This beautiful rural and rustic museum to the south of Santa Fe is a wonderful experience for the whole family. Anyone interested in livestock, farming, culture and living conditions during the early Southwest’s history will find this restored one-time caravanserai (from the Persian kārvānsarā, or Resting Place of Caravans), an accurate depiction of what historical life was like at this ranch. This camping or resting place, built in 1710 by Miguel Vega de Coca, was located just one final day’s journey from Santa Fe on the famous El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road to the Interior Land) – the original route from Mexico City to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico. This is where our story about Rancho Los Golondrinas must begin.
In an earlier blog about New Mexico Statehood, I described the establishment of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro by the Spanish Conquistador, Onate, who traveled north in the last years of the 16th Century from Mexico City to the interior lands. He and his small group of settlers followed ancient Native American trade routes towards present day New Mexico to colonize the unexplored land north of the Rio Bravo (present day Rio Grande River). Over the 2 centuries that followed, until the opening of the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri in the early 19th Century, El Camino Real was the sole trade and military route to the new Province of Nuevo Mexico. The route began in Mexico City, passing through the Mexican mining towns of Zacatecas and Durango up to El Paso, and finally Santa Fe.
Imagine the excitement of finally nearing Santa Fe – your final destination following a 6-month difficult, dusty and certainly uncomfortable trip! Here, one day away, was a place with water, feed for stock, food for weary travelers, and a place to bathe and pull out and clean your best clothes for your arrival the next day at the capital city of Santa Fe. Rancho Los Golondrinas was a true traveler’s paradise set among the cool cottonwoods of Caja del Rio.
If it were not for the Curtin-Paloheimo family, there would be no museum. This was the far sighted family which, in the 1930’s, bought the ranch with a preservationist’s vision. As part of that vision, The Museum was created to reconstruct and recreate what life was like in the 1700’s on a colonial Spanish ranch. Comparing it to its more famous cousin of Colonial Williamsburg is interesting. While both are “living museums,” I naturally preferred the relaxed Southwestern style of Los Golondrinas that embodies New Mexico. The historical recreation is done with more familiarity and approachability, and offers an informal view towards the past. The tradition of preservation continues today under the auspices of the Los Golandinas Foundation.
Many activities and exhibits embody the feel and look of the early New Mexico years, including: the restored acequias (irrigation ditches), the small flocks of sheep and their shepherds, the flour and corn grinding mills, the stables and outbuildings, barns and corals, original clothing and other activities of the early Spanish settlers. Be sure and visit the Museum during its annual Spring or Fall Festivals for the best experience. Canyon Road, near the Inn, shares the distinction of both the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and Camino del Canon (Canyon Road) being originally Native American trails that the Spanish turned into their own routes.
While in the neighborhood, please stop in and spend the night refreshing yourself from your journeys at the peaceful and relaxing Inn on the Alameda, nestled in a beautiful, cottonwood-lined setting. No matter what time of year it is, a stay at the Inn is always a treasured experience – winter, spring, summer and fall.
-Joe and Michael Schepps