Mission Gran Quivira

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Mission Gran Quivira (1629-1672) - A Spanish mission established in 1629 by Padre Francisco de Acevedo near present day Mountainair, Socorro County, New Mexico. Abandoned in 1672. Only the ruins remain. Also known as Tabira and Las Humanas.

Mission Gran Quivira Excavated Pueblo.
Mission Gran Quivira First Church Interior.
Mission Gran Quivira Second Church from the Pueblo.

The Spanish Period

Juan de Onate officially established the name New Mexico when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province in 1598. Onate extended the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, "Royal Road of the Interior," from Santa Barbara, Chihuahua into New Mexico opening it up for settlers and missionaries. The indigenous people of the new province were the Pueblo peoples and groups of Navajo, Apache and Utes. The villages of these people became known to the Spanish as Pueblos. The early missionaries sought to establish missions at each of the major pueblos and attempt to form the indigenous peoples into european like communities bring them into the catholic religion.

Mission Gran Quivira 2nd Church Entrance Looking Through the Nave to the Alter Area.
Mission Gran Quivira 1st Church & Adjacent Kiva.

The Mission Gran Quivira was founded in 1629, by Padre Francisco de Acevedo, as one of the twenty-one Spanish missions founded in New Mexico.

The site was visited in 1853 by Major James H. Carlton U.S.A. of the 1st U.S. Dragoons, he was said to be the first American explorer of Gran Quivira. He described the site as follows:

"We found the ruins of Gran Quivira to consist of the remains of a large church, with a monastery attached to it; a smaller church or chapel; and the ruins of a town extending 900 feet in a direction east and west and 300 feet north and south. All these buildings had been constructed of the dark blue limestone which is found in the vicinity."

Mission Gran Quivira 2nd Church with Convento Ruins in Foreground.

Major Carlton continued on with a detailed description of the site. The smaller church or chapel as Carlton describes it was the first church, San Isidro, built in 1629 by Francisco de Acevedo and the only one to hold services. The large church and monastery he describes is the second church, San Buenaventura, started about 1659 when a new priest, Diego de Santander arrived. The Convento on the left side of the church was finished by 1670 but the main church remained unfinished and unconsecrated when work on the mission stopped in 1670. The mission was abandoned in 1672.

The cause of abandonment in 1672 was a combination of misfortunes that included disease, famine, and drought but the major cause was increasingly violent attacks by the Apache plains Indians.
To illustrate the situation Friar Juan Bernal wrote on 1 Apr 1669:

"...this kingdom is ...nearly exhausted...the whole land is at War with the...heathen Apaches who kill all the Christian Indians they can find...no road is safe: everyone travels at risk of his life, for the heathen patrol them all. ... for three years no crops have been harvested. last year a great many Christian Indians starved, left dead along the roads, in the ravines, and in their huts. There were towns like Las Humanas where more than 450 starved. Now the same calamity still prevails in the whole kingdom there is not a bushel basket of corn nor of wheat to be had at any price..."

Current Status

Mission Gran QuiviraEntrance Sign.

The Gran Quivira unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is the largest of the three units at 611 acres. There is a small visitor center displaying some artifacts. Self guided tours of the site are the norm with reader boards identifying the specific areas. Guided tours are available with advanced notice.

Mission Gran Quivira NPS Park Map.

Location: About 25 miles frpm Mountainair, Socorro County, New Mexico.

Maps & Images

Lat: 34.25977 Long: -106.09235

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 6,524'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Visited: 14 Apr 2015

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