the awareness of human triumph and failure, is powerful. At Abo, you can hear freight trains passing through just a few miles away, on the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe line. You can sit on a weathered, lichen-covered rock, staring at a Spanish mission built alongside early native ruins, crumbled bits of adobe at your feet, and hear the insistent whistle of a freight train - a collision of history and culture, of time and place, of creation and ruin. 

39 comments:

  1. Jennifer I think you described this perfectly. Beautiful but desolate. I can not imagine living there during those times. Beautiful photos.

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  2. You won't believe this, I just wrote up a post for you and instead of hitting "Publish" I hit "Sign out", aye aye aye... It's so monday!! LOL... plus everyone is back to work and they are all talking and loud. And I'm half listening to all of the natter!
    I think that ruins and history is an amazing thing to share with our children, though I often think that sharing cultures of past with my kids goes right over their heads, I know that one day they will look back and be grateful that we shared... I know I am glad that I got to live on Guam and visit things there, from when I was a child.
    I was wondering if I could add a link to your blog on my blog? Do you mind?
    I hope you and your family have a peaceful, hopeful and healthy year.
    Much love,
    Tammy

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  3. It all looks amazing. You captured it all so beautifully. - You did a great job at describing it all.

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  4. So stunning! Seeing these sites really makes you imagine what it was like then when they were occupied. And I can feel the quietness from your photos...and the brilliant contrast of colors from orange to blue. There truly is nothing like seeing pieces of history like this to get a deeper sense of how hard people worked and how driven they were. So glad you all got to experience this as a family! Have a great week! Nicole

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  5. Looks like a beautiful place to visit and if the wall could talk, what a story they would tell. Happy New Year. Heather

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  6. I would love to visit this site! I still have profound memories of visiting Mesa Verde back in my college days. The history of the Southwest fascinates me. Have you and your two young bears read Walk the World's Rim? If not, I highly recommend it. Here's an Amazon link.

    http://www.amazon.com/Walk-Worlds-Rim-Betty-Baker/dp/1887840222/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389034076&sr=8-1&keywords=walk+the+worlds+rim

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  7. wow - looks fantastic - fab photos, looks so interesting

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  8. What a beautiful location - the young bears look tiny in comparison to the buildings!
    Sarah x

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  9. I love a good ruin!
    The best ever were the ones in Greece... All beautiful marble and so easy to imagine the way they would have been... Lovely post J xxx

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  10. Oh my goodness. The first sentence of your post - I showed it to Samuel who then read the entire post through. We both long to visit America. I think he will get there before I do. He is fascinated by all things American, especially the politics. Historical places such as these are so important to visit with little ones. I have found that all three of mine love it when we go visit equivalent places in the UK. The castles in Wales were a particular favourite last summer. Your description of the past and the present is just beautiful. It obviously inspired you. I love the pictures looking through the windows too. And it was nice to see you there. Those colours are breathtaking. The colours here are not so hot, even in the summer months.

    A wonderful post, Jennifer

    Leanne xx

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  11. Fab photo's thanks for sharing so interesting
    Clare xx

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  12. What a wonderful post Jennifer. A really amazing place to visit. I would like to imagine what it has been like there through the ages. I loved your last two paragraphs -

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    1. oops, a passing annoying boy made me press "Publish" too quickly. What I was going to say was the last two paragraphs really gave me a sense of how hard it must have been to survive, and how close to nature and the seasons everyone would have been. An incredibly emotive place, and your photos are stunning. The children really give a sense of the huge size of everything.

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  13. For a moment I thought you were in Jerusalem or somewhere like that. Thanks for sending some sunshine my way x

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  14. Looks like a fantastic place to visit Jennifer and bet all the bears enjoyed it. Stunning photos too.
    Patricia x

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  15. Great post. I would love to visit that place.

    Lluisa xx

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  16. What a cool place to visit.History is so important, good for you teaching this to your little ones.Looks like you all had a great time x.

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  17. I would love to see this lace. Your [pictures are gorgeous!

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  18. Fascinating Jennifer. You know I love history and this is so interesting and so beautiful too. The colours of the stones in the winter light with the sun shining on them and the stunning blue sky is just wonderful. Thank you for sharing this. I hope that your day out was as lovely as reading this post was for me. xx

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  19. Oh wow! What an amazing place, and you have painted such a vivid and slightly unsettling picture with your words. We have much of our own history in the UK but it looks NOTHING like that, so yours seems much more exotic and exciting somehow. I would love to see that one day. x

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  20. What an interesting place to visit with your family. Your photos are lovely, and the blue sky is gorgeous!

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  21. Such an interesting blog entry :) We don't have anything like this in the UK. I suppose Stonehenge is similar in style, but very grey!

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  22. Amazing Jennifer, such wonderful history!

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  23. Thanks for sharing your family's outing. The ruins sound amazing and the photos are really great. Wendy x

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  24. Remarkable photos and incredible description. It's fascinating to visit historical sites and imagine living in a different era...There must be a story in those bricks, the windows, the building shape.... I'm happy you had the chance to visit with your family. It's even more fun with the kids involved :)

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  25. I love the sharp lights and shadows, the warmth and patterning of the bricks, and the weathered lintels. Gorgeous photos and text!

    They must have been diligent gardeners and harvesters to be able to live out there with so little outside supply. Very different to the way we live today.

    Thanks for this most interesting post.

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  26. What a wonderful place to visit! My favorite (although I loved all the photos) is the one with the wood lintel and the window with the chapparral beyond. You should frame that one!! I also have the notion of going somewhere historic. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  27. Happy new year Jennifer.
    What an interesting place to visit - thanks for sharing. x

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  28. I love to visit sites like this. I bet my mum and dad have visited this place, the used to travel in the Albuquerue area. Of course there is nothing comparable here in the UK but still, a lot of history to be visited, too. I love your photos, the colours make me long for the sun, which only makes rare appearances here at the moment. Cx

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  29. Such an amazing place to visit with your family- your photos give such an impression of a quiet and serene place- it sounds such an interesting place and it evokes a lot of warmth amidst the cooler months:)

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  30. Very cool. The way you worded that gave a great feel to the whole atmosphere of it .
    Great photos, amazing place, and wonderful narrative.

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  31. What an incredible place! I have friends from the US who complain that the country has no proper history ... I always tell them they are looking in the wrong places! I think they need to read this post :)

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  32. What a beautifully remote place... and I love the colour of the stones. Jx

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  33. Looks wonderful and inspiring. I love walking around historic places, and am always amazed at the "history" you can see and touch. We visited the Mary Rose museum a while ago - to touch some artefacts from Tudor times was very special.

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  34. Beautiful place to visit, thank you so much for taking us along.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  35. That kind of day trip is exactly what The Man & I love to do. We'll have to check out those ancient cities the next time we travel in NM. We have some pretty cool places to see here in AZ, too!

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  36. Thanks for a very special post, Jennifer...a beautiful combination of photos and narrative that highlight an interesting time and place in history. The color of the adobe bricks is so vibrant to me...and showcases the color I associate with the American southwest. Long ago my husband and I and a few of our children drove to Mesa Verde, the cave dwellings of the Pueblo People, also fascinating! I can not imagine myself having the strength to face the challenge of living in such desolation even though the beauty draws me to consider how I could.

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  37. Hi Jennifer and Happy New Year to you too. Those ruins are amazing.

    Nina x

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  38. Jennifer this is a truly superb post - beautifully written, evocative and full of the most fascinating information and images. I love the rose-pink of the walls against the vivid blue of the sky. No wonder your children were so engrossed. I would love to have come along for the experience. :-)

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