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Visitors line up and descend into the kiva at Coronado Historical Site to view the 500-year-old murals during the celebration marking the monument's 75th anniversary.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Pueblo cultural site marks 75th birthday

—Signpost Staff

Seventy-five years seems like a long time to be welcoming visitors until you realize Coronado Historic Site recognizes the first contact of Sandoval County pueblos and Spanish explorers in 1540.

Since the dedication as a state monument in 1940, an estimated two million people have visited the site on the west bank of the Rio Grande in Bernalillo, according to the state Department of Cultural Affairs. That event was timed to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado leading three-to-five hundred soldiers and more than one thousand native Indians and slaves.

Here the Spaniards found Kuaua Pueblo occupied by perhaps 1,200 Tiwa-speaking residents whose descendants live in four modern pueblos: Taos, Picuris, Sandia, and Isleta. The expedition spent the winter of 1540-41 camped nearby, although there is some question as to whether that was a few miles downriver or closer to Interstate 40 in Albuquerque.

By the time the expedition headed back to the interior of Mexico in 1542, it had reached into Kansas and explored elsewhere without finding the “Seven Cities of Gold.” The expedition was considered a failure, and the occasionally bloody and demanding contacts with natives began a history of animosity.

It would be another fifty years before Spaniards returned to settle in present-day New Mexico, although they were expelled for a time after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.

Hundreds of visitors turned out for the 75th anniversary celebration at the end of May. “We stand at the epicenter of two millennia of history,” State Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales said.

The celebration also marked the reopening of the mural gallery in one of the kivas uncovered during archaeological excavations in the 1930s. The kiva, still considered sacred to the descendants, offers the only public display of kiva murals, here by permission of the five modern pueblos.

One of the new exhibits at the visitors center features prints of Native American “easel painting” from the 1930s by students at the Santa Fe Indian School. One of those students, Zia artist Velino Shije Herrera, recreated the Coronado murals after the Kuaua kiva was restored in 1938.

The surviving portions of original murals are preserved at the historic site and the Museum of Indian Arts and Crafts in Santa Fe. The Cultural Affairs Department describes them as: among the best examples of pre-Columbian art found in North America.

The visitor center itself boasts notable history being in the Pueblo Revival style and designed by John Gaw Meem, the architect often credited with giving Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico their distinctive pueblo looks. A renovation of the interpretive exhibits was recently completed with the assistance of the Program for Interactive Cultural Technologies at New Mexico Highlands University.

The site also includes a campground with RV and tent sites, day-use facilities, and group shelters.

Labor Day weekend offers new local fest for craft beer, cider enthusiasts

—María G. Rinaldi, Town of Bernalillo

The Town of Bernalillo and New Mexico Brewers Guild have launched tickets sales for the Mountain West Brew Fest to be held September 5 and September 6 at Loretto Park in Bernalillo. The Mountain West Brew Fest will celebrate craft beer and artisanal cider from some of the top producers across New Mexico and the Mountain West.

 “The craft beer industry is unusual in that we see a ton of brewer respect, camaraderie, and collaboration,” said Christopher Goblet, director of New Mexico Brewers Guild. “The Mountain West Brew Fest promises to be one of the largest gatherings of breweries in the four corners region.”

Two different ticket types are available for purchase from the festival’s new website: www.mountainwestbrewfest. A general admission ticket is twenty dollars and includes a commemorative beer glass at admission. Premium tickets, for the true connoisseur, will be sold for thirty dollars. Premium tickets include a commemorative beer glass and access to a specialty beer tasting tent that will offer samples of some rare and reserve beers you won’t find anywhere else.

 “Every day we are adding new flavor and fun to the festival as breweries from the region sign up to attend the Mountain West Brew Fest. We have also asked breweries from around the state to nominate their favorite bands to perform on the main stage, and we’ve just added a gluten-free-beer bar to the list of attractions,” said María Rinaldi, Director of Community Development for the Town of Bernalillo.

Brew Fest attendees can expect over fifty breweries, more than a dozen food trucks, and specialty food vendors, as well as a mini farmers market offering seasonal harvests, including roasted green chile and Rio Grande valley peaches. Eight bands from around the region will perform over the two-day inaugural event. Information is added almost daily to the website: www.mountainwestbrewfest.

Strike the anvil

—Carol Kennis Lopez

On July 11, we focus on Casa San Ysidro’s outstanding collection of Southwestern colonial ironwork in a free program: “Strike the Anvil.” Hand-forged by skilled, but unknown blacksmiths, various hooks, hinges, hasps, scythes, tongs, spoons, scimmers, and trivets are displayed in every room at Casa San Ysidro. Since almost all bar iron in early New Mexico had to be brought from Spain, many of these hand-forged objects were at some point transported along the Camino Real from Mexico. Take advantage of this opportunity to get a closer look at these remarkable objects and visit with Corrales’s own Dave Sabo as he demonstrates traditional blacksmithing at Casa’s forge between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. Sabo is a contemporary artist blacksmith who combines traditional skills with a modern aesthetic to create useful and artistic objects.

Casa San Ysidro’s ironwork collection provided at least one-third of the ironware illustrated in Marc Simmons’ and Frank Turley’s classic book on the subject. “Strike the Anvil” will help us appreciate the distinctive quality of the Southwestern blacksmithing tradition. It is the fourth program in a series co-sponsored by the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association.

In addition to the activity in Casa’s forge, visitors may embark on self-paced tours of Casa San Ysidro’s historically furnished rooms from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. to discover the ironwork in a traditional setting. Casa San Ysidro is located at 973 Old Church Road in the Village of Corrales.

For more information about this program and the historic Casa San Ysidro: The Gutiérrez/Minge House, browse online at The public may call 897-8828 or 311, Relay NM or 711.

