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History and Culture > Northern New Mexico History



1. The Puye Ruins in Rio Arriba County preserves one of the largest of the prehistoric Indian settlements on the Pajarito Plateau. The settlement was established in the late 1200s or early 1300s and abandoned by about 1600. The ruins, on the ancestral site of Santa Clara Pueblo, show a variety of architectural forms and building techniques.

2. Mesa Prieta is an elongated mesa situated above the confluence of the Río Grande and the Río Chama and extending north from Ohkay Owingeh to the village of Embudo, covering 36 square miles. Most of the land is privately owned, but it contains as many as 50,000 petroglyphs and other archaeological features that provide a record of area history dating from the Archaic period hunter-gatherers and early Puebloans, and extending to the current period. The mesa is considered a sacred place. The rock art collection is a unique record of impressions by multiple cultures, including Native, Hispanic, and Anglo visitors. The Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project is a private non-profit community venture to record and preserve these stone images and the terrain and to provide education to visitors and local schools through tours, internships, and summer programs.

3. Pueblos are ancestral lands occupied for hundreds of years before the coming of the Spanish. Contemporary Pueblo people are descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived throughout the Heritage Area. Each pueblo operates under its own government and establishes all rules and regulations for its own individual village. Tribal lands are open to the public at scheduled times for tours or attendance at feast days and dances.

Four of the six Tewa pueblos are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Nambé, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Tesuque. Visitors are invited to attend many ceremonies and religious events at the pueblos, such as the June Feast Day at Santa Clara and the January Deer Dance at San Ildefonso. On feast days, it is courteous to accept an invitation to enter a Pueblo home to eat.

The Nambe Pueblo was a primary cultural and religious center at the time of the arrival of Spanish colonists. The name means “People of the Round Earth.” San Ildefonso Pueblo is famous for its matte and polished black-on-black pottery popularized in the early 20th century by Maria and Julian Martinez. Santa Clara Pueblo offers tours of the prehistoric cliff dwellings of Puye, as well as sightseeing, fishing and camping in the nearby canyon. The Tesuque Pueblo (pronounced Teh-sue-kay) is one of the most traditional of the Tewa-speaking pueblos in observing ceremonies and preserving culture. Tesuque dances are known for the excellence of the costumes and the authenticity of the execution of dances and rituals.

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (formerly San Juan Pueblo) has a well-known art center, the Oke Owinge Arts & Crafts Cooperative, where visitors may watch many of the artisans working in a variety of art forms. At the Pojoaque Pueblo (pronounced Po-hwa-kay), the Poeh Museum exhibits Pojoaque cultural history. In the nearby community of Pojoaque is the gallery of well-known pottery artist Roxanne Swentzell. At the annual Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show, Indian artists themselves organize and operate the event.

4. Backed by mountains and facing a large plaza, Taos Pueblo is a National Historic Landmark and also a World Heritage Site. Taos has borrowed from Anglo- and Spanish-American cultures over centuries of contact, while retaining its cultural integrity and identity as a community. The pueblo provides daily guided tours for visitors. Its San Geronimo Feast Day in September features Buffalo, Comanche and Corn Dances, in addition to a trade fair, ceremonial foot races, and a pole climb. Picurís Pueblo (pronounced Pee-coo-reese) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Picurís craftsmen produce pottery different from most Pueblo art; it is strictly utilitarian and without ornament.


Acequias are gravity-flow, communal irrigation ditches that date to the Spanish entry into New Mexico in 1598. By diverting water from rivers and streams to irrigate agricultural fields and pastures, acequias shape the landscape, and community life and regional identity. La Cienega Acequia on the property of El Rancho de las Golondrinas, 12 miles southeast of Santa Fe, is one of the best-preserved acequia systems in New Mexico. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it dates to the era of Spanish colonial settlement. The acequia remains in operation along relatively unchanged alignments and contains several traditional water control devices such as dams, checks, and flumes. El Rancho de las Golondrinas is a living history museum dedicated to the history, heritage and culture of 18th and 19th century New Mexico. Original colonial buildings on the site date from the early 1700s. Also still in operation is the Acequia Madre on the east side of Santa Fe. Community members gather every year to clean the seven-mile-long acequia, which for centuries watered fields of vegetables, wheat and large orchards. Now, surrounded on both sides by houses and business, it waters “fruit trees, gardens, flowers and yards.”

