Barrio de Analco: On the Other Side of the River

Snow falling on Santa Fe’s historic San Miguel Church during the spring of 2022.

The Barrio de Analco is one of the many cultural influences that have shaped Santa Fe history. It was the Tlaxcalan Indians who came as slaves from Mexico with the entourage of Don Juan de Oñate. They helped to build the San Miguel Mission church. In fact, they named the area the Barrio de Analco, which in their native language of Nahuatl means, “On the Other Side of the River.”

Oldest Church

Early documents indicate that the first church built by the Franciscan missionaries around 1605 to 1608 in Santa Fe was the San Miguel Mission. The church became the primary place of worship for missionaries, their Indian converts, and the entire Hispanic population throughout the 17th century. Reputed to be the oldest church in the United States, the structure burned during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt but was not completely destroyed. The thick adobe walls were unscathed. The fire did destroy the wooden roof and framework.

Rebuilding the Church in 1692

When Diego De Vargas restored Spanish control of New Mexico in 1692 the church began a metamorphosis. By 1859 the chapel became the place of worship for the newly arrived Christian Brothers. Over its long history, the church has served as a mission, a barrio church, a military chapel, an oratory for the Christian Brothers, and, most recently, as a revered shrine to St. Michael, the patron saint of the dying.

Historic Bell

The legend of the first church bell goes back to Spain and its eight-century-long battle with the Moors. The bell traveled from Spain to Mexico. Nicolás Ortiz Niño Ladrón de Guevara, a wealthy Spanish hidalgo, brought the bell to Santa Fe. The bell became a part of his capilla (small chapel) that he built for his family. After the Pueblo Revolt the bell became a part of the church at San Miguel. The bell became damaged after a storm in 1872 and moved to the interior of the church for protection and preservation.

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