A Spiritual Convergence for New Mexico’s Pueblos

San Estevan church at Acoma Pueblo.

The most significant historical event in New Mexico was the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. That’s when the pueblos successfully drove all of the Spanish colonists out of the state.  During the uprising the first wartime tactic was to burn all of the Catholic churches in retaliation for being forced to convert to Catholicism. San Esteban Church at Acoma Pueblo seen in this photo was the only church not destroyed.  When the Spanish colonists returned in 1692 they agreed to combine Native American spirituality with Catholicism making it the first example of a convergence of spirituality in this country. Today, all 19 Indian Pueblos have a Catholic Church and patron saint.

Apostles and Warriors

The Mission Church of San Juan at Ohkay Owingeh was originally named for an apostle but renamed for an army. In 1598 the Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate named the church in honor of St. John the Baptist. Shortly thereafter, the soldier/scribe, Gaspar Perez de Villagra, who chronicled the 1598 settlement in New Mexico, renamed it San Juan de los Caballeros (St. John of the Warrior Knights). The mission became one of the first churches destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

A Floating Priest

San Augustine south of Albuquerque.

The Mission Church of San Augustine at Isleta Pueblo, pictured here between 1880 and 1890, was built around 1613. Reconstruction of the church after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 began in 1710 and several phases were finally completed in 1776. The original church was built too close to the Rio Grande which led to periodic flooding. During a later reconstruction effort in 1959, workers discovered a log coffin that was pushed to the surface by an increasingly high water table along the river. Pathologists confirmed that the remains belonged to Fray Juan Jose Padilla, the church’s priest, who died in 1756.  A concrete foundation was put in place so Father Padilla could finally rest in peace.

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