Are you looking to hike around some ruins, walk among the ghosts, look into the obscure U.S. History that you didn’t learn about in school? Would you like to reflect in silence and view awe inspiring New Mexico scenic beauty intertwined with two distinct cultures that came together in this region over 400 years ago – all off the beaten path? Well then, the Salinas Pueblo Mission Ruins are “must see” destinations when you travel to Albuquerque.
I have prepared a Google Map for you to see how easy it is to get to the Salinas Mission Ruins from our Albuquerque bed and breakfast. It is only a short drive of about 80 miles from our B&B in the center of Albuquerque, but so far off the beaten path of tourists that I am almost afraid to share this secret with my readers. There is so much beauty and history here. It is both serene and surreal.
There are actually three ancient sites in the valley that comprise the Salinas Pueblo Missions, and they are clustered around the modern town, (and I use that term a bit loosely), of Mountainair, New Mexico. West of Mountainair is Abó, with its unexcavated pueblo and a tall church ruin that rises into the sky as you approach. This community was thriving when the Spanish Explorers first came upon it in 1581. To the North of Mountainair is Quarai which has the most complete church and several exhibits. To the south is Gran Quivira – the most extensive of the three Salinas Pueblos.
The visitor center for this National Monument is right in the center of Mountainair. Also there is the historic Shaffer Hotel, (that I recently attended
a wedding at – an enjoyable time at a quaint venue), and the recently updated Rock Motel – both fine places to stay if you would like to make a night of it, and there IS an ATM and a fun, friendly albeit small, watering hole – The Rosebud Saloon, right on the main drag. The picture here of the dining room at the Shaffer Hotel shows what appears to be swastikas, however this symbol was widely used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among various tribes, the swastika carried different meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clan; to the Navajo it was one symbol for a whirling log (tsil no’oli’), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals (after learning of the Nazi association, the Navajo discontinued use of the symbol).
Without spoiling your experience I will give you a brief history of the Pueblo Missions in the Salinas Valley. The people who settled here had 7000 years of roots in the southwest, primarily in what is now NM. These peoples were an assimilation of the ancestors of Anasazi from the north and Mogollon in the south. They settled in this valley and were hunter-gatherers who also practiced some agriculture. They thrived here and their numbers reached 10,000 or more by 1600. These pueblos had became a crossroad for trade in the southwest and that is when the Spanish found them. The missionaries moved in a few years later to begin their conversion and build their churches. Besides the dealing with the missionaries, fate dealt a hard blow and the combination of drought, famine, raiding and disease caused them to virtually disappear by the mid to late 1670’s, ironically, just before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when the Pueblos north of Salinas united and drove the Spanish out of New Mexico. The few survivors assimilated into the Pueblos in and near the Rio Grande Valley or exited with the Spanish to El Paso and joined the native peoples in that area of (now) Texas and Northern Mexico. Of all the indigenous people in New Mexico they are the only ones who’s language was totally lost to the past.
Just this little bit of history will give you a clue on why I said earlier that you would walk among the ghosts. Salinas will leave an impression on your mind and soul. It is eerily beautiful, spiritual and compelling to behold.
I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!