The Real Abiquiu – Review
Countless times we have “driven through” Abiquiu, New Mexico, on highway 84. Either heading to the lake or up to Chama, but never had we visited the “real” Abiquiu. Not until our most recent trip to actually camp at Riana Campground at Abiquiu Lake, where the camp hosts told us about the “real” village of Abiquiu.
Topping a small hill just above the Abiquiu Post Office on 84, up a bumpy dirt road, lies the old Abiquiu. Most adjectives that come to mind are so over-used that it is difficult to describe not only the visuals but the feel of this time-forgotten adobe sanctuary. A peace floods the soul when standing in the small, but near-overwhelming-in-a-way, tiny community.
Central to the village is the Catholic Church of Santo Tomas El Apostle, founded in 1740. Quietly standing vigil in the now nearly empty community, its beauty and charm have not forsaken it. Creamy sand adobe captures the eye with a focal point on the heavy, rustic, wooden doors and balcony. Surrounded by an adobe wall with an entrance through a wrought iron gate, the church stands in serene seclusion, as if to say, “I am still here.”
Just to the right of the gate is a small garden with native landscaping, benches of slab rock, memorials to some of the life-long and dedicated church leaders who spent their lives there in leadership, and an almost life-size statue of Christ, arms out-spread, welcoming all from the daily resident to the weary traveler. A peaceful silence overwhelms and radiates outward from within the heavenly little garden.
Just next door, the Parish home is flooded with blooming roses trailing the beautiful old adobe exterior.
Panning the small circular boundary of the inner village, remnants of a past Abiquiu still remain in notches here and there. An old sign on one building identifies what may have been a bar or café, The Pinon; others are boarded up, some tumbling down and some still in use as open art galleries. Villager’s home are scattered among the inner town buildings and they go about their day-to-day business walking about, working in their gardens, and following their usual routines as we reverently tip-toe through their ancestral village.
The most well-known landmark of course is the home of New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Just east, off the main road up to the village, completely surrounded by an adobe wall, lush and thick with trees and vegetation, is the artist’s still-immaculately cared-for adobe home which is now run by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (located in Santa Fe). The home, which O’Keeffe purchased in 1945, is available for tours via reservation in advance. According to the O’Keeffe Museum, “The 5,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial-era Abiquiu compound was in ruins in 1945, and for the next four years, O’Keeffe supervised its restoration, which was carried out by her friend, Maria Chabot. She moved from New York to make New Mexico her permanent home in 1949, and lived either at the Abiquiu or Ghost Ranch houses until 1984, when she moved to Santa Fe.” For information on taking a tour of the home go to www.okeeffemuseum.org/her-houses.html
The O’Keeffe home, Santa Tomas, the village buildings, all combine to make a quick stopover into a refreshing haven with an atmosphere of true New Mexico. This near-forgotten village is one of New Mexico’s best-kept gems, authentic and rural, relaying the life of the Spanish settlers and their descendants. Go there, but go there quietly and you will hear the peace of the village spirit within.
Note: If you would like to spend some time in the area, nearby Espanola to the southeast, offers a wide range of accommodations and is an ideal base for a day trip. In Abiquiu, The Abiquiu Inn offers lovely rooms in traditional style, while camping is available at the Riana Campground at the nearby Abiquiu Lake.