Keeping Abiquiu’s History Alive on the Old Spanish Trail – Ramona Malczynski

One of the most rewarding aspects of my LHIP internship with the National Trails Office of the National Park Service has been reaching out to and meeting people who are passionate about sharing the history of places they care about. People can present history to the public in many ways from different perspectives, but many do so with goals of accessibility, engagement, equity and inclusion. The way we understand history shapes our understanding of the present, so the National Trails Office and its partners are constantly considering what historical narratives to emphasize and how to draw in wider audiences.

Last week, NTIR staff and I met a family working hard to tell the history of Abiquiu, New Mexico from a perspective of inclusion and equity. We went to visit the Pueblo of Abiquiu to see the potential for us to partner with them on the Old Spanish Trail. On a cloudy, wet day we met the Trujillos at the Abiquiu Library and Cultural Center where we encountered hundreds of books on New Mexican history and a bucket of delicious, local cherries.

Here’s a photo of Virgil talking to us about the history of Abiquiu. Look at the delicious, local cherries to the left.
Also, notice the amazing artwork, historic photographs, vegas on the ceiling, and of course, books that make the Abiquiu Library and Cultural Center so special.

After exploring the Library and learning about the educational and cultural activities that take place there from Isabel Trujillo, Virgil started his lecture on the history of Abiquiu. My family’s roots are in what is now northern Mexico, but I grew up in New Mexico and have read and talked to people who have deep ties to this land throughout my life.

Virgil’s perspective on New Mexico history was notably different than the popular narratives I had learned in elementary and high school, and challenged the way many people here think about their history. Virgil highlighted the Indigenous history in Abiquiu and pointed out the strong social and cultural ties most people there have to their Genízaro heritage and identity. (According to the Abiquiu Library website, Genízaros are descendants of non-Pueblo Indians who had endured periods of captivity or servitude). He also emphasized the history of land use in Abiquiu and how the community is organizing to maintain governance of their land to preserve their traditions, connections to the environment and agricultural production.

Isabel Trujillo, who is the director of the Library and Cultural Center, talked about the various cultural events that celebrate the town’s diverse heritage. She also gave us a tour of the historic church Santo Tomas El Apostol and talked to us about how the community is managing the land grant to give locals access to enjoy the Rio Chama and surrounding natural beauty.

This is a photo of Isabel talking to National Trails Office staff and I about historic sites near the Abiquiu Library and Cultural Center and pointing out the official alignment of the Old Spanish Trail (right behind Santo Tomas El Apostol Church).

Hearing the history of Abiquiu from the Trujillos and seeing the effort they put into maintaining historic sites and traditions was incredible. Talking with the Trujillos who present an inclusive and equitable vision of Abiquiu through how they understand its history motivated me to learn more about the history of New Mexico and my ow heritage. I am sure that others who visit Abiquiu will feel the same way and that is why considering accessibility, engagement, equity and inclusion in how we present the histories of sites along national historic trails is so important.

This is a photograph my supervisor took of me taking a photograph of the historic Santo Tomas El Apostol Church that sits right across from the Abiquiu Library and Cultural Center. Virgil’s great grandfather had stories about the construction of the church and Isabel provided important historic context to our visit there. Isabel is kindly telling her sweet dog to not go into the church with us.
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