The historic districts of Los Ojos, Tierra Amarilla, La Puente, and Los Brazos, known for their distinct blend of Victorian and traditional adobe architecture, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as significant representations of early Hispanic settlement, as are the La Puente and Tierra Amarilla community ditches. The Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, situated along the Rio Chama, dates to 1832, and permanent settlement in the area took hold in the early 1860s.he Tierra

Food and Agriculture

At Northern New Mexico College, ¡Sostenga! The Center for Sustainable Food, Agriculture, and Environment seeks to preserve and enhance the natural heritage of northern New Mexico through hands-on learning and economic development. As a center for collaboration and research, ¡Sostenga! seeks to foster sustainable living.

The Española Food Hub is a new development under way in Española. The project is a collaborative effort among the City of Española, several non-profit entities, led by Siete del Norte, and several funding organizations, including the National Heritage Area. The Food Hub will establish a regional food distribution network and market for regional agricultural products, and house an advanced dance institute with Moving Arts Española.

The Northern Rio Grande’s living heritage is visible in places such as Chimayó, where chile farmers still irrigate with communal ditches and are renowned for their native green and red chiles. “In autumn, Deborah Madison writes in Saveur magazine, “the scents of apples and of piñon smoke, from fires used to roast the chiles, saturate the air.” Other traditional, favorite foods in New Mexico include Bizcochitos (sugar, anise, and cinnamon cookies) and Pastelitos (fruit pies cut into little rectangles). The Bizcochito is the “Official State Cookie of New Mexico.”

Meet the Artists > Types of Art > Performing Arts > Music

Piñon, Lone

Piñon, Lone

Lone Piñon
Lone Piñon is an acoustic conjunto from Northern New Mexico whose music celebrates the integrity of their region's cultural roots. Multi-instrumentalists Noah Martinez and Jordan Wax use the fiddle, bajo quinto, accordion, quinta huapanguera, mandolin, guitars, and bilingual vocals to play a wide spectrum of the traditional music that is at home in New Mexico.

The Norte has long been a crossroads of cultures, and centuries of intersecting histories, trade routes, migrations, and cultural movements have endowed the region with an expansive and rich musical heritage.



The Spanish and Indian Markets are two of the most popular cultural events within the Heritage Area, drawing visitors from all over the world. Every year, artists showcase and sell their work before a jury of their peers.

Spanish Market is held every July in Santa Fe. The market fills booths around the plaza and surrounding streets. Artwork includes pottery of all kinds, as well as other traditional crafts such as Colcha embroidery, hand-loomed blankets and rugs, santos (paintings of saints and the holy family), and bultos (wood carvings of saints, figures, and scenes from the Scripture). The market also has a section for contemporary art and a strong program for youth.

Indian Market is held every August. Native American artists from all the Southwest tribes and pueblos, as well as from other areas, show their work and also enter it in a juried event. A wide variety of arts are shown, including pottery, weavings, carvings, paintings, baskets, and kachinas. Contemporary entries include clothing designed by American Indians.

Also noteworthy is the annual Española Valley Arts Festival in Española. A good place to sample foods grown in northern New Mexico is the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, considered one of the Top 10 Farmers' Markets in the country. Also popular is the Española Farmers’ Market and the annual Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta*.*

What We Do > Projects & Partnerships


“Luz es Vida” is a themed series of events, projects and youth education programs in Questa and the surrounding areas, collaboratively organized by Land, Experience and Art of Place (LEAP) to highlight and celebrate the local, natural and cultural heritage of the area. The events and youth education programs are designed to have local value to community members as well as appeal to visitors. This year’s theme, “Luz es Vida” is inspired by UNESCO’s 2015 "International Year of Light".


