A tour of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument can be done in one day, but for those who prefer a casual pace, it may be best to do an overnighter in this part of New Mexico. This National Monument is composed of three separate sites that are located many miles apart, so quite a bit of travel time is involved. Each pueblo mission also requires plenty of footwork and there will be plenty to ponder over, so it is easy to see why planning on spending some extra time is the best way to go. Modern accommodations are kind of sparse in this region and camping in the neighboring Manzano Mountains is what most visitors prefer. The local National Forest and State Parks offer some good camping options along with much more to explore, which makes it easy to plan an extended excursion instead of a hurried one day tour!
The Abo Ruins is one of the three Salinas Pueblo Missions and this one certainly is one of the most colorful. Abo is composed of cut red rock, red clay soil mortar and the same shade of adobe. Abo is also a gigantic pueblo mission complex, which creates a stunning sight to see with the contrasting green grass and cobalt blue skies. Upon first glance, it is easy to fall into a stare crazy gaze as the senses try to take it all in. A lot of history was made in this place and there will be hundreds of questions to ask, so the best way to start the venture is to pick up the a self guided tour book in the visitor center. The map of the grounds will also help when navigating this massive historical site.
The main Abo Pueblo Mission structure truly is a sight to behold. This building is several stories tall and it towers above the valley floor. The way the tall walls of this old mission have eroded does impart an ominous visual effect that sets the tone for the foot path tour. For those who have toured the old Spanish missions of California, Abo will be an entirely new experience because the volatile history of this place is on full display in the various architectural designs.
Native people inhabited and built pueblo structures in this place hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived. Abo actually was a thriving small community with a population of over 1,000 people when the missionaries showed up in the early 1600s. The remnants of the original structures can still be seen in a protected area in the National Monument grounds. The missionaries were temple builders during the occupation and classic Spanish style architectural designs were infused with native floor plans that the local people were familiar with. The result is a big Spanish style church surrounded by traditional native structures that even include kivas. The melding of architectural styles was done out of necessity, because the local natives were the only skilled labor force.
The spiritual melding of two cultures may sound ideal, but this was not the case with the Spanish occupation. There is a downside to visiting the Salinas Pueblo Missions which has to do with learning about the inhumane way the native people were treated by the Spanish. Basically, conversion to christianity involved slavery and cruel acts of torture back in those days. Eventually the native people resisted and after the historic Pueblo Rebellion occurred the Spanish left the territory. The old pueblo missions were abandoned and left to decompose by the forces of nature. Abo is now both a sacred place and a very sore topic that lingers in modern times, which can cause mixed emotions when gaining insight during the tour.
There are a few satellite adobe ranch structures on the Abo grounds to explore too and each has an interesting piece of history to share. The Abo Pueblo Mission Ruins will require about a half day to experience, so be sure to pack some water when walking the paths. When done during the morning hours, having a picnic lunch around noon under a shade tree is nice option before heading off to the next Salinas Pueblo Missions destination. Volumes have been written about the Abo Ruins and the best way to experience the long history is to view this landmark in person!
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