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When the Spanish arrived in America in the 16th century they encountered people living in New Mexico and Arizona. As they lived in permanent settlements of adobe houses they gave them the name Pueblo, the Spanish for town.

The Pueblo appear to be the oldest of all any Native American tribes in the United States. There is evidence that they lived in New Mexico and Arizona as early as 500 A.D. They irrigated desert lands and grew corn, vegetables, fruit and cotton. They were skilled craft workers and made baskets, pottery, textiles and jewelry.

Pueblo settlements were built on a high, steep-sided, flat-topped rock formation, which served as a natural fortress against their enemies such as the Navajo. The different apartments were connected by removable ladders.

In the 17th century the Spanish attempted to impose their authority over the Pueblo people. They were forced to pay taxes in the form of goods or labour. In an attempt to convert them to Christianity the Pueblos were ordered to abandon their own religious ceremonies and practices.

In 1680 the Pueblos rebelled against the Spanish and managed to drive them out of New Mexico. The area was not retaken until 1682 when the Spanish army under Diego de Varga defeated the Pueblos.

In 1848 the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo. Pueblo territory now became part of the United States. However, subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court has managed to restore most of these lands to the original owners.


USS Pueblo captured

On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, is engaged in a routine surveillance of the North Korean coast when it is intercepted by North Korean patrol boats. According to U.S. reports, the Pueblo was in international waters almost 16 miles from shore, but the North Koreans turned their guns on the lightly armed vessel and demanded its surrender. The Americans attempted to escape, and the North Koreans opened fire, wounding the commander and two others. With capture inevitable, the Americans stalled for time, destroying the classified information aboard while taking further fire. Several more crew members were wounded.

Finally, the Pueblo was boarded and taken to Wonson. There, the 83-man crew was bound and blindfolded and transported to Pyongyang, where they were charged with spying within North Korea’s 12-mile territorial limit and imprisoned. It was the biggest crisis in two years of increased tension and minor skirmishes between the United States and North Korea.

The United States maintained that the Pueblo had been in international waters and demanded the release of the captive sailors. With the Tet Offensive raging 2,000 miles to the south in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson ordered no direct retaliation, but the United States began a military buildup in the area. 

At first the captured crew of the Pueblo resisted demands they sign false confessions, famously raising their middle fingers at the camera and telling the North Koreans it was the “Hawaiian good-luck sign.” Once the North Koreans learned the truth, they punished the prisoners with beatings, cold temperatures and sleep deprivation, according to a lawsuit some of the Pueblo’s crew would later file against the North Korean government.

Eventually North Korean authorities coerced a confession and apology out of Pueblo commander Bucher, in which he stated, “I will never again be a party to any disgraceful act of aggression of this type.” The rest of the crew also signed a confession under threat of torture.

The prisoners were then taken to a second compound in the countryside near Pyongyang, where they were forced to study propaganda materials and beaten for straying from the compound’s strict rules. In August, the North Koreans staged a phony news conference in which the prisoners were to praise their humane treatment, but the Americans thwarted the Koreans by inserting innuendoes and sarcastic language into their statements. Some prisoners also rebelled in photo shoots by casually sticking out their middle finger a gesture that their captors didn’t understand. Later, the North Koreans caught on and beat the Americans for a week.


Anasazi

The Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”), thought to be ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, leaving a heavy accumulation of house remains and debris. Recent research has traced the Anasazi to the “archaic” peoples who practiced a wandering, hunting, and food-gathering life-style from about 6000 B.C. until some of them began to develop into the distinctive Anasazi culture in the last millennium B.C. During the last two centuries B.C., the people began to supplement their food gathering with maize horticulture. By A.D. 1200 horticulture had assumed a significant role in the economy.

