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The Case of the Floating Coffin

The Mission Church of San Augustine at Isleta Pueblo pictured here between 1880 and 1890. The original church began around 1613. Reconstruction of the church after the revolt began in 1710. The original church lay near the Rio Grande which led to periodic flooding. In 1959 workers discovered a log coffin that had pushed to the surface. Pathologists confirmed that the remains belonged to Fray Juan Jose Padilla, the church’s priest, who died in 1756. The community created a grave on higher ground for Father Padilla to rest in peace.

Albuquerque’s Little Island

Isleta Pueblo received the name San Agustin de la Isleta by the Spanish colonists. Translated to “St. Augustine of the little island,” for its patron saint and its proximity to the Rio Grande. The people of Isleta maintained a distant but somewhat harmonious relationship with the Spaniards. They are the only Pueblo in New Mexico that did not participate in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Despite abstaining from the revolt, the Pueblo of Isleta fled to El Paso and Mexico returning in the early 1700s.

Okoya-pis, an Isleta Pueblo hunter with his daily catch resting on his shoulder in 1890. Rabbit hunting was common around the Manzano Mountains east of the pueblo. The Pueblo also fished along the Rio Grande and from surrounding mountain streams. Not restricted to dry farming like some of the other pueblos, Isleta diverted water from the Rio Grande using four ditches to irrigate crops. Isleta Pueblo had one of the largest orchards with 60 acres of peach, plum, and apricot trees.

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