Ruins and sacred places: Gran Quivira

Called Las Humanas by the Spanish priests who occupied the pueblo in the early 1600s, Gran Quivira was remote then, and it is still remote today.

Virga and mission

The crumbling ruins are situated on the high desert plains near Chupadera Mesa, a good 50 miles (as the crow flies) east of the Rio Grande — which served as the pathway of commerce for the missionaries, and the only reliable source of water for local agrarian economies.


In fact, it was due to an extended drought in the mid 1660s that the populace more or less packed their bags and left — those who hadn’t already died of hunger (or European-sourced Smallpox).

Lost wisdom

On the day these pictures were taken (Spring 2006), I found myself entirely alone at the site after a half-hour drive down a dusty dirt road from the Salinas National Monument headquarters in Mountainair, New Mexico. The gathering rainclouds provided a perfect backdrop for my photography, and did much to add to the palpable mystery and otherworldliness of the place.

View within

There are parts of New Mexico which are, for lack of a better description, just plain spooky — and this is certainly one of them. But I’m afraid you will have to actually go there to get what I mean. It’s an indescribable sense that there is more to the ancient remains than meets the eye. There’s a certain wariness that comes into play when walking around corners, because you just don’t know what you might find waiting there.

Waiting — and watching.

View without


2 thoughts on “Ruins and sacred places: Gran Quivira

  1. The last time I visited a sacred place – Easter Aquhorties Recumbent Stone Circle near Inverurie – I found it being used by a group of French schoolgirls as a netball pitch refereed by one of their teachers.

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