Because their culture changed continually (and not always gradually), researchers have divided the occupation into periods, each with its characteristic complex of settlement and artifact styles. Since 1927 the most widely accepted nomenclature has been the “Pecos Classification,” which is generally applicable to the whole Anasazi Southwest. Although originally intended to represent a series of developmental stages, rather than periods, the Pecos Classification has come to be used as a period sequence:

Basketmaker I: pre-1000 B.C. (an obsolete synonym for Archaic)
Basketmaker II: c. 1000 B.C. to A.D. 450
Basketmaker III: c. A.D. 450 to 750

Pueblo I: c. A.D. 750 to 900
Pueblo II: c. A.D. 900 to 1150
Pueblo III: c. A.D. 1150 to 1300
Pueblo IV: c. A.D. 1300 to 1600
Pueblo V: c. A.D. 1600 to present (historic Pueblo)

Westwater ruin near Blanding

The last two periods are not important to this discussion, as the Pueblo peoples had left Utah by the end of the Pueblo III period.

As the Anasazi settled into their village/farming lifestyle, recognizable regional variants or subcultures emerged, which can be usefully combined into two larger groups. The eastern branches of the Anasazi culture include the Mesa Verde Anasazi of southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado, and the Chaco Anasazi of northwestern New Mexico. The western Anasazi include the Kayenta Anasazi of northeastern Arizona and the Virgin Anasazi of southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona. To the north of the Anasazi peoples – north of the Colorado and Escalante rivers – Utah was the home of a heterogeneous group of small-village dwellers known collectively as the Fremont.

Although they continued to move around in pursuit of seasonally available foods, the earliest Anasazi concentrated increasing amounts of effort on the growing of crops and the storage of surpluses. They made exquisite baskets and sandals, for which reason they have come to be known as “Basketmakers.” They stored their goods (and often their dead) in deep pits and circular cists – small pits often lined with upright stone slabs and roofed over with a platform of poles, twigs, grass, slabs or rocks, and mud. Basketmaker II houses were somewhat more sturdy than those of their Archaic predecessors, being rather like a Paiute winter wickiup or a Navajo hogan. Very few have been excavated.

By A.D. 500 the early Anasazi peoples had settled into the well-developed farming village cultural stage that we know as Basketmaker III. Although they probably practiced some seasonal traveling and continued to make considerable use of wild resources, they primarily had become farmers living in small villages. Their houses were well-constructed pit structures, consisting of a hogan-like superstructure built over a knee-or waist-deep pit, often with a small second room or antechamber on the south or southeast side.

Settlements of this time period are scattered widely over the canyons and mesas of southern Utah they consist of small hamlets of one to three houses and occasionally villages of a dozen or more structures. By about A.D. 700 evidence of the development of politico-religious mechanisms of village organization and integration appears in the form of large, communal pit structures. One such structure, with a diameter of forty feet, has been excavated next to the old highway in Recapture Creek by archaeologists from Brigham Young University.

Three important changes took place before A.D. 750: the old atlatl (spear thrower) that had been used to propel darts (small spears) from time immemorial was replaced by the bow and arrow the bean was added to corn and squash to form a major supplement to the diet and the people began to make pottery. By A.D. 600 the Anasazi were producing quantities of two types of pottery – gray utility ware and black-on-white painted ware.

Prehistoric basket, found in an Anasazi Ruin., Westwater ruin 1977 by the Utah State Archeologist Team

By A.D. 750 these farming and pottery-making people in their stable villages were on the threshold of the lifestyle that we think of as being typically Puebloan, and from this time on we call them Pueblos.

Perhaps the most significant developments in Pueblo I times (A.D. 750 to 900) were 1) the replacement of pithouse habitations with large living rooms on the surface 2) the development of a sophisticated ventilator-deflector system for ventilating pitrooms 3) the growth of the San Juan redware pottery complex (red-on-orange, then black-on-orange, pottery manufactured in southeastern Utah) and 4) some major shifts in settlement distribution, with populations concentrating in certain areas while abandoning others.

The two-hundred-fifty-year period subsequent to A.D. 900 is known as Pueblo II. The tendency toward aggregation evidenced in Pueblo I sites reversed itself in this period, as the people dispersed themselves widely over the land in thousands of small stone houses. During Pueblo II, good stone masonry replaced the pole-and-adobe architecture of Pueblo I, the surface rooms became year-round habitations, and the pithouses (now completely subterranean) probably assumed the largely ceremonial role of the pueblo kiva. It was during this period that small cliff granaries became popular. The house style known as the unit pueblo, which had its beginning during the previous period, became the universal settlement form during this period. In the unit pueblo the main house is a block of rectangular living and storage rooms located on the surface immediately north or northwest of an underground kiva immediately southeast of this is a trash and ash dump or midden.

