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ust north of Mexico City, a convocatoria was established. This was an encampment where people wishing to make the journey north could settle for several months, gathering supplies and livestock, without imposition of taxes. At this encampment, in the Colonia San Simon, a monument was created in honor of Santiago Peregrino (St. James the Pilgrim), marking the beginning of the camino. The monument is simple, created of native stone, but it anchors a line first forged by indigenous peoples, linking the heart of Mexico to the lands of the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area.
In his research of the Camino Real Arturo Garrido uncovered this early monument, which had been isolated and lost over the last three centuries, the portion of the Camino Real that lies within Mexico has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
L A N D WAT E R P EOP L E T IM E
Along the Camino's route lie many archaeological sites, some only recently discovered. At the northernmost tip of an extension of the route sits Taos Pueblo, which also has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In these tracks of our ancestors there is a continuum of memory and a sense of connection that is unbroken by imposed divisions of borders or society. We may not know it intimately, but it is in our blood. In the stories of our parents, somos mejicanos (“we are Mexicans”) was an oft-repeated phrase, designating shared connection. Es mejicano signified a personal acceptance of an individual. Yet separation from our shared ethnic ancestry was enforced under Spanish rule. Separation was furthered with the conquest of New Mexico by the United States in 1846 and by policy during the territorial period and the period following statehood. It continues to this day. It is appropriate to celebrate the work of Arturo Garrido in identifying the anchor point of the Camino Real. At the other end of the Camino, Dr. Ana Malinalli x Gutierrez Sisneros has introduced a resolution to the Española City Council. It would establish July 12 (the date Oñate reached Ohkay Owingeh) as Doña Isabel de Tolosa Day, to be observed during the annual Española Fiestas celebration. Isabel de Tolosa Cortes Motecuhzoma (or Montezuma) was the wife of Juan de Oñate and the mother of Cristobal, their son, who succeeded Juan de Oñate as the first elected governor of Nuevo Mejico. Isabel was a granddaughter of Hernán Cortés and
A commemorative statue of Santiago Peregrino (St. James the Pilgrim) in Colonial San Simon north of Mexico City marks the official southern end of the Camino Real. Mexican architect and camino enthusiast Arturo Garrido is interviewed here in this 2012 photo about its significance. Garrido rediscovered the momument's association with the Camino Real and brought it to the world’s attention.
a great-granddaughter of Motecuhzoma II. Although Isabel de Tolosa never visited the northern domains, the commemoration would honor the role of women in the framing of our history and the mingling of the cultures that compose Northern New Mexico. This year the National Park Service celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. This year also marks 420 years since the arrival of the first Spanish settlers in Northern New Mexico under Juan de Oñate, and thus the 420th anniversary of the Camino Real. The camino contains the tracks of our ancestors, connecting communities and Native settlements. It represents the joining of the honorable
civilizations of the Aztec/Mexica, Tewa, Tano, Keres, Athabascan and Genízaro peoples and the mingling in of Iberian roots — including Basque, Moorish, Jewish, and Roman — to create the uniquely New Mexican Indo-Iberian cocktail that has enabled us to survive and to thrive. ¡Salud!
Thomas A. Romero is executive director of the Northern Río Grande Natural Heritage Area. Descended from early-17th-century Spanish settlers, he was born in Santa Rosa and raised in Santa Fe. He resides today in Tesuque. He has worked as a management consultant throughout the United States and in Latin America, has been on the board of El Museo Cultural since 1998 and has worked with numerous community planning and service organizations.