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Founded in the early 17th century by Spanish explorers and priests, various missions and other buildings were constructed to both settle the area convert local Tiwa and Tompiro Indians. However, by about 1670, the area was depopulated of both Spanish and Indians residents and these ruins are all that remain, much of it a mystery to this day.


  • Quarai Ruins in Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
  • Mission ruins at Abó
  • Salinas Pueblo ruins
  • Quarai Mission Church in Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
  • Pueblo and mission ruins at Gran Quivira
  • A map of the 17th century pueblos in the Salinas area including the three surviving ruins in the National Monument: Quarai, Abo, and Gran Quivira
Once, thriving Native American trade communities of Tiwa and Tompiro language-speaking Puebloans inhabited this remote frontier area of central New Mexico. Early in the 17th century Spanish Franciscans found the area ripe for their missionary efforts. However, by the late 1670s the entire Salinas District, as the Spanish had named it, was depopulated of both Indian and Spaniard. What remains today are austere yet beautiful reminders of this earliest contact between Pueblo Indians and Spanish Colonials: the ruins of three mission churches, at Quarai, Abó, and Gran Quivira and the partially excavated pueblo of Las Humanas or, as it is known today, the Gran Quivira pueblo.

It was first proclaimed Gran Quivira National Monument on November 1, 1909. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. On December 19, 1980 it was enlarged and two New Mexico State Monuments were absorbed into it on November 2, 1981. It was renamed on October 28, 1988.

Quarai:

Quarai, also known historically as Quarai State Monument, is a prehistoric and historic unit of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument located north of Mountainair. A National Historic Landmark District, it encompasses the archaeological remains of prehistoric Native American settlements, historic remains of a pueblo that was abandoned in the 1670s during the Spanish colonial period, the ruins of a 17th-century Spanish mission compound, and 19th-century Spanish ranching artifacts. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and was added to the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in 1980.

The Quarai ruins are located in central New Mexico, in a rural desert setting about 8 miles north of Mountainair, where the main visitors center for the Salinas Pueblos National Monument is located. The largest features of the ruins are the main pueblo and the walls of the mission church, which was probably one of the largest wall and beam structures in North America. The walls range in thickness from three to six feet, and probably reached a height of 40 feet. Also present are mounds representing the archaeological sites of earlier buildings, and two extremely rare examples of fortified plazuela sites, Spanish colonial-style ranch sites developed in the 1820s and 1830s.

The Quarai were a Tiguex (Southern Tiwa) Pueblo band of American Indians. They were one of several bands of Tiwa speakers that populated the Salinas basin when it was first documented by Spanish explorers in the late 16th century, and were referred to in Spanish documentes as the "Cuarac". Based on the archaeology of the site, they are estimated to have settled here around 1300 AD. By the early 17th century the large pueblo compound had been built. Spanish missionaries were received by the Quarai in 1626, and granted permission to build a mission. Named Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai, it was completed in 1632. Although the community did well, a severe drought afflicted the region beginning in the late 1660s, which combined with attacks from hostile Aztecs to lead to its abandonment in 1675. The Quarai eventually migrated to what is now Texas.

The site was not reoccupied until the 19th century, when Spanish ranchers Miguel and Juan Lucero arrived in the 1820s. The Luceros used the ruined convento as a sheep pen, and built an irrigation system using elements of stone and brick salvaged from the ruins. Both the church and one their houses were built on top of mounds of prehistoric construction ruins. The Luceros and other local ranchers used church (which at the time still had its roof) for services led by itinerant preachers. In 1829 they petitioned the Spanish governor for the construction of a new church building. This was granted, but disagreements among the residents and with the authorities led its construction to be halted at an early date; it was built at Manzano instead. The Lucero settlement was abandoned after a major Apache raid in 1830, one of whose effects was the collaps of the church roof.

The ruins were acquired by the state in the 1930s and stabilized. They were operate by the state as a monument until they were taken over by the National Park Service in the 1980s, when the Casa Quiveras National Monument was expanded and renamed the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

Abo:

Abó is a pueblo ruin in New Mexico that is preserved as part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The ruins are located about 9 miles west of Mountainair, at about 6100 feet above sea level. They are said to date back to the 14th century. It was a major trading station during its time. There is a visitor contact station, a 1/4) trail through the mission ruins, and a 1/2 mile trail around the un-excavated pueblo ruins. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Abo is also the geological type locality for the Abo Formation, which is made up of sandstone red beds and is exposed to the northwest of the Abo ruins.

Abó appears to first enter the documentary historic record in 1583, when a visit to a site believed to be Abó was recorded by the Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo. Spanish missionary work began there in 1622, and construction of the first church began in 1629. The community, composed of Tampiro-speaking Pueblo Indians, was recorded to have a population of more than 1,600 in 1641. It was abandoned around 1672, apparently due to drought and attacks by Apaches. The Spanish recorded that its residents moved to the Rio Grande valley, where they later sided with the Spanish in the 1680 Pueblo Rebellion.

The site was acquired by the state in 1938, which preserved it as a state historic site. In 2008 it was taken over by the National Park Service as part of the newly enlarged and renamed Gran Quivira National Monument, now the Salinas Pueblos National Monument.

Gran Quivira Ruins:

The Gran Quivira Ruins are located about 25 miles south of Mountainair, at about 6500 feet above sea level. There is a small visitor center near the parking lot. A 1/2 mile trail leads through partially excavated pueblo ruins and the ruins of the uncompleted mission church.

"The Gran Quivira, as it has been called for over a hundred years, is by far the best known of the Salinas pueblos, and in fact is one of the most celebrated ruins in all of the Southwest. This is not strange, as it is altogether the largest ruin of any Christian temple that exists in the United States; and connected with it from the first, there has been the glamor of romance and the strange charm of mystery, which adds tenfold to ordinary interest.

"How and when it first received its deceptive title of “Gran Quivira” we may never know; there are dozens of traditions and theories and imaginings. From the days of Coronado the name of “Quivira” had been associated with the idea of a great unknown city, of wealth and splendor, situated somewhere on the Eastern Plains; and it is not at all unlikely that when some party from the Rio Grande Valley, in search of game or gold, crossed the mountains and the wilderness lying to the east, and was suddenly amazed by the apparition of a dead city, silent and tenantless, but bearing the evidences of large population, of vast resources, of architectural knowledge, mechanical skill, and wonderful energy, they should have associated with it the stories heard from childhood of the mythical center of riches and power, and called the new-found wonder the Gran Quivira."1






1.Prince, L. Bradford (1915). Spanish Mission Churches of New Mexico. Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press. pp. 355–356.

Ivey, James E. (1988). In the Midst of a Loneliness: The Architectural History of the Salinas Missions : Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument Historic Structire Report. Southwest Cultural Resource Center Professional Papers. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Division of History, Southwest Cultural Resources Center, Southwest Region, National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

"In the Midst of a Loneliness": The Architectural History of the Salinas Missions" (PDF). National Park Service

Weiss, Francine (April 28, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Quarai / Quarai State Monument" (pdf). National Park Service. and Accompanying 13 photos, from 1937, 1939, 1943, 1955, and undated

Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. NM-146, "Mission San Gregorio de Abo, State Highway 513, Mountainair vicinity, Abo, Torrance County, NM", 14 measured drawings, supplemental material






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