The Powerful Pecos Peoples Commanded the Trade Path Along the Rio Grande

Pecos National Park Nuestro Stories

Image courtesy of Nuestro Stories.

The Pecos people were the largest, most prolific people of the Pueblo. They were a highly advanced tribe that practiced the most ancient customs regarding their religion, agriculture, and architecture. They were responsible for the Kivas, the advanced underground structures used for ceremonial worship, and were said to be connected to the underworld because of their underground location. 

The Pecos believed their place of origin was the underworld and fervently believed in ensuring that the proverbial portals stayed open. 

They were also considered the “middlemen of the Rio Grande” as they acted as the go-between the Pueblo farmers and the hunters of the plains. For 12000 years, the Pecos left their mark upon the land. Through the coming of the Spanish, the Santa Fe Trail, colonial missions, and Civil War battles, there was still a presence of the Pecos. 

The first introduction of the Spanish came through Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who was in search of the “Seven Golden Cities” rumored to be in the area. In 1540, Coronado made his way to attempt to claim the golden cities. Instead, they found a Plains man being held captive at Pecos. The Plainsman told the Spanish tales of the mythical land they sought, and the Spanish followed him to the land he spoke of. It took the Spanish days to realize that the Plains man had led them astray. It would be another 50-plus years before the Spanish would return. 

Today, Pecos National Park remains dedicated to the preservation of the Indigenous peoples, honoring the over 12000 years they spent on the land. 

Things to Know Before You Go: 

  • Pecos National Historical Park is located off Interstate 25, a little more than 25 miles east of Santa Fe. 
  • Visitors can climb down into either of the two open Kivas that are still accessible to the public 
  • The Visitor Center is open from 8 am to 6 pm during the summer and 8 am to 430pm during the winter. 

Location: New Mexico

Address: 1 NM-63, Pecos, NM 87552, United States

Visit this ancestral site here.

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By Liv Styler

Olivia Monahan Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.