The redware pottery industry continued to flourish, as a fine, red-slipped ware with black designs was traded throughout much of the Colorado Plateau. During the middle-to-late Pueblo II period, however, the redware tradition ended in the country north of the San Juan River, although it blossomed in the area south of the river. Virtually all of the red or orange pottery found in San Juan County sites postdating A.D. 1000 was made south of the San Juan River around Navajo Mountain in the Kayenta Anasazi country. The reasons for this shift are unknown, and the problem is a fascinating one. Production and refinement of the black-on-white and the gray (now decorated by indented corrugation) wares continued uninterrupted in both areas, but the redware tradition migrated across what appears to have been an ethnic boundary.

The styles of stone artifacts also changed somewhat during Pueblo II. The beautiful barbed and tanged “Christmastree” style point that had been popular since late Basketmaker III times was replaced first by a corner-notched style with flaring stem and rounded base, then by a triangular style with side notches. Also, by the end of the period, the old trough-shaped metate that had been popular for half a millennium was replaced by a flat slab form with no raised sides. The change in grinding technology appears to have accompanied a change from a hard, shattering, flint type of corn to a soft, non-shattering flour corn. This permitted use of smaller metates, and thus also increased the efficient use of the floor space.

During the 1100s and 1200s the Anasazi population began once again to aggregate into large villages. This period is known as Pueblo III, and it lasted until the final abandonment of the Four Corners country by the Anasazi during the late 1200s. Numerous small unit pueblos continued to be occupied during this period, but there was a tendency for them to become more massive and to enclose the kivas within the room block. A number of very large villages developed. It was during this period that most of the cliff villages such as the famous examples at Mesa Verde National Park and Navajo National Monument were built.

During Pueblo III times the Mesa Verde Anasazi developed the thick-walled, highly polished, incredibly beautiful pottery known as Mesa Verde Black-on-White. They also continued to make corrugated gray pottery. Redwares, often with two- or three-color designs continued to be imported north of the river from the Kayenta country. Arrowheads continued in the triangular, side-notched form, but were often smaller than those of the previous period.

Starting sometime after A.D. 1250 the Anasazi moved out of San Juan County, often walking away from their settlements as though they intended to return in a few minutes – or so it looks. Why did they leave behind their beautiful cooking pots and baskets? Perhaps because they had no means to transport them. When forced to migrate a long distance, it was more efficient to leave the bulky items and replace them after they reached their destination.

We do know that they moved south. Classic late Mesa Verde-style settlements can still be recognized in New Mexico and Arizona, in high, defensible locations in areas where the local Anasazi sites look quite different. By A.D. 1400 almost all the Anasazi from throughout the Southwest had aggregated into large pueblos scattered through the drainages of the Little Colorado and Rio Grande rivers in Arizona and New Mexico. Their descendants are still there in the few surviving pueblos.

Why did they leave? It is impossible to find a single cause that can explain it, but there appear to be several that contributed. First, the climate during the Pueblo III period was somewhat unstable with erratic rainfall patterns and periods of drought. This weather problem climaxed with a thirty-year drought starting about 1270 that coincided with a cooling trend that significantly shortened the growing season. Perhaps the expanding population had pressed the limits of the land’s capacity to support the people so that they were unable to survive the climatic upheavals of the thirteenth century.

Could they have been driven out by nomadic tribes, such as Utes or Navajos? There is no direct evidence that either group, or any other like them, was in the area that early. There is mounting evidence, however, that the Numic-speaking peoples, of whom the Utes and Paiutes are part, had spread northwestward out of southwestern Nevada and were in contact with the Pueblo-like peoples of western Utah by A.D. 1200. It is certainly possible that they were in San Juan County shortly after that. Ute and Paiute sites are very difficult to distinguish from Anasazi campsites, and we may not be recognizing them. Navajos were in northwestern New Mexico by 1500, but we do not know where they were before that. Perhaps the answer to the Anasazis’ departure from Utah lies in a combination of the bad-climate and the arriving-nomads theories.

