The Genízaro Pueblo of Abiquiú
The Rio Chama valley
The Rio Chama valley in northern New Mexico

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

The Rio Chama valley in northern New Mexico

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Delvin Garcia Standing in Remains of Santa Rosa de Lima Church
Delvin Garcia Standing in Remains of Santa Rosa de Lima Church

Sections of church walls are all that remain of the 18th-century Spanish colonial settlement Santa Rosa de Lima. Repeated attacks from Ute and Comanche peoples forced the colonists to abandon the village. In 1754, through a land grant, the Spanish gave Genízaro and Hopi families 16,000 acres of land about a mile away. Here, the Santo Tomás de Abiquiú settlement was established.

During the ensuing years, as Spain, Mexico and then the United States claimed parts of the region, the Genízaro people of Abiquiú lost some of their land. Delvin Garcia (above), former president of the Abiquiú land grant board, has worked with fellow community members to reclaim these lands. As Garcia states, “La Merced del Pueblo Abiquiú (the Town of Abiquiú Land Grant) is recognized and protected under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and is historically unique.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Delvin Garcia Standing in Remains of Santa Rosa de Lima Church

Sections of church walls are all that remain of the 18th-century Spanish colonial settlement Santa Rosa de Lima. Repeated attacks from Ute and Comanche peoples forced the colonists to abandon the village. In 1754, through a land grant, the Spanish gave Genízaro and Hopi families 16,000 acres of land about a mile away. Here, the Santo Tomás de Abiquiú settlement was established.

During the ensuing years, as Spain, Mexico and then the United States claimed parts of the region, the Genízaro people of Abiquiú lost some of their land. Delvin Garcia (above), former president of the Abiquiú land grant board, has worked with fellow community members to reclaim these lands. As Garcia states, “La Merced del Pueblo Abiquiú (the Town of Abiquiú Land Grant) is recognized and protected under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and is historically unique.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Victor David López in the Ruins of a Colonial Building
Victor David López in the Ruins of a Colonial Building

Victor David López, a retired schoolteacher, traces his family history back to the early Genízaros and Hopi who first lived on Abiquiú land. He remains devoted to researching and understanding the legal history of the land grant. As López notes, the Pueblo de Abiquiú was long referred to as an Indian pueblo, but in a 1909 patent document, the U.S. government referred to the community’s inhabitants as “the converted half-breed Indians of the Pueblo of Abiquiú.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Victor David López in the Ruins of a Colonial Building

Victor David López, a retired schoolteacher, traces his family history back to the early Genízaros and Hopi who first lived on Abiquiú land. He remains devoted to researching and understanding the legal history of the land grant. As López notes, the Pueblo de Abiquiú was long referred to as an Indian pueblo, but in a 1909 patent document, the U.S. government referred to the community’s inhabitants as “the converted half-breed Indians of the Pueblo of Abiquiú.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Santa Rosa de Lima's Feast Day Observances
Santa Rosa de Lima's Feast Day Observances

Ever since Abiquiú was established, its Genízaro people have returned to what remains of the Santa Rosa de Lima church to honor its patron saint by holding mass on her feast day. Preceding and following the mass is a solemn procession (above). In 2019, the ceremony was led by Reverend Valentine Phu Au (center of photo), the Santo Tomás Apostol Catholic Parish priest, and Frankie López, the feast day organizer. Each carried a Santa Rosa de Lima “bulto”—a carved and painted sculpture of a saint.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Santa Rosa de Lima's Feast Day Observances

Ever since Abiquiú was established, its Genízaro people have returned to what remains of the Santa Rosa de Lima church to honor its patron saint by holding mass on her feast day. Preceding and following the mass is a solemn procession (above). In 2019, the ceremony was led by Reverend Valentine Phu Au (center of photo), the Santo Tomás Apostol Catholic Parish priest, and Frankie López, the feast day organizer. Each carried a Santa Rosa de Lima “bulto”—a carved and painted sculpture of a saint.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) Dancers Performing in Abiquiú Plaza
Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) Dancers Performing in Abiquiú Plaza

Whether through warfare, trade, intermarriage or ceremony, the lives of Abiquiú’s Genízaro people and those from surrounding tribes have been intertwined. To this day, the Genízaro people maintain ties with members of the Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) community.

After the Santa Rosa de Lima feast day procession, Ohkay Owingeh dancers perform the Bow and Arrow Dance in the Abiquiú plaza, with the Tomás de Abiquiú church in the background. By dancing, they honor the saint and their historical ties to Abiquiú.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) Dancers Performing in Abiquiú Plaza

Whether through warfare, trade, intermarriage or ceremony, the lives of Abiquiú’s Genízaro people and those from surrounding tribes have been intertwined. To this day, the Genízaro people maintain ties with members of the Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) community.

