Sunday, March 04, 2012

Salt Missions

The Salinas basin covers about 50 miles north to south and within it are the remains of three pueblos and Spanish churches built near them from 1598.  The Spanish conquest and domination was short lived as the entire area had been depopulated by 1670.  While the reasons for this exodus are debated, it was probably due to drought, famine and attacks from the Apaches to the east. The Tehuan people of the Salinas basin spoke the Tiwa language that was also spoken at the abandoned Pecos Pueblo east of Santa Fe and continues to be spoken in the Taos and Jemez Pueblos.  It is believed that the tribes of Pecos and Salinas migrated to Jemez and Taos.

The Salinas Pueblos and Salt Missions are named for the saline lakes in desert-like terrain nearby.  Human habitation here goes back 6,000 years and as many as 10,000 Ancestral Puebloans once bartered salt with the Rio Grande Indians for cotton products, squash and beans and with plains Indians for hides, flints and buffalo meat.

The three missions, Abo, Quarai and Gran Quivara are unlike any other New Mexico missions in that they were built with small flat stones much like the pueblos of northwest New Mexico notably Chaco Canyon.  This suggests trade or migratory connections between the regions.  And we do know that the ancestral Puebloans migrated in a counter clockwise direction from central New Mexico to northern New Mexico into southern Colorado and southern Utah before dipping south into Arizona and finally Mexico.  So the premise of Chacoan style architecture starting in the Salinas Pueblos is entirely plausible.
Chaco or Abo?  You be the judge.

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