Slide show captions: Take a trip back in time at the Coronado Historic Site; visitors will be able to look at a replica kiva (ceremonial chamber) at the Coronado Historic Site; Native Americans who lived in the Kuaua Pueblo had a scenic view of the Sandia Mountains and Rio Grande bosque; Coronado Historic Site Interpretative Ranger Jessica Tharp points to work that was done on a kiva wall that was damaged by a monsoon in 2020; visitors can travel down parts of Route 66 and the El Camino Real in Sandoval County; the Jemez Historic Site includes stone remnants of a 700-year-old village and the San José de los Jemez church dating to 1621 or ’22; take a drive through the Gilman Tunnels in Sandoval County.
Away from the hustle and bustle of U.S. 550 in Bernalillo is a quiet haven with breathtaking views of the Sandia Mountains and Rio Grande bosque.
For hundreds of years, this was where Native Americans in the Kuaua Pueblo resided.
“This is a secluded oasis,” Coronado Historic Site Interpretative Coordinator Adrienne Boggs said.
The Kuaua Pueblo was first settled around 1325.
The pueblo sits at the nexus of a major trade route. The Native Americans who lived there traded for goods that came from all over the continent, she said.
There were about 1,200 people by the time Francisco Vazquez de Coronado arrived. However, conflict with Coronado and later Spanish explorers led to the abandonment of the site within a century of first contact. Today, the descendants of the people of Kuaua live in the surviving Tiwa-speaking villages of Taos, Picuris, Sandia and Isleta.
‘Something that feels normal again’
The Coronado Historic Site, which opened in 1940, was closed to the public from March 2020 until last summer due to the pandemic.
If there was a positive that came out of being shut down, it was that some improvements were able to be made. This included repairing a kiva (or ceremonial chamber) wall that collapsed during a monsoon in 2020 and adding interpretative signs along its trails.
In the months following its reopening, the site has seen an uptick in visitors, especially after the governor lifted the statewide mask mandate in March, Boggs said.
“We’re all very happy things are starting to return to something that feels normal again,” she said. “Seeing people again makes us very happy. We lost that connection for so long.”
New Mexico Tourism Department spokesman Jim Walton said he is optimistic that 2022 will be a “robust year” for tourism.
“Early indicators are that people are ready to travel despite gas prices,” he said.
Sandoval County is in an ideal spot for what is shaping up to be a busy tourism season.
It is a unique geographic location, benefiting from being near Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Walton said.
Aside from visiting outdoor sites, people can get off Interstate 25 and cruise down a pre-1937 alignment of Route 66 through parts of Sandoval County including Algodones and Bernalillo, where they can visit an over-140-year-old refurbished convent that houses El Zocalo Plaza Event Center.
The facility, which also hosts tours, has been booked for weddings, birthday parties and other events for all but a handful of weeks since July 2021.
“Given everything that’s gone on, we’re definitely seeing the result of pent-up demand,” Sandoval County Director of Business and Economic Development Dora Dominguez said. “(People) want to be outdoors. They want to be around other people.”
‘It’s a juried show’
An event El Zocalo used to host is the Native American Arts Craft Festival, run by the Authentic Native Arts Association.
The fifth annual event will happen May 14-15 at Loretto Park, 237 Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo.
“We like Bernalillo because it’s sort of the epicenter,” Authentic Native Arts Association committee co-chairwoman Sara Chadwick said. “It’s kind of the center of Indian and Spanish life in the 1600s.”
It’s good because it’s not expensive for the artists and “it’s the first one of the season,” she said.
In 2019, almost 200 artists came, but there was no festival in 2020 and attendance was low in 2021 due to the pandemic.
“This year it’s business as usual, back to normal, kind of,” Chadwick said.
Over 130 artists, ranging from Mateo Romero to Larry Yazzie, will showcase their work.
“It’s not an arts and crafts show; it’s a juried show,” she said.
A juried exhibition features artwork selected through a competitive process. Artist members submit images and information for the work they hope will be selected by the juror.
The festival will also include performances by World Champion Hoop Dancer Tony Duncan and classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala.
The event is $10 for adults. Children 12 and under can come for free.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit https://www.bernalilloindianfestival.com/.
Aside from the Indian Arts Festival and Coronado Historic Site, Sandoval County has plenty of other things to see and do, from catching a performance at the Rio Rancho Events Center to enjoying a family outing at Rio Rancho Campus Park.
Plus, there are a variety of events for people to choose from. Among those include:
May 7: Corrales Tractor Club Antique Tractor Show, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Corrales Recreation Center
May 7-8: Placitas Studio Art Tour, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
May 14: Heritage Day at Casa San Ysidro, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 973 Old Church Road in Corrales
June 5: Corrales Garden Tour, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
June 11: Farm House Ale Event, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Loretto Park in Bernalillo
June 16: A Class for Artists and Collectors: “Art and Blockchains” with Sara Ludy, 3-4:30 p.m. at the Corrales Community Center
July 2: Fourth of July Celebration, Rotary Park, Bernalillo, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
July 4: City of Rio Rancho Fourth of July Celebration, Campus Park and Sky Room, 6-10 p.m.
Aug. 3-7: Sandoval County Fair, Sandoval County Fairgrounds, Cuba
It is good to see events back and people making plans, Dominguez said.