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Pedernal View of Mountain

The History of Abiquiú

Phé shúu ú (also known as P'efu or Avéshu), was the name given by the Tewa people to what is known today as Abiquiú, a village that lies near the west bank of Rio Chama. Meaning "timber point," the name translates to stick of wood (phe) and projecting point of hill or mesa (shúu). The Spanish pronunciation of the Phé shúu ú (Avéshu) turned the name to Abiquiú as early Mexican colonists took over the area.


Historians believe Abiquiú was built on top of the ruins of a prehistoric Tewa Pueblo that existed in 1300 A.D. Native Americans inhabited Rio Chama Valley for thousands of years before the Spanish established a small town here in the early 1700s.

Rio Chama from above in Abiquiu
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By the 1730s, early Hispanic colonists created ranchos and plazas in the Rio Chama Valley and founded Santa Rosa de Lima de Abiquiú.  However, because of the cultural and land conflicts between colonists and native people, these settlers frequently abandoned their homes.  In 1747, Santa Rosa de Lima was completely abandoned when the Utes and Comanche Indians attacked the settlers in a deadly battle.

In 1750, Spanish authorities mandated the resettlement of Abiquiú and relocated the village upstream to its present location, but the conflicts continued. So, in 1754, Governor Capuchin awarded a land grant to 34 "detribalized" Indian families (Genizaros) on the mesa above Santa Rosa de Lima. In return for the land grant, the Genizaros provided a military defense for the Spanish authorities. The Genizaros, who now owned their own land, built houses and named the new pueblo The Pueblo de Abiquiú.  So, the village of Abiquiú was founded in 1754, 22 years before American independence.

One of the cultural conflicts centered around what was perceived by the colonists to be the practice of witchcraft. Many suspected "sorcerers and witches" were jailed and beaten. The Spanish authorities used this as a way to turn the Genizaro community away from their culture and natural healing practices. 

However, the treaty was never ratified by Congress and disputes over land continued. The government believed that land that had not yet been developed or farmed could be seized and distributed to new settlers. Despite their actions, the Pueblo de Abiquiú was able to protect its land grant because it had a well-documented history of ownership and use. The nearby Piedra Lumbre grant wasn't as lucky and that land was claimed by Thomas B. Catron (of the notorious Santa Fe Ring) and a group of entrepreneurs who eventually gained ownership of two-thirds of the grant.  Efforts in the mid-twentieth century to return some National Forest lands near Abiquiú back to the original Hispanic families who owned those original land claims were successful, thanks to negotiations initiated by the Presbyterian-owned Ghost Ranch.

Ghost Ranch landscape in Abiquiu NM
Abiquiú Lake from County Road 84

Abiquiú is a geologically complex area. The Rio Grande Rift is to the east and the Colorado Plateau is to the west.  Down the middle runs the Chama Basin and roughly follows the valley of the Rio Chama.  The Rio Chama empties into Abiquiú Lake and is impounded by the earth-filled Abiquiú Dam, 1,800 feet (550 m) long and 340 feet (104 m) high, completed in 1963 and raised in 1986. Abiquiú Lake is actually a man-made reservoir that is 5,200-acres and over 12 miles long. and lies at elevations of up to 6,100 feet. Reptile fossils 200 million years old have been found in the area.

Today, Abiquiu is an area filled with art galleries and studios; amazing geological formations; a village with a rich history and blended culture, and a wonderful place to visit. Join us, and Discover Abiuquiú.

A Look at Abiquiú Today

Georgia O'Keeffe Courtyard Black Door 1.jpg
El Pueblo de Abiquiu Library & Cultural Center
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Gallery don Cachuate in Abiquiu NM
Art gallery building with local art
Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic Parish Front View 1.jpg
Abiquiu Village and Old Mercantile Truck 1.jpg
El Pinon Sign
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