Editor’s note: Road construction along New Mexico State Road 68 is hindering normal access to the Los Luceros Historic Site. Visit nmhistoricsites.org for a map with modified directions to the site. Also, due to limited cell service, Los Luceros Historic Site is recommending visitors download, screenshot or print tickets in advance of arrival for the event.
Visiting one of New Mexico’s state historic sites is always a trip steeped in learning. Doing so during the holiday season makes it an even more special excursion.
The Los Luceros Historic Site, northeast of Española near Alcalde, is adding some New Mexican holiday flair to its grounds with the Lights of Los Luceros from 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.
This is a revision of a first attempt at creating a festive occasion that began in 2019 but has been on hiatus since, said Carlyn Stewart, Los Luceros regional manager and archeologist, who was a volunteer during the first go around.
“We’re expecting over 1,000 people,” she said. “Our fall harvest drew 1,600, so we’re expecting a good crowd.”
Los Luceros is a centuries-old ranch set on 148 acres snuggled against a mile of the Rio Grande’s east bank.
It includes a territorial-style hacienda that archeological evidence suggests began as an Indigenous field house and was later constructed throughout the Spanish Colonial, Territorial and American eras.
It’s a two-story building decorated by then-owner and resident, anthropologist Mary Wheelwright in 1930s and 1940s.
In addition to the festive holiday decoration, the grand sala will feature pianists and guitar players belting out Christmas carol favorites.
“It will transport people back in time,” Stewart said. “It’s my favorite part. Everyone that steps into that grand sala will feel like what it felt like back then. It really comes alive. It’s the most magical place.”
A capilla chapel, built in the early 1700s and now part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, is adorned with religious folk art by award-winning santera Clare Cresap Villa of Alcalde and will be decorated with some flowers and wreaths.
“It’s very pretty,” Stewart said. “People love it.”
Visitors can also see a quaint Victorian cottage built in the later 1800s and lived in by Abel Lucero, whose family was the last of the Luceros to call the ranch home. Despite its out-of-place architecture, it was still built with local adobe material and remains decorated from the time period of the early 1900s, Stewart said. It will feature a decked-out tree and decorations galore.
And, of course, the grounds will be lit by farolitos by the score.
“The big drawer will be the farolitos,” Stewart said. “The entire property from the visitor center to the river will be lined with thousands of farolitos. And the entire path and historic road will be lined with the farolitos and people can go into the historic buildings, which will be decorated for Christmas.”
That in itself is a Herculean task.
“My back is hurting just thinking about all of those farolitos,” Stewart said with a chuckle. “But it is worth it.”
About 20 local artisans will be selling their wares, and food trucks will have traditional northern New Mexico holiday goodies available, including hot mulled wine.
A poetry reading, sponsored by the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, which is also providing the “Following the Manito Trail,” exhibit, will be among the highlights of the evening, Stewart said.
Children will be shown how to make their own tin Christmas ornaments.
“It’s all lovely,” she said. “We decorated last year even though we didn’t have the event and everybody enjoyed it.”