See: J. Richard Ambler and Marc Gaede, The Anasazi (1977) and Linda S. Cordell, Prehistory of the Southwest (1984).


HISTORY

The adobe structures are estimated to be over a thousand years old. When the Spanish came to Pueblo country, some assumed they had found their “Cities of Gold” because of the miccaceous mineral found in the clay used for mudding the buildings. Micca, for short, glitters in light therefore the assumption was made by the Spanish. The Adobe structures are mudded every year by owners of the homes or by a designated group of men. The majority of the homes are still owned and maintained by the family.

The homes are generally passed down from one generation to the next with, usually, the eldest son being the sole owner. These homes are still used for religious and cultural activities. The homes are the connection to our way of
life and to our ancestors.





The Return of Blue Lake

On December 15, 1970, former President Richard M. Nixon signed into affect Public Law 91-550, approved in a bipartisan manner by the United States Congress. In speaking of the Bill’s significance, President Nixon stated, “This is a bill that represents justice, because in 1906 an injustice was done in which land involved in this bill, 48,000 acres, was taken from the Indians involved, the Taos Pueblo Indians. The Congress of the United States now returns that land to whom it belongs … I can’t think of anything more appropriate or any action that could make me more proud as President of the United States.”

That signing restored Taos Pueblo lands and led to the unhindered continuation of the Pueblo’s millenniums-old traditional culture. It also set a precedent for self-determination for all American Indian people, tribes and nations. Taos Pueblo Governor James A. Lujan had declared, “We hope all our neighbors in the Taos Valley will plan to be with us as we celebrate this momentous event for the people of Taos Pueblo.” As Cacique Romero, the Pueblo’s religious leader in the late 1960s and 1970s, who was instrumental in testifying on behalf of the Pueblo before Congress, stated in his response to Congress’ approval and President Nixon’s signing, “Anew day begins not only for the American Indian, but for all Americans in this Country. ” That new day led to Taos Pueblo safeguarding the interest and welfare of the Pueblo and its water supply, natural and domestic resources, and the locale of social and cultural events.


Legends of America

The Pueblo Indians, situated in the Southwestern United States, are one of the oldest cultures in the nation. Their name is Spanish for “stone masonry village dweller.” They are believed to be the descendants of three major cultures including the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi), with their history tracing back for some 7,000 years.

During their long history, the Ancient Puebloans evolved from a nomadic, hunter-gathering lifestyle to a sedentary culture, primarily making their homes in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Though they didn’t give up hunting, they began to expand into an agricultural culture, growing maize, corn, squash, and beans raising turkeys and developing complex irrigation systems.

They also developed great skills in basket weaving and pottery making. It was during this time that they also began building villages, often on top of high mesas or in hollowed-out natural caves at the base of canyons. These multiple-room dwellings and apartment-like complexes, designed with stone or adobe masonry, were the forerunner of the later pueblos.

Despite their success, the Ancient Puebloans way of life declined in the 1300s, probably due to drought and intertribal warfare and they migrated south, primarily into New Mexico and Arizona, becoming what is today known as the Pueblo people.

For hundreds of years, these Pueblo descendants continued to live a similar lifestyle, continuing to survive by hunting and farming, and also building “new” apartment-like structures, sometimes several stories high. These structures were made cut sandstone faced with adobe — a combination of earth mixed with straw and water or the adobe was poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks to build walls that are often several feet thick. The buildings had flat roofs, which served as working or resting places, as well as observation points to watch for approaching enemies and view ceremonial occasions. For better defense, the outer walls generally had no doors or windows, but instead, window openings in the roofs, with ladders leading into the interior.

Each family generally lived in a single room of the building unless they grew too large, at which time side-rooms were sometimes added. The houses of the pueblo were usually built around a central, open space or plaza in the middle of which was a “kiva,” a sunken chamber used for religious purposes.