The Heritage Area has embarked on several strategic partnerships to expand the recognition of our programs and our effectiveness in providing service to the community. These partnerships affect different strategic priorities including education, cultural preservation, and economic development.

In alliance with the Northern New Mexico College we have addressed preservation and protection of heritage weaving practices and traditions, preserving the Rio Grande style of weaving that has been practiced in Chimayó and other northern communities. We have been successful in obtaining a memorial from the State Legislature and in generating a study effort with the State to define protective practices. We are considering other strategic alliances with other educational institutions to promote educational efforts in historic preservation, cultural documentation, and industry practices.

We have developed an alliance with the State Historic Records Advisory Board to target historic records archival practices among the pueblos, county governments, and individual community organizations. In addition to providing small grants to support records archiving practices, we have also assigned an individual Board member to provide consultation, training, and guidance on records management and archiving practices. We are considering creating an area symposium/training workshop on records management with area educational institutions.

We are creating partnerships with Santa Fe County, Rio Arriba County, and Taos County to create and implement joint cultural and economic development efforts in each county. In Santa Fe County we are creating a virtual artists' marketing initiative that will promote individual artists on the Heritage Area website. With Rio Arriba County we are working to create a regional multi-cultural interpretive center, that will support presentation and promotion of the cultural heritage of Northern New Mexico. In Taos County we are evaluating participation in restoration of a significant cultural property within the Town of Taos in partnership with the County.

What We Do > Who We Are

Fond Farewell

Thomas A. Romero

November 21, 1946 - March 12, 2022



We the Board of Directors, Staff, Partners, Associates, and Friends of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) in Taos, Rio Arriba, and Santa Fe Counties and beyond, are mourning the death of our former Executive Director Thomas (Tomás) A. Romero, who passed away on March 12, 2022. Que descanse en La Páz Eterna y en La Divina Lúz.

   We send our condolences and our pledge of any help and supportive consolation that the NRGNHA can provide to Tomás’s family: Luba, his wife; Adrian (Maria), Curtis, and Chris, his sons; grandchildren Eliza, Indigo, and Maxon; his sisters Patricia Lopez and Roberta Miller (Floyd), and his brother Richard, as well as to his extended family and his countless friends.

   We NRGNHA Board of Directors Membership and Staff who have had the privilege of working with Tomás recognize and know that his death, his leaving, means that we have all lost a great resource of cultural knowledge and intelligence; while knowing at the same time that his work and achievements during his lifetime have in fact advanced the tasks and mission and vision of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area to which he was dedicated in his decade-long tenure as a skilled Executive Director, and   other institutions and organizations, including El Museo Culturál de Santa Fé.

   To put it simply, clearly, and plainly: Tomás, or Tom, or Thomas, as he was variously called, accomplished very good, professional, and effective works in his life, to which many can attest.

   For example, NRGNHA Board President and Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen says that she was very impressed by Tom’s ability to relate to individuals and groups and departmental bureaucracies in his very effective and compassionate ways, including with the U.S. National Parks Service.  “Tom’s abilities kept the NRGNHA afloat”, Anna said.

   Karl Cordova, our National Parks Service Liaison to the NRGNHA, said, that Tom “was a wise man who cared deeply about the heritage values of all of Northern New Mexico. He was a man of courage, compassion, grit, and wisdom, who will be sorely missed. The NPS is grateful for his great contributions to our Mission.”

   Patricia Trujillo, Ph.D., a former NRGNHA Board President, said “Tom understood New Mexico history acutely, and the Spanish language, and saw our work to be of critical local and global importance. He was caringly involved at every level, from the Garlic Harvest Festivals at NNMC, Historias Conferences, Association of National Heritage Association Meetings, creating the Land Water People Time film, and magazine initiatives, and more; and he anticipated the needs of the NRGNHA Board.”