After the Santa Rosa de Lima feast day procession, Ohkay Owingeh dancers perform the Bow and Arrow Dance in the Abiquiú plaza, with the Tomás de Abiquiú church in the background. By dancing, they honor the saint and their historical ties to Abiquiú.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Dexter Trujillo Gathering Mistletoe from a Juniper Tree
Dexter Trujillo Gathering Mistletoe from a Juniper Tree

Like most Genízaro people in Abiquiú, Dexter Trujillo descends from a family that helped settle the community. In the mid- 1800s, Apache people abducted his ancestor, Juan de Dios, as the boy strode along Abiquiú Creek. According to Trujillo family history, the boy was enslaved for more than nine years before he injured his leg and was left for dead. He survived by eating mistletoe fungus from juniper trees (such as this, above) until U.S. Army soldiers discovered the boy and returned him to Abiquiú.

Trujillo is a leader of Los Hermanos Penitentes (The Penitent Brothers), a religious brotherhood formed at Abiquiú by the 1800s. In addition to commemorating the Passion of Jesus Christ, the brotherhood prays on behalf of the community.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Dexter Trujillo Gathering Mistletoe from a Juniper Tree

Like most Genízaro people in Abiquiú, Dexter Trujillo descends from a family that helped settle the community. In the mid- 1800s, Apache people abducted his ancestor, Juan de Dios, as the boy strode along Abiquiú Creek. According to Trujillo family history, the boy was enslaved for more than nine years before he injured his leg and was left for dead. He survived by eating mistletoe fungus from juniper trees (such as this, above) until U.S. Army soldiers discovered the boy and returned him to Abiquiú.

Trujillo is a leader of Los Hermanos Penitentes (The Penitent Brothers), a religious brotherhood formed at Abiquiú by the 1800s. In addition to commemorating the Passion of Jesus Christ, the brotherhood prays on behalf of the community.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Virgil and Isabel Trujillo in Their Family Apple Orchard
Virgil and Isabel Trujillo in Their Family Apple Orchard

Virgil Trujillo (left in photo, brother of Dexter Trujillo) manages part of Abiquiú’s centuries- old “acequias,” or communal irrigation system. It combines Spanish and Indigenous practices to direct water into fields. “Our identity is tied to the land,” he says. “Ranching and farming are the source of our life and freedom. Everything is tied to the land; everything starts as a natural resource.”

Isabel Trujillo, Virgil’s wife, is the director of the Pueblo de Abiquiú Library and Cultural Center. “Anthropologists and history books have ignored our painful past, but many Abiquiú families have continuously honored our Indigenous ancestry with ceremony, dancing and feast days,” she says. “Today, there is a revival and resurgence of interest in our unique Genízaro identity, culture and history. You can’t take it out of our blood.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Virgil and Isabel Trujillo in Their Family Apple Orchard

Virgil Trujillo (left in photo, brother of Dexter Trujillo) manages part of Abiquiú’s centuries- old “acequias,” or communal irrigation system. It combines Spanish and Indigenous practices to direct water into fields. “Our identity is tied to the land,” he says. “Ranching and farming are the source of our life and freedom. Everything is tied to the land; everything starts as a natural resource.”

Isabel Trujillo, Virgil’s wife, is the director of the Pueblo de Abiquiú Library and Cultural Center. “Anthropologists and history books have ignored our painful past, but many Abiquiú families have continuously honored our Indigenous ancestry with ceremony, dancing and feast days,” she says. “Today, there is a revival and resurgence of interest in our unique Genízaro identity, culture and history. You can’t take it out of our blood.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Maurice Archuleta in the High Desert Surrounding Abiquiú
Maurice Archuleta in the High Desert Surrounding Abiquiú

Maurice Archuleta is an artist attuned to the importance of community ceremonies and festivals as expressions of Genízaro identity. “Since I was a child,” he says, “I’ve learned our traditional stories, dances and songs.” Archuleta sees Abiquiú’s celebrations as a reflection of its unique history, including its relationships with surrounding Native communities and Catholicism. Drawn especially to ceremonial dance, he sometimes introduces new steps by watching Native Pueblo dancers. “I study their footwork,” he says.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Maurice Archuleta in the High Desert Surrounding Abiquiú

Maurice Archuleta is an artist attuned to the importance of community ceremonies and festivals as expressions of Genízaro identity. “Since I was a child,” he says, “I’ve learned our traditional stories, dances and songs.” Archuleta sees Abiquiú’s celebrations as a reflection of its unique history, including its relationships with surrounding Native communities and Catholicism. Drawn especially to ceremonial dance, he sometimes introduces new steps by watching Native Pueblo dancers. “I study their footwork,” he says.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Johnny Jaramillo at the Gate of Abiquiú's Oldest Cemetery
At the Gate of Abiquiú's Oldest Cemetery

A former land grant board member, Johnny Jaramillo often visits the gravesides of his wife and two sons. Now in his 80s, he remembers riding as a young man with his grandfather on a horse-drawn wagon up to his farm on the mesa within the Abiquiú settlement. There, his grandfather tended his crops. Today, Jaramillo maintains a cattle pasture and herds his cattle by horseback on the same mesa. “We need to preserve our unique heritage and cultural ways for future generations,” Jaramillo says. “We need to harness our history into opportunity.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