Each pueblo was an independent and separate community, though many shared similarities in language and customs. Each pueblo had its own chief, and sometimes two chiefs, a summer and winter chief, who alternated. Most important affairs, such as war, hunting, religion, and agriculture however, were governed by priesthoods or secret societies.

The Pueblo people continued to utilize irrigation methods to grow corn, beans, pumpkins, cotton and tobacco. In the beginning, they hunted with spears, rather than bow and arrows, but were never known to fish. The only domestic animal was the dog, which was used as a beast of burden. They also continued to make elaborate baskets and pottery, as well as becoming expert woodcarvers and decorating ceremonial clothing with shells, turquoise, feathers, and furs.

The vast majority of Pueblo tribes lived in a clan system, with many of the tribes, including the Hopi, Zuni, Keres, and Jemez, descending matrilineally. Thus, the women owned the house and garden, providing them with more respect than in other northern tribes of the times.

Their traditional enemies before Europeans began to inhabit the area were the Navajo, Comanche, and Apache tribes.

The Zuni were the first to become known to the Europeans in 1539 when Fray Marcos of Niza, a Franciscan, journeyed northward from Mexico, in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. When guides were sent forward, they discovered the Zuni settlement of Hawikuh. and though they were killed by the Zuni, Fray Marcos continued on, long enough to plant a cross and declare his “find” part of New Spain. He then returned to Mexico with glowing reports.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

Soon, a new expedition was organized under Francesco Vasquez de Coronado was sent into the region arriving in July 1540 and taking the Zuni community before expanding into other parts of what is now New Mexico and Arizona. The Spaniards first found the Indians friendly, but after wielding their authority and forcing their religion upon the Native Americans, they begin to resist resulting in the Tiguex War during the winter of 1540-41. After putting down the Indians, killing thousands of them, Coronado continued in his journey as far as Quivira in central Kansas.

The war with the Indians in New Mexico and the many diseases that the Spanish brought later resulted in the abandonment of many of the pueblos. Afterward, Europeans were no longer welcomed at the pueblos and were often attacked. This however, did not stop the Spanish missionaries and many new inhabitants who would come later.

By 1617, eleven Franciscan churches had been built and some 14,000 natives baptized and by 1637, 43 missions stood on or near the pueblos. However, in 1680, the Indians rose up again against the Spaniards in what is known as the Pueblo Revolt, which successfully expelled the Spanish for 12 years.

However, the Spanish re-conquered the pueblos in 1692 and aggressively began to civilize the Indians by again bringing in numerous priests and forcing Christianity upon them.

Though many of the Pueblo Indians were converted, their lifestyle changed little except for the addition of new animals and crops into their midst, including horses, cattle, sheep and goats as well as agricultural products such as peaches, wheat, grapes, and apples.

With the re-conquest, most of the tribes settled down, though there was only minor intermittent resistance until June 1696, when about half of the pueblos rose again, killing five missionaries and a number of other Spaniards. The natives were once again forced into submission by the Spanish.

By 1800 there were only about eleven missions still in use and by 1811, only five missionaries in the nineteen pueblos of New Mexico. In 1821, Mexico became independent from Spain and though mission support further declined, some Taos Indians once again attempted a revolution but were soon defeated. The final revolt occurred in January 1847 when Taos Indians once again revolted, this time against the newly established American government, killing Governor Charles Bent, and about twenty other Americans. In retaliation, their pueblo was stormed by U.S. Troops who killed some 150 Indians, destroyed the San Geronimo Mission, and afterward, executed 16 Indians for their part in the revolt.

Today, the inhabited pueblos are governed by their tribes and though the vast majority, with the exception of the Hopi of Arizona and about ½ of the Laguna members, remains Catholic, they also adhere to their ancient rites.

Numbering about 35,000 tribal members, today’s Pueblo Indians live primarily in New Mexico and Arizona along the Rio Grande and Colorado River. Most of the pueblos are open to the public and many of their ceremonies can be attended. Each pueblo has its own rules and etiquette for visitors, which should be reviewed before visiting.


