Coronado Historic Site: A Place in Time

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At the Coronado Historic Site, you stand in Native American ruins, walk to the river where they collected water to drink and visit a sacred space in the Earth itself.

Go back in time and see life as it was long ago.

Coronado Historic Site is named for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spaniard who arrived at the site in 1540. He explored the Southwest and returned to Mexico in 1542.

“He explored up into Kansas,” explained Ranger Janet Peterman. “He was the first European to the area.”

Coronado was looking for riches and the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. He did not get along with the natives and was the main reason for the Tiguex Wars (1540-1542).

Tiguex is a region from the present-day town of Bernalillo to Isleta Pueblo, just south of Albuquerque.

The pueblo is called Kuana. It was inhabited from about 1300 to 1680, the year of the Pueblo Revolt. After the revolt, the Indians left, but their descendants live in the surrounding Pueblos today. Many of the structures in the ruin remained buried, with outlines of broken-down adobe walls forming what once housed around 600 people.

“Women built the houses,” Peterman said. “And they owned them too.”

The Indians main diet was corn, beans and squash. They also ate animals they could catch.

“Turkeys were kept as domestic animals. Their feathers were used to make blankets to keep warm during the winter,” said Peterman, and they had dogs too.

After the Pueblo Revolt, Kuana remained abandoned until becoming a state park in 1935. The site is around 10 acres and is next to the Rio Grande River. The river is lined with willow and cottonwood trees. Nature trails guide people there, as well as to the Kiva, a very important place for Native Americans.

A Kiva is an underground structure the Pueblo Indians used for religious ceremony. The Pueblo people believe they came from the Earth, and that the Kiva, with an opening at the roof and a ladder to climb down into it, represented climbing back into the Earth in some way.

Guided tours take people into the Kiva where they marvel at the way the Kiva is built and its beauty. Great murals, or wall paintings, were found in the Kiva when it was excavated. They have been removed and are on display at the museum today. New murals were painted in the Kiva to keep it sacred. Today, Native Americans still use the Kiva at Coronado for ceremonies.

Coronado Historic Site is far enough from town that you get the sense of what it was like long ago. Climb down into a Kiva and walk where Indians lived. Think of gold and the riches you seek. If you’re quiet, you can hear Indian flutes in the wind and sense the pounding of drums during a ceremony at your feet.

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