Although Española is usually just a spot people pass through on the way to Taos or other parts north and west, there are some reasons to a linger a bit in the area.
The Plaza de Española (plazadeespanola.com) is at the heart of the city and provides a cultural history of the area through the Bond House Museum, the Misión Museum y Convento and the Veterans Wall, said John D. Werenko, executive director of the Northern New Mexico Regional Art Center, which manages the plaza.
The historic Bond House was the homestead of the Frank Bond family, but it has been a museum for more than 30 years. Intricate woodworking details, parquet floors and brass fixtures make it a place to see on its own, Werenko said, while local artifacts and historical photographs add texture to the visit.
“The photographs are (from) throughout the last 100 years, covering various events, like floods,” he said. “There’s a lot of information about who went off to fight in World War I and World War II and the Chile Line Express, which was a narrow-gauge railroad to Denver that took a lot of the area’s wool.”
When it comes to veterans, the two-tiered granite wall is a powerful tribute to the men and women from northern New Mexico who served and died in the armed forces, Werenko said.
“There are about 3,000 names on it,” he said.
And the Misión is an art gallery dedicated to featuring the work of 32 local artists on a rotating basis, Werenko said.
The building itself is a replica based on the University of New Mexico excavations of the original church that was built by the Spanish at the San Gabriel settlement in 1598.
It also features 14 coats of arms, representing the 14 Spanish-surnamed settlers who originally accompanied Juan de Oñate to the area more than 400 years ago.
A different kind of craft can be seen at the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center (evfac.org), dedicated to the art of weaving, said April Jouse, director of operations.
“It’s a great place for people who are interested in taking classes or that just want to see what we have to offer and learn about the fiber arts history in northern New Mexico,” she said.
One of the great programs the facility offers is a chance for hands-on loom work, Jouse said.
“It’s called ‘Walk-in and Weave’,” she said. “You set it up at least 24 hours in advance for a day or a half-day for people learning how to weave. You can weave a complete rag rug in that time.”
The Center has two looms – one is a standing, New Mexico-style walking loom, and the other is a sitting or floor loom, Jouse said.
“We have both ready to go,” she said. “It’s a really fun thing for us to teach and fun thing for people to do. Since we have two looms, you can do it with a friend. It’s a good way to give people an introduction to weaving without have to do the hard parts. Just get to do the fun stuff.”
Not far from Española, the Puye Cliff Dwellings (puyecliffs.com) provide an interesting look at the area’s prehistoric past.
“It’s a really special place,” said Alex Suazo, director of the site. “It’s the ancestral home to the Santa Claran people.”
The area was occupied from about 900 A.D. to 1600 A.D., he said, and features numerous cliff and cave dwellings and petroglyphs.
All tours are guided, and visitors can see the cliff dwellings or the mesa-top dwellings – each of which takes about an hour – or the two tours can be combined in a two-hour excursion.
“What’s really special about the plateau, where you’ll see a reconstruction of pueblo ruins, including a kiva, is that you’re at 7,100 feet and you can really see all of the beautiful mountains,” Suazo said. “From Wheeler in the Sangre de Cristos to Sandia Peak.”
On the cliff tour, “people get to see history and have it explained,” he said. It’s pretty awesome, dating back to 900. You get onto the terrain trail, see the cave and a lot of pottery shards. It’s like holding the original stuff in your hands. People like that.”