Jemez Pueblo

The Pueblo of Jémez is the only remaining Towa-speaking pueblo. It is surrounded by colorful red sandstone mesas and serves as the gateway to the Cañon de San Diego and the Jémez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. The pueblo itself is located 27 miles northwest of Bernalillo.

In the 1830s, survivors of Pecos (Cicúye) Pueblo, a once-mighty trading center now in ruins, joined Jémez. Many Pecos Pueblo warriors at first resisted the invading Spanish forces under Diego de Vargas 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 and later they allied with the conquerors.

As much as 70% of the 1,890 Jémez Indians were living on their reservation lands in the early 1970s. Though by then an increasing number were switching to wage-earning work rather than agriculture, the residents continued to raise chili peppers, corn, and wheat, to speak their native language, and to maintain customary practices.


Who we are and what we stand for

Pueblo is the brainchild of founder and child of the desert Michael Lanier. Michael grew up in the heart of the great Sonoran Desert- spending his youth in remote areas exploring and studying the unique life that exists there.

After attending college for horticulture and sociology, Michael moved to downtown Phoenix and worked at a few local shops and cafes, where he longed to see Phoenix grow into the dense cities he loved tp visit. With that goal in mind, Pueblo was born.

Pueblo’s first iteration began early 2015. What started first as a small market booth downtown, quickly expanded to two retail shops in Phoenix. Those shops combined into a much larger space in 2018 - the same year ASU Alum and Landscape Designer Coby Bruckner became a partner and founded our Landscape division: Pueblo Landforms.

As of late 2020 Pueblo employs over 10 humans and recently expanded west, becoming coastal with our location in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Venice Beach. We are currently in the process of expanding our Phoenix location to the historic Grand Avenue commercial district.

2020 above all other years has been one to set the tone up front for who we are as a business. Pueblo is queer-owned and inclusive. We serve thousands of people a month and we respect each and every one. We’ve always been community-focused, with a diverse staff representing that.

On Sustainability:

Pueblo as a company has always been focused on the world we live in. We have always occupied historic buildings reducing our environmental footprint a drastic amount. Our coastal location uses minimal power, while our Phoenix shop was reimagined in late 2020 with minimal power and water use at the forefront of it’s design.

Our inventory is generally low-impact, but we source plants from reputable growers where poaching is not permitted. We source most of our inventory regionally or within the US and work with all our suppliers and makers to ensure fair labor practices are followed.


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Pueblo - History


Acoma Pueblo

Acoma, New Mexico

The city of Acoma as it stands today, atop its giant, craggy mesa
Courtesy of tunnelarmr, Flickr-Commons

Founded as early as 1100 A.D and evolving throughout the centuries, Acoma illustrates the significance of early native peoples in New Mexico and the profound influence of Spanish culture in the Southwest beginning in the 16th century. The pueblo is home to the San Esteban del Rey Mission Church, which the Spanish Franciscan friars built in the early 1600s. The mission is the oldest surviving European church in New Mexico and an impressively large, stately presence among Acoma Pueblo&rsquos adobe homes. The pueblo illustrates the amalgamation of European and Native cultures in New Mexico and helps illuminate the history of Spanish contact and interaction with the ancient peoples of the United States.

Opinions differ on the age of the Acoma Nation and its mesa-top pueblo. Traditional Acoma oral history tells of an ancient city far older than our imaginations and current calendars can comprehend. &ldquoAcoma&rdquo itself translates in local dialects to a &ldquoplace that always was&rdquo and legend tells that the Acoma people have lived on the mesa forever.

Scientific, historical and archeological evidence dates the Pueblo&rsquos oldest extant remains to around 1100 A.D. and suggests that the Acoma people likely lived in the desert surrounding the mesa during earlier times and at some point decided to scale the massive rock and move their village to the top. An extensive archeological survey of the pueblo in the 1950s revealed the ancient people to be prolific potters, and skilled artisans and architects.

