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On Walkabout At: The Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

In my last posting I shared with readers pictures and information about my trip across the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico.  One of the must see stops in the Jemez Mountains that I mentioned briefly in that posting are the historic Pueblo Indian ruins at the Jemez State Monument just outside the small village of Jemez Springs:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

This site is on the National Register of Historic Places due to it being home to 14th century ruins of the Giusewa Pueblo Indians.  The Indians that lived here are the ancestors of the Jemez Pueblo people that live about 12 miles down the valley from the Jemez State Monument.  In 1540-1542 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado became the first European to explore the American Southwest when he traveled north from the Spanish colonies in Mexico.  Coronado is believed to have used the Pueblo Indian villages near the present day city of Bernalillo just north of Albuquerque as a base to explore the region.

Coronado sent to Captain Francisco de Barrionuevo to explore the Jemez Mountains.  Barrionuevo is believed to be the first European to contact the “Hemes” villages in the mountains northwest of Bernalillo. “Hemes” in the native Towa language still spoken today by the natives in the area, means “people”.  However, the Spanish heard this and misunderstood it to mean that they were “Jemez Indians”.  The name stuck but at least the name of the Pueblo were the Indians lived “Giusewa” was properly understood to mean, “the place of boiling waters” due to the nearby hot springs, which have made the nearby village of Jemez Springs a tourist destination today.

The best place to start any visit to Jemez State Monument is by visiting the informative visitor center.  The visitor center has a number of great displays about the native people:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

As well as many displays showcasing the various Indian artifacts found at the Pueblo:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

From the visitor center there is a trail that allows visitors to walk through the extent of these ruins.  As I began the walk I happened to notice that the Jemez Springs weather station located right next to the visitor center:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

As I walked passed the weather station I noticed this reconstruction of a traditional Native-American cooking stove:

Picture from Guisewa Pueblo In New Mexico

Many Native-Americans still use these stoves today to cook and I buy bread from the locals whenever I have chance that make them in these stoves because it is quite good.  Just passed the stove I was able to see some of the older ruins of the Giusewa Pueblo that have been eroded more by the passing of time compared to the newer ruins still visible today:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

It is the people who lived in these homes that the Spanish explorers to the area would have seen.  The Jemez Indians were peaceful and provided provisions for their Spanish visitors, but they were suspicious of them due to reports of harsh treatment from Pueblo tribes around the Rio Grande River.  As I continued down the trail I took in the beautifully colored cliffs that I’m sure the early Spanish explorers must have also been impressed by:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

The next structure I saw along the trail was this rebuilt kiva:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

The kiva was first used by ancestral Puebloans that migrated to the Santa Fe and Albuquerque area from Mesa Verde, Colorado and Chaco Canyon, New Mexico about 900 years ago.  Why they left their homes to migrate here is still the subject of much debate with drought often being the most often speculated reason since the Rio Grande and its tributaries in the region are reliable year around water sources.  The kiva was used for religious ceremonies and a meeting place for males.  The Indians entered the kiva through the roof where a fire pit inside the kiva kept it warm with the entrance serving as an outlet for the smoke.  It is actually cleverly made structure, but what I find most interesting just like many other Native-American communities in the area with a Spanish mission past, is how the Spanish clergy allowed the natives to maintain these kivas that many in Spain would likely consider demonic heresy.

Near the kiva was the ruins of what had once been small rooms where some archaeologists believe may have been home to early Christian converts:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

The trail then continues to the front of the San José de los Jemez Mission Church where the original nave can still be seen:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

This church was built in 1621 based on a design believed to have come from Fray Geronimo de Zarate Salmeron.  Before Salmeron came to New Mexico he built two important causeways in Mexico City which was an impressive engineering accomplishment at the time.  The church was designed to create a sense of awe for anyone visiting the church for the first time:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

I wasn’t to awed when I walked into the church, but such a structure back in the 17th century had to be quite impressive to the native Pueblo Indians:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

Looking at the walls I couldn’t help but be impressed with how long the adobe bricks have been able to withstand the test of time in the harsh New Mexico environment:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

Attached to the church is what is believed to have been the original mission constructed here at Giusewa Pueblo around 1598 before the construction of the San José de los Jemez Mission:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

The bell tower continues to be the most impressive structure of the entire site just like it was centuries ago when the Spanish friars would ring the bell to signal the time for various mission activities:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

As I continued up the valley to the upper reaches of the Pueblo I was offered a great view of the bell tower backdropped by the impressive cliffs on the far side of the canyon:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

The trail loops around the remainder of the ruins of the Guisewa Pueblo before heading back towards the visitor center:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

As I walked around the ruins I couldn’t help, but think that who ever lived in this room had a great view:

A Picture From Jemez State Monument, New Mexico

The mission at this Pueblo remained active until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 that saw the expulsion of the Spanish from New Mexico.  It is theorized that when the Spanish returned with a large Army to reconquer New Mexico in 1692 the villagers of Guisewa Pueblo fled and never returned to this Pueblo.  The designation of the Pueblo as a State Monument has brought in much funding to restore the ruins for the archaeologists that continue to study and make new findings about the native people and the Spanish colonists who once called this scenic part of the Jemez Mountains home.

It is definitely worth taking an hour to stop and check out this site that offers an interesting insight into the lives of these Native-Americans along with learning about the early interaction between these native peoples and the early Spanish colonists.

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