After we’d taken a hike up the Frijoles Canyon, amidst Ponderosa Pines and along a narrow, but constant stream, we drove to our next stop, Jémez State Monument, which preserves ruins of the 700-year-old Giusewa Pueblo, an ancestral home of today’s Jemez Pueblo and of the San José de los Jémez Mission church, built like a fortress in 1621 by the Spanish. Again, wow! Its octagon-shaped bell tower and eight-foot-thick walls were constructed by persons with no formal training in architecture or building. It is the second — only the second –oldest church in New Mexico. I hadn’t known that the Spanish colonized a part of the later United States permanently so early in the 17th Century. This is a whole new period of history for me to read about.
n 1540 the first organized Spanish exploration,the Coronado Expedition, reached New Mexico. Neither Coronado nor his men reached the Jemez area. Other explorers also came and went, but in 1598 a Spanish colonizing party under Don Juan de Onate came to New Mexico to stay. By 1609, a priest had been assigned to the Jemez, and a few years later work began on a mission building at Giusewa. The building was complete by 1621, as well as a convent, built to house the priests and other religious figures.
The Jemez people living at Giusewa were asked — nicely, I wonder? — to convert to Catholicism, but were not much interested. I read (I think) that the mission church and convent were built with the help of Catholic converts from the Chaco Canyon pueblo rather than Jemez, but don’t quote me. (I had to photograph the plaque above. The missionaries found crosses, a very popular pagan symbol for millenia, everywhere amongst the native pueblo dwellers.) San Jose de los Jemez was burned and the pueblo was abandoned for some time. It was later re-occupied, but was abandoned for good by the Jemez by 1700. In 1680, all the Pueblo peoples of New Mexico united and drove the Spaniards completely out of New Mexico. In 1692, the Spaniards came back and easily reconquered the Natives because of their lack of unity. In 1706 the Jemez people rebuilt an old village of theirs further down Jemez Canyon, which became the village known today as Jemez Pueblo, or Walatowa in the native language.
New Mexico remained a Spanish colony until 1825, and then a Mexican province following Mexican independence. In 1846, the United States took possession of New Mexico from Mexico during the Mexican War, and in 1848, New Mexico became a US Territory. New Mexico became a state in 1912.
From left below, Andrea, Eramis Estee, Ellie and Jack Momchilovich.