El Rancho de Las Golondrinas – Living in History

There’s a beautiful valley of rolling hills, steeped in history and timeless tradition just 25 minutes south of downtown Santa Fe, called El Rancho De Las Golondrinas (The Ranch Of The Swallows). A variety of adobe and wooden buildings stand in beautiful defiance of modern times, offering us a means to travel back through centuries.

Entrance to the Courtyard with the well and horno ovens.

Entrance to the Courtyard with the well and horno ovens.

For many centuries, Las Golondrinas was a popular paraje, (Spanish for stopping place) for Meso-American and North American Native traders. It’s natural cienegas (spring-fed ponds) and streams made it a traveler’s oasis after months of arduous trekking across the dry lands of Mexico, Arizona, and southern New Mexico.

Las Golondrinas pond. Image: Las Golondrinas archives.

Las Golondrinas pond. Image: Las Golondrinas archives.

Today, El Rancho de Las Golondrinas keeps the past very much alive, and continues to be a cherished place, loved by locals and visitors.  Each year, from April to October, markets, fairs and festivals are held there, making it one of Santa Fe’s top destinations. In 2015, their Harvest Festival was voted #2 in USA Today’s Best Harvest Festival poll.

2016 Schedule of Events

April 30th & May 1st – New Mexico: The Civil War & More. 10am-4pm

April opens with the Civil War Re-enactment

April opens with the Civil War Re-enactment

May 14th & 15th – Fiesta de la Familia. 10am-4pm

June 4th & 5th – Spring Festival & Fiber Arts Fair. 10am-4pm

Authentic Wool Dyeing at Las Golondrinas.

Authentic Wool Dyeing at Las Golondrinas.

June 18th & 19th – Herb & Lavender Festival. 10am-4pm

July 2nd & 3rd – Santa Fe Wine Festival. Noon-6pm

July 16th & 17th – Viva Mexico. 10am-4pm

Viva Mexico Performers

Viva Mexico Performers

August 6th & 7th – Summer Festival & Wild West Adventures. 10am-4pm

September 17th & 18th – Santa Fe Renaissance Fair. 10am-5pm

Renaissance Fair - Dressing the part of Royal Attendees.

Renaissance Fair – Dressing the part of Royal Attendees.

October 1st & 2ndHarvest Festival. 10am-4pm

The root cellar at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas during Harvest Festival.

The root cellar at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas during Harvest Festival.

Las Golondrinas is a valued reminder of the area’s Native American and Spanish cultures, the settlers’ traditions, and their staunch perseverance in the face of tumultuous times. Pathways wind through two hundred acres of living history, and canopies of ancient cottonwoods – some dating back over four hundred years – arc overhead.

Canopies of Cottonwoods.

Canopies of cottonwoods.

If those trees could talk…they might tell you that in 1598, the first Spanish colonists arrived by way of the 1500-mile-long El Camino Real de Tierra Adentra (The Royal Road of the Interior Lands).

El Camino Real Map showing Las Golondrinas and the original capitol of New Spain - San Juan Pueblo (Ohkay Owingeh).

El Camino Real Map showing Las Golondrinas and the original capitol of New Spain – San Juan Pueblo (Ohkay Owingeh).

This was the trade route that stretched from Mexico City to the Tewa village of Ohkay Owingeh, (the name is Tewa for Place of the Strong People). ConquistadorJuan Oñate, leader of the Spanish colonizing expedition, claimed the Native village as the first capital of New Spain. He renamed it San Juan Pueblo. (In 2003, the pueblo people reclaimed their Native name.) Ohkay Owingeh, sits 45 miles north of Las Golondrinas. Once travelers reached Las Golondrinas they knew they had only one more day to journey to the capitol of Santa Fe.

El Molino Grande de Sapello. The Big Mill from Sapello.

El Molino Grande de Sapello. The Big Mill from Sapello.

Settlers at Las Golondrinas had all that was needed for independent living. Water was a most important resource, along with mud for adobe bricks to build shelter, fertile soil, and nearby mountain forests for lumber. The Spanish built acequias (irrigation ditches) from the natural springs and ponds. The same acequias are still used today to water the ranch’s land, livestock and crops. They introduced sheep and winemaking to the area, and many other ways of life that remain part of Las Golondrinas’ living history today.

Sorghum crop during Harvest Festival.

Sorghum crop during Harvest Festival.

During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Spanish fled from New Mexico. In 1692, Don Juan de Vargas reclaimed New Mexico for the King of Spain. Spanish settlers returned in droves by way of El Camino Real. There are many travelers’ diaries and records from the time that mention el paraje de Las Golondrinas (the place of The Swallows).

