In 1598, Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Onate crossed the Rio Grande near the city limits of modern-day El Paso, Texas. De Onate led his party north past Franciscan missionaries along the Rio Grande's banks to its intersection with the Chama River. Here he established the San Gabriel Mission, New Mexico's second Spanish capital, in 1600 -- a full seven years before the English settled in Jamestown, Virginia. This first Spanish mission in modern-day New Mexico set the stage for many more to come. Many of the state's 17th-century churches are still standing, and active, to this day.
In 1610, the Spanish capital moved to Santa Fe, where San Miguel Mission, now considered the oldest operational church in the United States, was established. Another nicely preserved church from this early era is the Mission of San Jose at Laguna Pueblo (1699), 45 miles west of Albuquerque. About 25 miles to the southwest is the Mission of San Esteban del Rey at Acoma Pueblo, perched majestically on a 367-foot sandstone mesa since 1626. To the southeast are the ruins of four more 17th-century missions that were abandoned before 1700 and now comprise Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.
Perhaps its the mysticism suggested by the missions that gives New Mexico such a spiritual edge. Explore the other side of "other-worldliness" by visiting Roswell -- you can read more about it on the next page.
New Mexico Missions Information
Address: Mountainair headquarters
Ripley and Broadway
Hours of Operation:
- Late May - Early Sept: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., daily
- Early Sept - Late May: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily
To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
- Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
- New Mexico State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New Mexico, as well as other recreational activities.
- Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.