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Historic Missions of the Southwest - New Mexico

Finding and Visiting Southwest Missions in New Mexico

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Acoma Mission School

Acoma Mission School

©Elizabeth R. Rose
Updated May 19, 2014
The missions of the Southwest represent an important chapter in Southwest history - the meeting of the Hispanic and Native cultures. More than a place to worship, Missions were established as resting places along a travel corridor, as centers of a newly established community with school, church, town square sometimes surrounded by an adobe wall. As you visit the missions, the story will unfold. It is a story that will sometimes make you uncomfortable, but one that needs to be told.

New Mexico Missions

San Esteban del Rey Mission - Acoma Pueblo- Completed in 1640, the 21,000 square foot complex was constructed with the labor of the Acoma people, on the top of a beautiful mesa, Acoma Sky City. Acoma construction methods were used in building the church/school complex. It is a large adobe structure, standing two stories high among very small homes and kivas on the mesa. Both the Pueblo and San Esteban del Rey Mission are listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments.

Location: Acoma Pueblo.Acoma Sky City is located 45 minutes west of Albuquerque and one hour east of Gallup.

Admission: With Ticket to visit the Pueblo and only toured with a guide.

What You Will See: Beautifully painted walls in a traditional style, dirt floors, adobe wall, graveyard.

Zuni Mission- Accessible with a guide, the simple mission at Zuni Pueblo is a must see. When the mission was restored in the '80's, Alex Seowtewa, a well-known Zuni artist, proposed to paint a series of traditional Zuni ceremonial figures, or Kachinas on the walls. Permission was granted and Alex began beautiful work in 1970. By 1983 Alex, with the help of his sons, Gerald and Kenneth, completed 24 figures of kachinas and tribal religious leaders. Since then three additional panels depicting traditional crops, birds and animals, and a kiva altar have been completed. The murals, themselves, are worth a trip to Zuni.

Location: Continuing west from Acoma, you can reach Zuni from I-40 by taking Route 602 South from Gallup, then turning west on Rt. 53. You can also take the scenic route from I-40 and Route 53 near Grants.

More Information: Full article on visiting Zuni.

Admission: With price of tour to inner village.

Tip: Call the Visitors Center ahead of time to ensure you can arrange a tour to the Mission.

Mission San Miguel in Santa Fe - Touted as the oldest church in the United States, Mission San Miguel was built between 1610 and and 1628.

What You Will See- Foundations of the first church remain observable under the sanctuary of the present structure. The altar screen dates from 1798 and is the oldest wooden reredos in New Mexico. Mission San Miguel is one of the important sights to see in Santa Fe.

Location: 401 Old Santa Fe Trail in the historic district of Santa Fe. Map

More Information: Mission San Miguel Website

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