Touring N.M.

Pecos Pueblo Worth the Trip

Rosie Johnston and MaryAnn White peer down the ladder into one of the two reconstructed kivas at Pecos Pueblo.
Jon Knudsen, June 2017
Posted

I have known about Pecos Pueblo since I first came to New Mexico. But although close to it many times, I was always on my way to somewhere else. What a mistake!

Here are three reasons to visit: The pueblo has a fascinating history that starts way before the arrival of the Spanish, it participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and has ruins that show the changes that were to come when the Spanish returned 12 years later, and it is surrounded by the Civil War landmarks of the Glorieta Battlefield.

The ruins of Pecos Pueblo are just south of the town of Pecos in the Glorieta Pass between Santa Fe and Las Vegas. Cicuique, or Pecos Pueblo (as it is called today) was the easternmost pueblo in New Mexico. Founded about 1350, it was a major trading center for about 500 years.

What made the pueblo so successful was its location, with the plains to its east and the mountains and the Rio Grande valley to the west. Glorieta Pass is like a funnel. It is basically the only way through the mountains for a hundred miles.

Pecos Pueblo was prosperous. It consisted of two apartment-style sections, each four stories tall, straddling a ridge overlooking a large and lush meadow. They had plenty of water and wild game. They also had room to store a huge amount of grain.

Enter the Spanish. The church the friars designed was a massive building with walls up to 22 feet thick. As if the forced labor of the pueblo people to erect this edifice was not enough, they then forbade traditional pueblo religious practices, smashed their religious objects and filled in the kivas with sand.

During the ensuing Pueblo Revolt, the priest was killed and the church destroyed. When the Spanish finally returned 12 years later, they were a bit more accommodating. The new sanctuary was much smaller. Disease, competition for trade, and raiding Comanches led to abandonment of the pueblo around 1850.

A decade later, small arms and cannon fire rang out in these hillsides during the Battle of Glorieta, and the Pecos National Historic Park has slowly been acquiring more of these sites that are so famous to history buffs: Cañoncito, Pigeon’s Ranch and Kozlowski’s Stage Station.

Access to the Civil War sites is limited to weekend tours. Vistors can check out the Glorieta Battlefield tour on Saturdays and the Kozlowski’s ranch house on Sundays. For more information, including reservations, visit www.nps.gov/peco or call 757-7241.

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