Town of Bernalillo hosts summer programs and events

Camp Coronado is underway. The Summer Day Camp Program put on by the Town of Bernalillo Recreation Department is almost full. This is a structured program that provides a high-quality summer day camp experience for children ages six through 14. The camp incorporates swimming, sports, games, arts and crafts, field trips, and other group activities. Children who attend Camp Coronado participate in all activities.

The Summer Reading Program at the Martha Liebert Town of Bernalillo Public Library is underway. The theme this year is “Every Hero Has a Story.” Readers will win prizes. The Library also offers a slew of other summer programing including:

  • Story and craft time on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m.
  • Visiting performers on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.
  • Afternoon at the movies on Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. (except the third Thursday of the month, due to Family Movie Night)
  • Family Movie Night on the third Thursday of the month at 6:00 p.m.

The Summer Lunch Program, sponsored by Bernalillo Public Schools started June 1 and runs through July 31, Monday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Rotary Park in Bernalillo. Kids under 18 eat free and adult meals are only four dollars. The program is funded by the USDA.

Other events this summer are:

  • July 4: wet and wild water games from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Rotary Park. Water slides, water balloon fights, water guns, fire trucks, free hot dogs, and more.
  • July 10: Cops in the park at Rotary Park from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Presented by the Town of Bernalillo Police Department, Cops in the Park features law enforcement agencies from Bernalillo and surrounding communities, police cars, police helicopters, a dunk tank, water slides, fun games, giveaways, free hot dogs and hamburgers and more.

For more information, contact the Town of Bernalillo Recreation Department at 771-2078.

Fray Alonso de Benavides and the Jemez Nation, AD 1630

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

Fray Alonso de Benavides arrived in New Mexico in 1626. He was a Franciscan Priest. Charged by his order as Custodian (head) of the missions and agent of the inquisition, Benavides toured New Mexico extensively overseeing the conversion and management of all Native American peoples in the province before departing in 1629.

Upon his return to Spain in 1630, Fray Alonso de Benavides published his report, entitled History (or Memorial) of New Mexico. It was originally addressed to King Philip IV of Spain, but was later revised and expanded for Pope Urban VIII. In many ways, in addition to being a history, the report was a geography and ethnography regarding Native American people in the region. It highlighted their nations and traditional culture practices, albeit from the perspective of the European outsider, and discussed, at some length, the changes that were occurring amongst the Pueblo and Apache peoples due to extended contact with Spanish settlers.

Among the groups discussed by Benavides were the Jemez. By 1630, Benavides noted that the Jemez Nation dwelled in three large villages: San Jose (Giusewa), San Diego de la Congregacion (most likely Walatowa), and Pecos (Cicuye). The Franciscan stressed the toll warfare and disease had played on the Jemez above all other Native American groups. By the Custodian’s own admission, “over half of this nation has died.”

While not explicitly stated, it is very likely that the Jemez, living in the Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe, were still in revolt at the time of Benavides’s arrival in 1626. This uprising began three years earlier with the burning of the San Jose Mission. As Custodian of the Franciscan Order in New Mexico, Benavides resettled these people at San Jose, “which was still standing,” and San Diego which was “founded anew.” Exactly how the Jemez were pacified is not discussed. However, the History praises the fighting prowess of the 250 Spanish settlers in Santa Fe, as well as the contributions the Tewa Nation made to the war effort.

Benavides speaks highly of the Mission at San Jose. Founded by Fray Geronimo Zarate Salmeron in 1621, he characterizes the church and friary as “breathtaking, sumptuous, and distinguished.” And of San Diego, the Custodian boasts it to be “one of the best towns in the Indies with its church, friary, and schools teaching all the trades.” Collectively, the Franciscan estimated the two settlements to contain “three thousand newly assembled taxpayers.”

Another two-thousand Jemez were indicated to live at Pecos, which also housed an “elegant rectory and temple.” Located in Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of Santa Fe, the pueblo of Pecos is described as a settlement “six-or-seven-stories high” and consisting of “over six thousand large houses.” The grandeur of the village relative to the number of people estimated to live at the pueblo suggests, that like their brethren to the west, the Jemez of Pecos had witnessed a severe decline in population. Moreover, “although these Indians are part of the Jemez Nation, they are considered to be a people apart due to their isolation and the fact that they are cut off from Jemez territory proper, even though they speak the same language.”

Benavides goes on to reflect that the Jemez of Pecos live in “an incredibly cold” and “not very fertile” land. This passage lies in stark contrast to his almost overwhelming praise for the climate and country of New Mexico as a whole, which is, according to the Franciscan, filled with abundant wildlife, arable land, and mineral wealth. In many ways, the discussion of Pecos by Benavides appears to foreshadow the abandonment of the region by the Jemez people, although this migration from Pecos to San Diego (Walatowa) Pueblo does not occur for another two centuries. It also should be noted that in 1630, demographic estimates for the Jemez still suggest a population roughly twenty times greater than that of the Spanish dwelling in Santa Fe.

Benavides’s view of New Mexico and of the Jemez Nation was one of promise. He saw his Christianization efforts as having been incredibly successful. Many missions were established during his time as Custodian of the Franciscan Order in New Mexico. However, his naivety is also on display. Benavides glosses over the impacts of Christianization, pacification, and settlement at missions, the encomendero or tribute system pushed by the Spanish in Santa Fe, and the use of Native Americans as forced labor in the mines. These policies will eventually incite the Jemez and others into a large-scale revolt on August 10, 1680.

To read more about Alonso Benavides and New Mexico in the early seventeenth century, pick up a copy of A Harvest of Reluctant Souls: Fray Alonso de Benavides’s History of New Mexico, 1630, translated by Baker H. Morrow. It is available now from the University of New Mexico Press—

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