While on a trip to retrace parts of the Santa Fe Trail, we stopped at Pecos Pueblo, located off I-25, 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe. If you’re traveling north on I-25, take the Pecos-Glorieta exit, then follow the signs to the National Historic Park. The park is open 8 am to 6 pm Memorial Day to Labor Day, and 8 am to 5 pm the rest of the year. Ranger-guided tours of the 1.25 mile trail starts at the Visitor’s Center and winds up the hill to the Pueblo and then across to the Mission Church ruins. If you’re not used to elevation (Pecos is at 7,000 feet), take it slow and drinks lots of water.
Even though we live in a city with a long history of Spanish rule, neither of us knew much about the cultural history of the period of time when the Spanish ruled the southwestern pueblos. Apparently Pecos was ideally situated between the Plains tribes to the north and Mexico to the south – making it a trading powerhouse. The plains that stretch out below the stone wall here once held the camps of the tribes who came to trade.
Thanks to the fantastic guided tour by the Park Ranger, we were so fascinated by Pecos that one of the first things we did was to pick up a copy of The Pueblo Revolt by David Robert so we could learn more about the conditions that led to the overthrow of the Spanish here in 1680.
Today, all that remains of this once mighty (and fearful) puebloan tribe are the room block foundations, the great wall surrounding the pueblo and kivas (two of which are open to the public). Of the Mission complex, visitors can see the remains of the side walls, which were being renovated at the time of our visit. This photo shows one of the interior walls. In addition, the foundation of the convento is still clearly visible. This is the area that once included the priest’s quarters, workshops, corrals, stables, kitchen, garden, and dining room. It was in the convento that the priests taught the Indians building skills.
Over time, the Pueblo was abandoned, the few remaining natives leaving to join the Jemez Pueblo, 80 miles to the west. However, Pecos was never lost to time as travelers on the Santa Fe Trail moved past the ruins beginning in about 1821. In 1915, Alfred Kidder – who would become the southwest’s foremost archeologist – became excavating the site. His 12 seasons spent at Pecos formed the basis for Southwestern archeology as a new science. Kidder so loved Pecos that at his death in 1963, he was buried somewhere on the site.
Although we stumbled upon Pecos almost by happenstance, it remains a highlight of our Santa Fe Trail trip. Like so many ancient sites it has a silence that is bone-penetrating – – it’s the kind of place you wish you could time-travel to just to see what everyday life was like.
Since Returning to San Diego, We’ve Been Reading
New Mexico, by Marc Simmons
Pecos New Mexico Archaelogical Notes by Alfred Vincent Kidder
The Memoirs of the Consquisator Bernal Diaz del Castillo, vol 1 and 2 (free as a Kindle book on Amazon)
The Old Santa Fe Trail, by Henry Inman (free as a Kindle book on Amazon)
Pueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico , by John Kessell
An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology, by Alfred Vincent Kidder
If you travel to Pecos this summer, just be on the look-out for rattlesnakes – they ARE around!