The Acoma people have been
highly skilled potters for centuries
Courtesy of radzfoto, Flickr-Commons

In the early 1500s, Viceroy of New Spain Antonio de Mendoza called for the first explorations into the lands north of Spain&rsquos holdings at the time, which are now in modern-day Mexico. Rumors flew of vast cities of gold and incredible riches waiting for the Spanish Crown to claim them. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, many expeditions traveled into present-day Arizona and New Mexico. Even though Acoma sat isolated on its mesa, several Spanish explorers visited it, including Hernando de Alvarado in 1540 (a member of the Francisco Vásquez de Coronado mission), the Chamuscado-Rodriguez expedition in 1581, Antonio de Espejo in 1583, and Juan de Oñate in 1598.

Early Spanish reports indicate that the pueblo was a village of roughly 500 three or four stories tall adobe houses. Windows were small and limited and doors at the ground level did not exist. Instead, residents entered buildings via ladders placed through holes in the roof. At the time, the only way to the mesa&rsquos top was a series of hand and toeholds carved into the steep rock. The people had to carry all of the materials used to construct the original community up the cliffs on their backs.

Because of its location, Acoma was one of the most resistant pueblos to Spanish rule. During early Spanish contact, reports indicate that the Acoma were friendly, often meeting expedition parties at the bottom of the mesa to greet and assist them. As time moved on and the Spanish presence became more and more persistent, however, the Acoma retaliated. In December 1598, residents lured Captain Juan de Zaldívar, one of Oñate's officers, into the pueblo and murdered him and 14 of his men. This had dire consequences for the village two months later when Zaldívar&rsquos brother arrived with a force of 70 Spanish soldiers to avenge the deaths. A bitter battle resulted in the sacking and burning of much of the pueblo and the death of approximately 1,500 residents. The Spanish forced those who remained to surrender the pueblo to the Spanish. Oñate himself demanded sentencing survivors to indentured servitude and bodily mutilation. Oñate&rsquos harsh and unfair treatment of the Acoma people would later lead to his legal expulsion from New Mexico and Mexico City.

With the rebuilding of the pueblo under Spanish rule in the early 1600s, missionary efforts began to convert the Acoma to Catholicism and Spanish ways of life. Still, strong resistance remained among the natives, and the Spanish did not have a mission church constructed until the late 1620s.

The Mission San Esteban del Rey
Courtesy of chad.person, Flickr-Commons

Although earlier priests visited the pueblo, Father Juan Ramirez is noteworthy as the first permanent Franciscan father to live in Acoma. It is likely that he began the building of San Esteban del Rey Mission Church upon his arrival in 1629, but the exact dates of its construction are unknown. The huge church, which still stands today, is an impressive work of architecture &ndash especially considering that native workers had to carry all of its materials up the mountain. These materials included the church&rsquos 40-foot long roof beams, originally hewn in the San Mateo Mountains, 30 miles away.

The church is simple in plan, with a long nave and a polygonal sanctuary at its western end. Its exterior is impressively tall due to battered walls that are up to seven-feet high from the base, tapering up to a mere 30 inches at their peak. Two square bell towers flank the main façade and contain bells brought from Mexico during the 1800s. A one-story convento sits along the north side of the church and once housed living space, workrooms, and storage for the father and friars who were in residence. A large cemetery surrounded by a low wall sits in front of the church and contains the remains of both native and Spanish residents from throughout the centuries.

During the 1600s, tensions remained high between the Spanish and native peoples throughout the Southwest. Most of the conflict centered on religious disagreements, and in 1680, many villages, including Acoma, took part in a large pueblo rebellion. The rebellion resulted in the death of several hundred Franciscan fathers, the destruction of many churches, and the death or banishment from pueblo towns of many Spanish residents. Acoma&rsquos priest, Fray Lucas Maldonado, and the other Spaniards living in the pueblo did not survive the rebellion, but San Esteban del Rey Mission Church remained largely unharmed. It has continued to serve Acoma&rsquos Catholic residents since Spanish re-conquest of Acoma Pueblo in 1699.

Acoma Pueblo still retains much of
its original architectural flavor
and cultural character today
Courtesy camera_obscura, Flickr-Commons

Acoma remains today a rich mix of cultures--Native pueblo and Spanish influenced by Americans from other places in the mid-19th century and decades of Anglo-inspired customs and technologies. A vehicular road now connects Acoma to the desert below, making the treacherous toehold system obsolete and the community more accessible.

