Isleta Pueblo vintage postcard
Taking the pre-1937
Albuquerque to the south is an interesting choice as you pass by a number of historic sites
and old towns that once thrived upon the Mother Road. Heading
south some 13 miles, you will first come to the
Isleta Pueblo - Home
to the Tiwa Tribe
established about 1200 A.D., the
Isleta Pueblo is home to the Tiwa tribe, who descended from
remote Shoshoncan stock, the first people to enter the Americas some
30,000 years ago. Due to its location on a strip of land
projecting from the Rio Grande River, the conquering Spaniards gave
the pueblo the name of Isleta, meaning "little island.”
Around 1629, refugees
from outlying pueblos converged on the
Isleta Pueblo abandoning their homes due to savage
raids. The Spanish Mission of San Agustín de la Isleta was built in
the pueblo around 1629 or 1630 by the Spanish Franciscan friar Juan de
When the Pueblo revolt began in 1680, the pueblo was
called home to about 2000 people including a large number of
Spaniards. Though Isleta was spared the massacre that occurred at other pueblos due
to its Spanish residents, a large number of its native members fled to
Hopi settlements in
Others accompanied the Spanish to their retreat at El Paso del Norte
(current day El Paso, Texas.) After the rebellion, the Isleta people
returned to the Pueblo, many with Hopi spouses. Though they submitted to Governor Otermin, secretly their allegiance was with the other
pueblo peoples. When Governor Otermin found this out he burned
the pueblo and forced the remaining members to El Paso.
In 1692, when Diego De
Vargas re-conquered the area he found the Isleta church in ruins and the pueblo
abandoned. Around 1710, the original Tiwa Indians reoccupied the pueblo and in 1716, the original church was
rebuilt and named St. Augustine. Still standing today, the St.
Augustine Mission is one of the oldest in the United States.
the 18th and 19th centuries Isleta became one of the largest and most
prosperous pueblos in New Mexico and was noted for its crops and
orchards. The oldest section consists of adobe buildings around a
central plaza surrounded by cultivated lands.
Later in the 1800s, friction with members of
Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo, who had joined the Isleta community,
led to the establishment of the satellite settlement of Oraibi. Today,
as well as the main pueblo, Isleta includes the small communities of
Oraibi and Chicale.
October 21, 1887, Father Anton Docher went in New Mexico where he was
ordered as a priest in the Cathedral of Santa Fé. After three years in
Santa Fe and one
year spent in Taos, he arrived at the Isleta Pueblo in December, 1891,
where he would spend the next 34 years. A French Franciscan Roman
Catholic priest and strong defender of the Indians, "The Padre of
Isleta" is buried with the Padre Padilla near the altar of the church
The pueblo now houses
a population of about 4,000 where traditions, songs and dances are
still practiced and passed down from generation to generation. Though continuing to live with much of their ancient culture, the
also operates several modern businesses enterprises, including the
Casino & Resort.
wraps around the northern portion of the village of Bosque Farms, a small
agricultural community that has evolved into a suburban village of the
St. Augustine Church at the Isleta Pueblo,
New Mexico, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2015.
Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
Many of the homes in the plaza area of Isleta Pueblo
appear to be abandoned today, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2015.
Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
Los Lunas - History Through
another nine miles down the road brings you to
a city rich in its diversity of history. Sheltered from the urban
by the Isleta Indian Pueblo
to the north and the Rio Grande River to the east, this small town of some
10,000 people enjoy the charm of small town living with easy access to the
metropolitan amenities of nearby Albuquerque. From the prehistoric
to Spanish explorers, to the many who traveled this piece of the Mother
Road in its early days, Los Lunas
provides much to explore for the nostalgic history buff.
In the beginning, the area that would
Los Lunas was located on the San Clemente Land Grant. In 1716,
the land was given to Don Felix Candelaria after his mother had petitioned
for the land.
Shortly afterwards Luna family made claim to the grant
and took possession and a small settlement was formed. In 1808,
Antonio Jose Luna was born, who eventually would become a civic and
political leader. Often referred to as the father of
Los Lunas, he grew up to marry Isabella Baca, daughter of a prominent
family from Belen, a community ten miles south of
Los Lunas. The tradition continued as Antonio and Isabella’s son
also married into a prominent family. The Lunas family dominated
Valencia County for almost a century. Through their influence the
county seat was moved from Tomé
Los Lunas in 1876.
When the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in
the 1880's, a depot was built that facilitated the movement of livestock,
hay, general merchandise, and passengers to and from the developing city. More transportation arrived in the city
when the first alignment of
came through in 1925. Before long a number of services cropped up in the
Los Lunas area has numerous opportunities to peek into the past, not
only the "recent” past of vintage Route 66
but also into the history of prehistoric
and Spanish Explorers.
While in Los Lunas be sure to check out
Luna-Otero Mansion, dating back
to 1881. Preserved today serving as a fine restaurant, the Mansion
is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Steaks, great
hot chili, and exquisite deserts are its claim to fame for those with a
ravished stomach. For others, who may be looking for an altogether
different experience, the old mansion is said to be haunted by Josefita
Otero. Believe it or not.
In the downtown area there are several
historic structures and Route 66
era buildings including the town offices located in Old
cabins, Teofilo’s Restaurant that dates back to 1912, the White Café, the Huning Mercantile established in 1860, the San Antonio Mission built
in 1790, and Sam's Tires - a 1928 Route 66 gas station.
While not on
Route 66, a short six mile side trip south on US-85/NM-314 to
Hill is well worth the drive. Dominating the landscape between Los Lunas and Belén, this
landmark along the El Camino Real (the Royal Road), has been used as a
religious site, a refuge from hostile enemies and floods, and as an
observation point since prehistoric times. More than 1,800 petroglyphs have been recorded on the hill, some of which date back more
than 2,000 years. At the foot of the hill is a large steel sculpture
called La Puerta del Sol (Gateway to the Sun) is intended to reflect the
diverse cultures of the region. The sculpture is the beginning of a
10-acre park which will include pathways, picnic tables, and interpretive panels
telling the story of Cerro del Tomé and the people of Tomé. A
self-guided tour of the ancient petroglyphs, sculpture and Camino Real
history is currently available.
Nearby, the Tomé Immaculate Conception Church in has an extensive
museum, with a history exhibit and hand-carved wood saints. Tomé
is the oldest Hispanic settlement in Valencia County, established in 1739.
Another four miles south of Tomé, is the old city of Belén,
where you can see the
Museum in one of the original railroad depots. In 1910, the depot
housed on of the famous
Harvey House restaurants.
Los Lunas, you will head west on New Mexico
Highway 6 to continue your journey along the
Mother Road. This stretch, passing through numerous rock mesas in the Rio Puerco Valley on your way to
is one of the most beautiful on all of
of America, updated January, 2015.
City of Los Lunas, NM
National Park Service
and Indian Reservation Etiquette