Quarai is one of three Salinas Pueblo Missions run by the National Park Service. They are located in the Estancia Basin, between desert mountain ranges. What made Quarai special to me was the presence of a ranger, Mario Medina. He was excited to share information, lots of information. Quarai was our first stop and at first glance it appeared that a large stone structure, the mission, was the only thing on the site. But, "Oh no!" as Mario explained. Most of the site has not been excavated. The National Park Service has done extensive research using very advanced imaging technology to show the extent of the settlement.
Mario can show you the maps that indicate where the remaining settlement structures are located.
Mario told us to look out for the owls that hang out in the cottonwood trees and the mission ledges. He knows his site and appreciates the extraordinary history that took place here. Personally, I found the history of the pueblos where the Salinas Missions were built to be a sad story, a disturbing account of how invading forces and culture led to misery and ultimately would cost the Indians living on the Estanica Valley their way of life. Thank you Mario.
As we walked around, getting lost at times in the maze of walls, we could appreciate the small size of rooms, their interconnectedness and the sense that, hundreds of years ago, other footsteps walked on the same ground, the same paths, we were walking!
As we walked back to our car, I looked back at the Mission. The small hill was much more than a mound of dirt. Now, the site is quiet, peaceful and very green. I imagined the activity and lifestyle in 1540, just before the arrivals of the Spaniards.
Up next is Abo, another of the Salinas Missions. Thanks for joining us.