Take a Self - Guided Driving Tour Through Abiquiu
There is so much to see and do in Abiquiú – don’t short yourself and schedule only a quick day trip. We recommend at least four days in Abiquiú to really experience the history, culture, geography and arts in the area...and many of our guests stay for a week or month. So many people flock to Abiquiú to visit Ghostranch and take the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tour. We definitely recommend you do both. But, don’t miss the many other hidden treasures, including spectacular hiking, peaceful kayaking, river rafting, vespers at the Monastery, wandering through The White Place, picking lavender at the Lavender Farm, screaming at Echo Amphitheater, and exploring the small village of Abiquiú and its surrounding areas.
In our blog today, we will cover an afternoon driving tour of Abiquiú that you can do on your own. It's time to Discover Abiquiu.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How Do You Say Abiquiu?!
HISTORY OF ABIQUIÚ
Abiquiú is a small village in northern New Mexico, about 55 miles north of Santa Fe. There is much history and culture in the village, including dinosaurs and cattle wrestlers; Native American Puebloans who claimed this land for generations; and Spanish colonists. And, of course, famous painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
The village of Abiquiú was founded in 1754, 22 years before the American colonies severed connections to Great Britain and issued the Declaration of Independence!
Abiquiú is thought to be the starting point of the Old Spanish Trail, the 1,200-mile trade route that opened up the west from northern New Mexico with Los Angeles, California. Later, Abiquiu also was a stagecoach stop for travelers.
Famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe also lived in the area from 1929 until 1984, and many of her famous paintings depict the colorful vistas and landscape in the area. Her home and studio in Abiquiu is open for tours and nearby Ghost Ranch offers tours of the locations where she painted.
Abiquiu is also a popular spot for movies and films, including Cowboys and Aliens, Rattlesnake, Silverado, City Slickers, Wyatt Earp, 3:10 to Yuma, Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Lone Ranger, Red Dawn, the TV series Earth 2, and many more. What show wasn't filmed here? Breaking Bad's episode titled, "Abiquiu". You can take a tour of filming locations at Ghost Ranch.
Read more about the history of Abiquiu in Lesley Poles-Kempes book, Valley of Shining Stone, The Story of Abiquiu. It's a wonderful book - covers the history, the people and the legends. Readers are given a solid history of the area, as well a good feel for what life was life.
Abiquiu (pronounced A-bhi-kyoo, as in A as in Apple, Bi and in Big, and Quiu pronounced like the letter Q) gets its name from the Tewa Puebloan words “pay sha boo-oo”, meaning "timber-end town”, and “abechin”, meaning “the hoot of an owl”. (listen)
DRIVING TOUR OF THE VILLAGE OF ABIQUIU
This tour is limited to the village and surrounding area. Future blogs will cover other attractions.
Poshuouinge Ruins – start your tour at the Ruins. Take Hwy 84 and drive south about 4.1 miles from the village to Poshuouinge (pronounced "poe-shoo-wingay), a large ancestral Tewa Puebloan ruin. You will see a pull off area on your right-hand side with a trail hike leading up to the top of the mesa where you can look out over the ruins. Poshuouinge was built around 1400 on a high mesa, some 150 feet above the Chama River. The site was abandoned around 1500. The ruins left behind give you an idea of life when it was occupied. It is thought that the Puebloan city had about 700 rooms on the ground floor, and many rooms were two or three stories high. There were two main plazas and a large kiva in the center courtyard. There are two springs located about 500 feet to the south of the ruins which are believed to have been the main water sources for the habitation.
Santa Rosa de Lima - Head back out to Hwy 84 and travel north, back towards Abiquiú, for about two miles. On your right-hand side, you will see the ruins of Santa Rosa de Lima, an early 18th-century Spanish settlement and the original village of Abiquiú. The first license for the Chapel at Santa Rosa was apparently issued by the Bishop of Durango and Visito General Don Martin de Elisacochea in 1737. The chapel’s patron saint was listed as Santa Rosa de Lima. Still standing are the substantial adobe ruins of the church and mounds where the settlers’ adobe houses once stood. By the 1730s, Spanish settlers were moving into the Chama River valley, and by 1744 at least 20 families were living in the village around Santa Rosa de Lima. The church, on the plaza, was built in 1744, and was in use until the 1930s. Repeated raids by the Utes and Comanche tribes forced residents to abandon the village and retreat up to the mesa where the current village of Abiquiu is located today. The Santa Rosa de Lima site is private property, belonging to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, but you are welcome to respectfully visit.
Bodes - Next, drive into Abiquiú and first stop at Bodes – our general store. It’s a fun store to visit because it is a true general store (and gas station) and has everything from cast iron skillets, to Monk’s Beer, to vegetables, fishing supplies and carry-out food. And, of course, you will find necessities here as well.
Village of Abiquiú - .Head across the street from Bodes, up the hill in front of the post office to the current village of Abiquiú. Please respect the privacy of this residential village.
The village of Abiquiú served as a one-time military outpost, an Indian agency, and a starting point of exploration, including the Santa Fe Trail to California. Today, many of the families that live in the village have lived here for generations.