Once again, the area thrived and villagers were able to trade their goods for outside provisions they didn’t have on hand, such as iron.

The Blacksmith building at Las Golondrinas

The blacksmith building.

But Comanche raids were a common and devastating occurrence. Circa 1770 – 80, military leader and governor Don Juan de Anza stopped at Las Golondrinas, with his expedition of 150 soldiers.

By 1786, Anza’s efforts initiated a treaty between Spain and the Comanche, which reduced the number of raids and eventually led to a more peaceful existence for the inhabitants.

In 1933, Leonora Curtin and her mother bought the property. They are known for their roles in founding Santa Fe’s Spanish Colonial Arts Society, which is responsible for the Annual Spanish Market that draws thousands of visitors each July to Santa Fe’s historic plaza and surrounding areas.

1948: Left to right: Leonora Scott Muse Curtin, Y.A Paloheimo and Leonora Curtin Paloheimo at Las Golondrinas.

1948: Left to right: Leonora Scott Muse Curtin, Y.A Paloheimo and Leonora Curtin Paloheimo at Las Golondrinas.

In 1946, Leonora married Yrjo Alfred Paloheimo, and together they had the foresight to maintain the ranch as a living history museum. Two hundred acres are dedicated to the museum, leaving an additional two hundred acres of protected “green space.”

A few of the wooden buildings that are part of the living history exhibit.

Sierra Village representing Northern New Mexico in the 1800s.

El Rancho de Las Golondrinas appears much as it would have in the 1700s and 1800s. The rolling hills are dotted with buildings, some original and a few replicas, and lifestyle methods remain true to their origins. From cider and wine making, sheep shearing, blacksmithing, wool dyeing, carpentry and weaving, to crop-growing and milling, hide-tanning, basket making and more, all are done by traditional methods.

Ristra making from their own crop of chiles

Ristra making from their own crop of chiles in La Placita (courtyard, well & horno ovens) representing the 1700s.

Kids having fun making tortillas to cook in the horno ovens. Delicioso!

Kids making tortillas to cook in the horno ovens. Add butter and marmalade -Delicioso!

Children always have fun at Las Golondrinas. Each festival brings with it a variety of themed activities for the whole family; making tortillas by hand, archery, and treading grapes, are just a few.

Treading Grapes at Harvest Festival.

Crushing Grapes at Harvest Festival.

Giant bubbles at the Renaissance Fair.

Giant bubbles at the Renaissance Fair.

Don't try this at home! Jousting is performed by professionals during the Renaissance Fair.

Don’t try this at home! Jousting is performed by professionals during the Renaissance Fair.

Delicious bread fresh from the horno is drenched in honey butter and enjoyed by all.

Fresh bread, hot from the horno is served with honey butter.

Fresh bread, hot from the horno is served with honey butter.

As well as being a great living history museum, Las Golondrinas’ authenticity makes it a popular location for film-makers. Such films as The Missing, starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Ron Howard, All The Pretty Horses, starring Matt Damon and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, are just two of many films shot here. Below is a set image from the filming of the popular TV series, Gunslingers.

Filming of the TV series Gunslingers 2.

Filming of the TV series Gunslingers 2.

And let’s not forget the swallows. If you visit, especially in the spring, the area is filled with swallows building their nests and skimming the waters.

If you’re planning a visit to New Mexico, or are a local, remember to include a a day at this much-loved paraje on El Camino Real.

Schedule: The museum is open for visitors: June – October, Wednesday – Sunday: 10am – 4pm. Guided tours are free with admission and depart at 10.30am, (except when there’s a special event). Self-guided tours optional.

Contact El Rancho de Las Golondrinas at (505)471-2261 for more info. Click link for map.

Special events begin in April and run through October, ending with the Harvest Festival.

April 30th & May 1st – New Mexico: The Civil War & More. 10am-4pm

May 14th & 15th – Fiesta de la Familia. 10am-4pm

June 4th & 5th – Spring Festival & Fiber Arts Fair. 10am-4pm

June 18th & 19th – Herb & Lavender Festival. 10am-4pm

July 2nd & 3rd – Santa Fe Wine Festival. Noon-6pm

July 16th & 17th – Viva Mexico. 10am-4pm

August 6th & 7th – Summer Festival & Wild West Adventures. 10am-4pm

September 17th & 18th – Santa Fe Renaissance Fair. 10am-5pm

October 1st & 2ndHarvest Festival. 10am-4pm

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