At the Gate of Abiquiú's Oldest Cemetery

A former land grant board member, Johnny Jaramillo often visits the gravesides of his wife and two sons. Now in his 80s, he remembers riding as a young man with his grandfather on a horse-drawn wagon up to his farm on the mesa within the Abiquiú settlement. There, his grandfather tended his crops. Today, Jaramillo maintains a cattle pasture and herds his cattle by horseback on the same mesa. “We need to preserve our unique heritage and cultural ways for future generations,” Jaramillo says. “We need to harness our history into opportunity.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Santo Tomás Feast Day Festival
Santo Tomás Feast Day Festival

In Abiquiú, the feast day of Santo Tomás is celebrated in November during three days of prayer, song, procession and dance. The festival not only commemorates the pueblo’s patron saint but also the painful experiences of its people’s ancestors as war captives. Friday evening begins with a church member leading the recital of the rosary. This is followed by dancing through the church as a form of prayer. On Saturday, community members don their ceremonial clothing and join a procession that weaves through the pueblo before the feast and more ceremonial dancing begin.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Santo Tomás Feast Day Festival

In Abiquiú, the feast day of Santo Tomás is celebrated in November during three days of prayer, song, procession and dance. The festival not only commemorates the pueblo’s patron saint but also the painful experiences of its people’s ancestors as war captives. Friday evening begins with a church member leading the recital of the rosary. This is followed by dancing through the church as a form of prayer. On Saturday, community members don their ceremonial clothing and join a procession that weaves through the pueblo before the feast and more ceremonial dancing begin.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

El Cautivo Dance performed at Abiquiú
El Cautivo Dance

The Santo Tomás feast day ceremony culminates on Sunday with El Cautivo (The Captive) Dance, which has been performed at Abiquiú for more than 150 years. Dancers dress as their ancestors, with face paint, feather hair ornaments and ankle bells. They also wear dollar bills pinned to their ceremonial clothing, signifying their “ransom”—being purchased by the Spanish from other tribes—and the beginning of their enforced servitude. Spanish law allowed them to be free after 10 to 15 years.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

El Cautivo Dance

The Santo Tomás feast day ceremony culminates on Sunday with El Cautivo (The Captive) Dance, which has been performed at Abiquiú for more than 150 years. Dancers dress as their ancestors, with face paint, feather hair ornaments and ankle bells. They also wear dollar bills pinned to their ceremonial clothing, signifying their “ransom”—being purchased by the Spanish from other tribes—and the beginning of their enforced servitude. Spanish law allowed them to be free after 10 to 15 years.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Frankie and Carmen López Holding Santo Tomás Bulto
Frankie and Carmen López Holding Santo Tomás Bulto

Abiquiú Mayordomos Frankie and Carmen López are responsible for organizing feast day observances and safeguarding the community’s Santo Tomás “bulto.” Dating to the late 1700s, the statue was made by Pedro Antonio Fresquís (1749–1831), a well-known “santero,” or creator of religious works. The couple cares greatly about Abiquiú’s families. “Right now, the Pueblo of Abiquiú doesn’t have a lot of opportunities,” says Frankie López. “Our leadership is fractured, and folks are forgetting their past. I want this pueblo—the land grant board, church, library and community center—to be united. I want to leave a legacy for our children’s children.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Frankie and Carmen López Holding Santo Tomás Bulto

Abiquiú Mayordomos Frankie and Carmen López are responsible for organizing feast day observances and safeguarding the community’s Santo Tomás “bulto.” Dating to the late 1700s, the statue was made by Pedro Antonio Fresquís (1749–1831), a well-known “santero,” or creator of religious works. The couple cares greatly about Abiquiú’s families. “Right now, the Pueblo of Abiquiú doesn’t have a lot of opportunities,” says Frankie López. “Our leadership is fractured, and folks are forgetting their past. I want this pueblo—the land grant board, church, library and community center—to be united. I want to leave a legacy for our children’s children.”

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Rafaelita Martinez and Daughter Elizaida Departing the Santo Tomás Parish
Rafaelita Martinez and Daughter Elizaida Departing the Santo Tomás Parish

The Genízaro people of Abiquiú are surrounded by their history. It is not only embedded in their land but in the ancient pottery shards they find in their fields as well as their ranching and farm work, acequias, orchards, faith traditions and colonial churches. Their sense of place and sense of history are indivisible, as is their Indigenous and Hispanic heritage.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

Rafaelita Martinez and Daughter Elizaida Departing the Santo Tomás Parish

The Genízaro people of Abiquiú are surrounded by their history. It is not only embedded in their land but in the ancient pottery shards they find in their fields as well as their ranching and farm work, acequias, orchards, faith traditions and colonial churches. Their sense of place and sense of history are indivisible, as is their Indigenous and Hispanic heritage.

Photo by Russel Albert Daniels

See the entire “The Genízaro Pueblo of Abiquiú” exhibition online at AmericanIndian.si.edu/developingstories.