As mentioned, the village of Abiquiú was formed when the residents of Santa Rosa de Lima retreated up to this mesa for safety against nomadic Indian attacks. The Spanish crown gave a land grant - The Abiquiu Genízaro Land Grant - to the residents. Genízaros, who are of Hispanic and Native American descent, were given the land grant in return for protecting the area against nomadic Indian attacks.
Most Genízaros were, or their ancestors had been, kidnapped slaves of Indian tribes sold to the Spaniards. The Genizaros were forced to give up their religion and were Christianized, taught to speak Spanish, and were given citizenship by the Spanish Crown. Genizaros gained their freedom by serving as soldiers to defend frontier villages like Abiquiú from Indian raids. By the late 1700s, Genizaros comprised one-third of the population of New Mexico.
The Abiquiú Genízaro Land Grant was classified as a reduccióni. Only those who were granted the land through the grant were allowed to reside on the land. The land grant documents also stated that a “doctrinal teacher” would be provided to the community and it specified the construction of a mission church - which became Santo Tomás de Apostle Catholic Church. For an interesting read about the resistance of the Genízaros, check out the book The Witches of Abiquiu, by Malcolm Ebright and Rick Hendricks. The book covers the witchcraft outbreak among the Genízaro Indians between 1756 and 1766. No executions took place. As you drive up the mesa, you will see an ancient adobe ruin in front of you. To your right, stop by Bosshards Gallery – a wonderful mercantile store/gallery that feels more like a museum. Bosshard travels the world and brings treasures back to the mercantile: antiques, paintings, sculptures of animals, tables and furniture, drums, tapestries, and other treasures from the far corners of the world.
Past Bosshards you will find Santo Tomas the Apostle Catholic Church. The church was completed in 1773, although the first sacramental records are dated earlier, from 1754. Fray Félix Joseph Ordoñez y Machado became the first priest for Santo Tomás de Apostle Catholic Church. In October of 1867, the church burned down and was rebuilt. In the 1930’s the villagers decided a new church as needed and the church you see today was built in 1935. Santa Fe architect, John Gaw Meem, was hired to design the new church. Building the new church was a community effort, and community members donated money, time and effort. It is said that the viga timbers were floated down the Rio Chama and dragged up to the village. Adobe bricks were made by hand. Latillas were hand-peeled. But the new build wasn't without conflict and problems. Architect Meem positioned the door to the church facing east, which was the custom for most Christian churches was that one should turn eastward to pray. This was the church architecture John Gaw Meem followed. But the old Abiquiu church had always faced south and the Abiquiu residents insisted that the new church also face south. Architect Meem and the Archdiocese officials insisted that the church face the easterly direction, and work stopped. There are legends as to what happened next, but locals tore up the unfinished foundation and, after repairs were made, the doors faced south. John Gaw Meem gave up on the project and did not attend the opening ceremonies.
Across the street from the church, you will see Abiquiú’s wonderful Library - the El Pueblo de Abiquiu Library and Cultural Center. There is a nice mosaic on the sidewalk in front of the library. The history of books in the area dates back to the Spanish colonists who brought books with them from Spain. Georgia O'Keeffe was a book lover - she had more than 3,000 titles between her two homes at Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch.
Continue driving around the small circle of the village and you will pass Georgia O’Keeffe’s Home and Studio. You can only access this property with a tour, but you can see her home from the roadside, over the wall. Schedule a tour by visiting the O’Keeffe Welcome Center in the village, or purchase tour tickets online at www.okeeffemuseum.org. To read more about O’Keeffe’s homes in Abiquiu, here is a link to a wonderful book by Harry Abrams, Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu. What I love most about this book are the pictures - photographs of her homes, photograph of O'Keeffe in her homes, her paintings and the vistas she looked at every day.
Penitente Morado - past the wall in the village and up the hill in the back is the Penitente Morado. Penitente is a Spanish word meaning “one who does penance”, and morado is the Spanish word for “adobe”. The morado was built in the 1700’s with straw and mud. A large bell hangs at one end, three crosses stand in the dirt. The morado is a Penitente chapel and meeting house. Please respect this sacred place and do not take photographs.
There are several restaurants in the area if you want to stop for lunch or dinner, including the Abiquiú Café, Sierra Negra, Bodes, Ghost Ranch, The Frosty Cow, Fire N Ice, and Mamacitas Pizza.
If you are looking for a place to stay, you will find several options in the area. To get away from the crowds and O’Keeffe busses, make a reservation outside of the village on Abiquiu Lake. With the lake in front of you, red cliffs as a back drop, and Cerro Pedernal standing guard behind you, there is no better place to stay. The owners also own two lakefront lots so you can enjoy the rocky beach area for fishing, swimming or kayaking. You will always save money by booking direct (using links below), rather than booking through a third party such as AirBNB, VRBO or Booking.com.
· The Grand Hacienda Bed and Breakfast – pure luxury
· The Casita del Lago Vacation Home – beautiful two bedroom fully furnished vacation home
· Abiquiú Lake Mesa Vacation Home - one bedroom fully furnished vacation home
· Studios of Abiquiú Lake – small, glamping alternatives
SUGGESTED READING LIST
To learn more, here are links to our favorite books about the area.
Abiquiu: Geologic History by Kirk Kempter
Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby, by Craig Varjabedian
A Painter's Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe, by Margaret Wood
The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest,
by David Roberts
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