El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail looks at legacy of NM - Albuquerque Journal

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail looks at legacy of NM

El Rancho de las Golondrinas, just south of Santa Fe, dates to the 1700s and is a living history of the colonial time period. (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

Stretching some 400 miles from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo to El Paso, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail is a many-faceted history lesson.

The Royal Road of the Interior actually finds its southern terminus in Mexico City, thus spanning some 1,600 miles. And while generally known as a Spanish trading route, it sits upon a network of trails and paths connecting Mexico’s pre-Columbian cultures with those of the southern Rocky Mountains.

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail is one of 19 national historic trails in the National Trails System.

“It’s important that El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail is recognized,” said Aaron Mahr Yáñez, a superintendent with the National Park Service. “It’s not just important locally for the communities, it’s not just important for the state and it’s not just important for the Southwest, but it is important for the entire U.S. It’s important to recognize Spanish colonial presence in the U.S.”

And given its long, winding stretch through Mexico, the trail takes on international importance, he said.

“It’s important not just along the Rio Grande, it has importance in Mexico,” Mahr Yáñez said. “It truly is an international trail. Having this kind of connectivity showing the Spanish expansion of Mexico and the U.S., and under-standing our Spanish-American heritage helps us understand the multicultural presence.”

The trail encompasses a somewhat loose collection of sites, some with in-depth information like the New Mexico History Museum and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, both in Santa Fe.

Yost Draw, a barren stretch south of the Spaceport, marks the terminus of a 90-mile arid stretch known as Jornada del Muerto, journey of death, as travelers moved away from the Rio Grande on a shortcut through the desert. (Courtesy of the National Park Service)

The route includes El Rancho de las Golondrinas just south of Santa Fe, which dates to the 1700s and is a living history of the colonial time period, Mahr Yáñez said. And La Bajada Hill, which cars now zip up with relative ease. Back in the day it was a major milestone as it was negotiated through tight switchbacks by sturdy teams of draft animals.

Kuaua Ruins, also known as the Coronado Historic Site, is a pre-historic Tiwa village that represented one of the major local native pueblo settlements in 1540 when Francisco Vásquez de Coronado made his excursion north. It provides a snapshot of life along the middle Rio Grande and the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

Casa San Ysidro or the Gutiérrez/Minge House in Corrales is a historic house museum that is a satellite of the Albuquerque Museum. It houses an extensive collection of period New Mexican art and furnishings.

In Albuquerque’s far South Valley, the Gutiérrez-Hubbell House, built shortly after the Civil War, is located right on El Camino Real, and is a vital source of trail interpretation, Mahr Yáñez said.

Farther south near Socorro, the U.S. Army built Fort Craig shortly before the Civil War in part to house a protective force for travelers along the trail, he said.

Yost Draw, a barren stretch south of the Spaceport, marks the terminus of a 90-mile arid stretch known as Jornada del Muerto, journey of death, as travelers moved away from the Rio Grande on a shortcut through the desert. “It is developed with interpretation,” Mahr Yáñez said. “You can get out and walk for several miles on this pristine environment that was extremely difficult to travel.”

In the Doña Ana Village Historic District, Cristo Rey Street leads down the original path of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and through the historic district, the epicenter of the oldest permanent Hispano settlement in southern New Mexico.

The Gutiérrez-Hubbell House, built shortly after the Civil War in Albuquerque’s far South Valley, is an excellent example of period architecture and furnishings. (Courtesy of the National Park Service/Bryan Petrtyl)

The Mesilla Plaza and Mesilla Historic District contains many of the original adobe structures, Mahr Yáñez said. It is the site where the Gadsden Purchase was consummated by the raising of the U.S. flag as it changed hands from Mexico.

Taken as a whole, the trail represents an opportunity to immerse oneself in the area’s history, Mahr Yáñez said.

“Having all of these interpretation opportunities to visit the trail and visit the landscape provides us with a greater understanding of our shared history,” Mahr Yáñez said. “Working to develop these sites provides a great service to domestic and international traveler to help understand the shared history.”

It is loosely designed so visitors can share the trail’s nuances.

“The whole nature of the trial is the opportunity for people to experience the linear dimensions of the travel experience,” he added. “And find areas where the opportunity for developing understanding that encompasses the entire trial.”

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