Much of Acoma&rsquos old pueblo character is intact with its flat-topped, adobe buildings laid out in what is believed to be a largely original streetscape. The Mission San Esteban del Rey is still one of the most striking features of Acoma. The church is the oldest Spanish mission in New Mexico and one of the finest examples of early Spanish-Pueblo architecture in the Southwest. Despite what many may view as negative associations the mission might have for the Acoma people, tribe members are committed to its care and continual restoration. A tribal group, the Gaugashti, do the work necessary to preserve San Esteban, and the church is viewed as a gem of Acoma heritage.

Now Acoma itself has few permanent residents as most of its people moved to Acomita, a village 15 miles away. The Acoma use the pueblo periodically for festivals and sacred ceremonies, and important tribal elders still live on the mesa. The pueblo is a very popular tourist attraction for its cultural and heritage value, and the Acoma Tribal Council welcomes visitors for a small fee.

Acoma&rsquos impressive Haa&rsquoku Museum and Sky City Cultural Center, which focuses on the revitalization of lost art forms, language, and the preservation of Acoma&rsquos history, offers tours, educational programs, and exhibits. The center hosts many public events throughout the year including various dances, walks, and community gatherings.

Acoma is on the Zuni-Acoma Trail, an ancient footpath connecting the old Zuni and Acoma Pueblos. Once used by both native peoples and Spanish explorers, the seven and a half mile-long trail is enjoyed by hikers through New Mexico&rsquos beautiful lava beds. The Zuni-Acoma Trail is part of the El Malpais National Monument, which the National Park Service manages.

Acoma is a National Historic Landmark located on Acoma Rock, on NM Route 23, 13 miles south of Casa Blanca, NM. Click here for the Acoma National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Tours of Acoma are available through the Haa&rsquoku Museum and Sky City Cultural Center. Hours and admission costs vary. For more information, visit the museum&rsquos website or call 1-800-747-0181.

Both Mission San Esteban del Rey and the Acoma Pueblo have been documented by the National Park Service&rsquos Historic American Buildings Survey. Acoma is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.


Rebuilding

The rebuilding and restructuring of Pueblo to prevent future disasters began almost immediately after the waters receded. The city council appointed a committee of three leading citizens to allocate state recovery funds and money from a city bond issue approved by voters immediately after the flood. Within months of the disaster, the committee contracted to have a new flood wall built west of Pueblo. This action, which reduced the river channel near the point where it met Fountain Creek, lessened the likelihood of the flooding of local businesses. Major improvements were in place as early as 1923. By 1961, various entities—including the city, the state, and the new Pueblo Conservancy District—had spent approximately $50 million rebuilding industry and infrastructure within the flooded areas. In addition to creating new flood-prevention infrastructure, the city also rearranged existing infrastructure. It built seven new bridges and moved many miles of utility lines and railroad tracks to make city infrastructure safer in the event of future flooding.
The 1921 flood was the worst of many floods on the Arkansas River, which averaged one every ten years until the building of the Pueblo Dam in 1970–75. That effort, part of the larger Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, created Lake Pueblo to allow for the storage and controlled release of water coming down the Arkansas River. While flooding on the Arkansas remains possible, the kind of flood that devastated Pueblo in 1921 would require enough water to overwhelm flood-protection infrastructure that can withstand five times as much water as in 1921. Water arriving along the river can also be held behind the 250-foot dam that created the lake.

Many businesses were rebuilt. Parkview Hospital, for example, did return. But it moved to a location north of downtown so it would remain operational in case downtown ever flooded again. Other businesses never returned to downtown Pueblo because they suffered irreparable damage. Many of Pueblo’s earliest buildings could not be saved, which permanently affected the city’s architectural heritage. It is impossible to tell how many businesses the city lost. The city’s population decreased in the wake of the flood, and growth remained slow until after World War II. While other factors contributed to the population decline, the long recovery from the flood likely played a role in that trend.



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