   Charlotte Roybal, current NRGNHA Board Treasurer, says that she knew Tom as a good friend, and that she volunteered with him at El Museo Culturál where she helped him to obtain the Non-profit status for El Museo, and that Northern New Mexico will miss his dedication and all his knowledge.

   Mary Trujillo Mascareñas, a founding Member of the NRGNHA and Chair of the Grants Committee, says that the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area organization should now take the steps necessary to express our deep gratitude to and recognition of Tom’s positive, uplifting, and inspiring tenure as our Executive Director.

   There are many more compelling testimonial reflections and recollections about Tom.

   Our NRGNHA has come together to positively support Tom’s family now and to appreciate his legacy. Thank you, Tomás.  And we continue, in the confident hope that the NRGNHA will successfully carry forward our vision, mission, and tasks.  

Gracias a todos.

(Composed and written by David Fernandez de Taos, NRGNHA Board Member)     

Tomas Romero was dearly loved by Alliance of National Heritage Area (ANHA). He believed in the mission and cared deeply about the history and culture of Northern New Mexico. During my first year with the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) Tomas had invited the ANHA to hold their annual meeting in Santa Fe. It was a great event and most of the 55 NHA showed up and loved the experience that Tomas had created for them. It was one of his shared love for all the NHA and for the community. Tomas was a leader and gave his all to NRGNHA for over 10 years, we are extremely sadden by his passing and send our condolence to his family and friends. President of NRGNHA and Commissioner of Santa Fe County, Dist.2 Anna Hansen  

Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen

District 2


What We Do > Who We Are > Board

David Fernandez

David Fernandez

Board Member - Community Member, Taos
David Fernandez de Taos is a Native Taos New Mexican whose Spanish family heritage here is from the early 17th century and whose Navajo family heritage goes centuries more farther back than that. He has been a published author and newspaper writer and columnist for the past 44 years whose present writing includes the English-language column "The Blessing Way" and the Spanish-language column "Espiritu del Norte" in The Taos News; is author of his self-published book "Divine Light and Divine Blood" about the Taos Morada in 2010; and numerous other works.

David is a life-long participant in the spiritual, cultural, historical, and political aspects of life in El Norte and beyond; is a former Taos County Commissioner; and is active in ministries of the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Taos. His special interest is to advance the spiritual rapprochement and relations among the cultures and peoples of the Northern Rio Grande region and beyond.

homepage > homepage2022



Your Cultural Guide to Northern New Mexico - 2022 Edition

The new NINTH issue of our Heritage Area publication is now available in Taos, Española, Santa Fe and vicinities at selected magazine stands and visitor centers, and at our National Heritage Center in Alcalde. You may read it online at

Watch "Land Water People Time"


Notice of Grant Availability

In 2006, the US Congress established the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) (Río Arriba, Santa Fe, and Taos counties) to help tribal and local governments and other public and private entities conserve and sustain cultural, historical, archaeological, and natural resources.  To meet the Congressional mandate, NRGNHA, Inc. developed a grant program to make federal funds available to support a variety of projects in the Heritage Area.

The mission of the NRGNHA is to help sustain the communities, languages, cultures, traditions, heritage and environment of Northern New Mexico.

Communities, tribal and local governments, land grant associations, non-profit organizations, youth programs, historical and archaeological societies, and preservation groups are encouraged to apply for grant funding up to $10,000 that support the NRGNHA’s mission and goals.

An original & one (1) copy of the entire application is DUE by September 23, 2022!

Hand-deliver to:  109 E. Paseo de Oῆate, Espaῆola, NM  87532


Mail to:  P.O. Box 610, Espaῆola  NM  87532

To request an application at: or call (505) 752-7273; or forms may be downloaded from the Grant section our website

Important Dates

Grants Cycle 2022 23

Grant Application Forms



Grants Funded

Since 2009 the National Heritage Area has made grants available to over 60 organizations. The following document lists the different organizations who have received grants during the period for their projects:


2009-2018 Grants Awarded by County