New Mexico Pueblos

The enchanting state of New Mexico isn’t only a beautiful place to visit, but it is also deeply rooted in its Native American culture. The first indigenous group can be dated back to 10,000 a.c, when nomadic people roamed the desserts in search for wild game. Many centuries later, the native people from New Mexico learned how to cultivate and harvest from the land; thus, more permanent tribes formed- among them the pueblos. The New Mexico pueblos had a trading system with the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains-the Comanche and Apaches-which enabled them to exchange goods and thrive; however, in the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadores arrived with the hope to find the lost golden cities-the first colony was established in New Mexico.

The New Mexico pueblos are divided into 19 groups, eight of them reside in the fertile valley of Rio Grande. Each pueblo has its own government and traditions, and I was fortunate enough to visit and experience the rich culture of four of them: Tesuque, a small live pueblo which is dedicated to its century old agriculture and pottery; Pecos, once a majestic pueblo which is now a National Park; Taos, a charming live pueblo; and Bandelier, which is a pueblo carved into the rocks of Frijoles Canyon.

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Old pueblo house and caves (also used as a house)

Tesuque Pueblo

This tiny pueblo is open for the public to visit. They are just your typical pueblo: short adobe buildings, dirt streets, and a plain-yet charming-church stands in the mist of the terra cotta edifices. My visit to this pueblo was quite brief and we spent the majority of our time in the church chatting with locals.

Pecos Pueblo

Situated between the farmers of the Rio Grande Valley and the hunters of the Great Plains, Pecos was once a busy pueblo and a busy trade route. This pueblo was composed by a four story high fortress and home to 2,000 people. Our visit was quite instructive and interesting. Now only ruins of a great city are left: hundreds of years old walls, numerous kivas (underground ceremonial rooms), and the remains of a catholic adobe church. Throughout the historic site, signs relate the history of the Pecos Pueblo: their daily lives, their religious practices, etc. The most impressive part, however, is the remains of the church. The adobe walls rise high above the ground, and the terra cotta beautifully contrasts with the blue sky

Bandelier Pueblo

This ancient pueblo is carved deeply in the stones of Frijoles Canyon. The light pink shades of the canyon look like sandstone; however, it is volcanic ash from the Jemez Volcano. This soft rock was carved and molded into houses, kivas, and tools. As you walk through the valley and up the canyon walls, you will be able to see the ruins of the pueblo village as well as the ruins of ancient homes built into the soft rock. Wood ladders are placed beneath the entrance of the caves-who were once the home of the Pueblo of Frijoles Canyon-for you to climb and peak inside.

There are few trails to choose from, some nicely paved, but others are more rustic. The Main Loop Trail takes you to the edges of the canyon, where you can visit the ancient ruins and caves; similarly, the Alcove House Trail will take you up to a massive cavern and some ruins, but first you must climb on ladders up to 160 ft high.

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The view from inside of one of caves

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