North of Albuquerque in the Rio Grande Valley and the charming town of of Bernalillo you will find the Coronado State Historic site, named for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Coronado travelled through the area with his soldiers around 1540 on a quest for the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. What he found instead were a handful of farming villages of indigenous people who spoke the Tiwa native language. Coronado and his men spent two years amongst the people he called Los Indios de los Pueblos (Pueblo Indians). Today at the Coronado Historic Site, you can visit the ruins of Kuaua, the northernmost village settled in the early 14th century and populated by over 1,000 native people when Coronado arrived. The present-day descendants of the Kuaua villagers live in the villages Isleta, Picuris, Sandia, and Taos.
One of the most remarkable features of the Coronado Historic Site is the Visitor’s Center, deigned by renowned architect John Gaw Meem who is regarded as one of the most important and influential architects to have worked in New Mexico. The Visitor’s Center exhibits an impressive collection of prehistoric and historic Puebloan and Spanish Colonial artifacts, including 14 rescued and preserved mural paintings discovered in a Kiva on site. The Kiva is unique not only in that it is square, but also because it is covered with layers of ancient murals largely considered some of the finest examples or pre-Columbian art ever discovered in the United States. Because it has been reconstructed and one of the mural layers recreated, you can actually climb the ladder down into the kiva and experience this gorgeous artwork for yourself.
There are hands-on activities most Sundays during the summer, fun for kids of all ages. Enjoy the covered picnic tables and stunning landscape, and don’t forget to hit the gift shop before you go!