Quarai is one of three historic sites within the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico. Each pueblo mission is separated by many miles of travel time, so touring this National Monument truly is an all day affair even if only a couple of sites are visited. There will be plenty of walking to do too. Packing water and planning a siesta picnic for the peak heat of the day will ensure a pleasant experience. It does not really matter which pueblo mission is visited first, because each has its own character and story to tell. Touring all of the Salinas Pueblo Missions will provide valuable insight into the intriguing history of this region and there will be plenty of memories to ponder over for years to come.
Just like with the other Salinas Pueblo Mission sites, Quarai was established in an existing village that had basic structures dating back to prehistoric times. This entire region was occupied and thriving when the Spanish explorers first showed up in the early 1600s and the information was noted for the missionaries who followed a few years later. The goal of the priests was conversion to Christianity by means of establishing large temples that the local people built. This plan superficially sounds innocent and peaceful, but this was far from the truth in many cases.
Quarai was one of the few Spanish missions in this part of New Mexico that actually blossomed into a thriving community. The Spanish mission lifestyle went well for a few years, till a severe drought occurred and the Apache raids dramatically increased. Soon Quarai was abandoned and the population moved to a safer location in the Rio Grande Valley. The historic Pueblo Rebellion also took place during those years, which ended the Spanish missionary conversion plan in this region altogether. The Quarai Pueblo Mission has lied in state ever since and fortunately the ruins were not scavenged.
Just like with the other Salinas Pueblo Missions, the remnants of the original prehistoric village site has been preserved and it is not excavated. Since the local natives were the labor force, many traditional native architectural designs were incorporated in the overall mission floor plan. The main structure is the mission itself, which is several stories tall and towers over the courtyard complex. The main church building certainly does have a gothic appearance and wandering through the passageways between the towering walls will reveal just how gigantic this hand built mission complex truly is!
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