Of the six surviving seventeenth-century Franciscan mission churches in the United States, the four in New Mexico are are located within the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.
Located in a rather remote section of the central part of the state, the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument preserves, via an act of Congress, the four mission churches and the remnant of three Native American towns where Spanish friars set to work on conversion over four-hundred years ago.
These areas were not always so remote though. Beginning about 1000 years ago, the Tiwa and Tompiro-speaking people moved into the Salinas Basin, constructing large, complex and prosperous trade centers. Salt, flint, buffalo hides and other trade goods reached from here to as far away as the mid-west, the Aztec Empire to the south and California to the west. When the Spanish arrived, nearly 50,000 people in eleven towns populated the valley.
Early in the 1600s, Spanish Franciscans began conversions, at first accepting only volunteers. But by the 1660s the friars were vigorously suppressing native religions, forcing the people of the pueblos to worship in secret. Life became even worse when ex-soldiers, encouraged by the authorities in Mexico City, arrived to put down roots in the area.
“The soldier-settlers take up farms not only in the cultivated fields of the natives but even in the courtyards of our convents…Into this pueblo of Cuarac there came a soldier with a great number of cattle of all kinds, to a place where these three neighboring pueblos have all their cotton fields, and he build is corrals right on the fields…absolutely ruining them.”
- Fray Estevan de Prea, 1630s, New Mexico
By the 1670s, relations between the Spanish and the natives had become so bad that the pueblo people began to move from the area. Then in an already fragile environment, a harsh drought would prove most devastating:
“For three years no crop has been harvested. In the past year, 1668, a great many Indians perished of hunger, lying dead along the roads, in the ravines and in their huts. There were pueblos such as Las Humanas where more than four hundred and fifty died of hunger. The same calamity still prevails, for, because of lack of money, there is not a fanéga of corn or wheat in the whole kingdom.”
- Fray Juan Bernal, April 11, 1669
By 1680 the basin had been depopulated of both native and Spaniard. In 1690, the pueblos of New Mexico joined together and in a bloody and brutal rebellion, sent the Spanish packing to Mexico.
For hundreds of years the pueblos and mission churches of the Salinas basin lay abandoned to the elements.
The national monument was first proclaimed in 1909 and was administered by the National Park Service. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and enlarged in 1980 and 1981.
The monument now consists of the pueblos of Abo, Quarai and Gran Quivira. The Visitor Center is located at Mountainair.
If You Visit
How to Get There
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is located southeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico. From Albuquerque, the monument can be reached via Interstate 25 south to Belen, New Mexico, then New Mexico highway 47 to US highway 60. From that junction, the visitor center at Mountainair is just 21 miles east.
Another route, it to take Interstate 40 east from Albuquerque to New Mexico highway 337. Go south form there 54 miles to Mountainair.
Abo Ruin is located 9 miles west of Mountainair on US 60.
Quarai ruins is located 8 miles north of Mountanair on NM 55.
Gran Quivira ruins are located 26 miles south of Mountainair on NM 55.
Sites open daily
Summer hours (Memorial Day – Labor Day) 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
Winter hours (rest of the year) 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Located at all sites
There are no fees. Camping is not allowed.
102 South Ripley Mountainair, New Mexico 87036
Abo: (505) 847-2400
Gran Quivira: (505) 847-2770
Quarai: (505) 847-2290
Pueblo de Salinas
salinas mi pueblo