The Camino Real/Carta

Chronicles of the trail

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The current issue of Chronicles of the Trail/Crónicas del Camino, now in its 13th year of publication, was funded by the Northern Río Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) in collaboration with the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association (CARTA), a nonprofit based in Los Lunas (caminorealcarta.org). CARTA’s goals are to protect El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (a designated national historic trail since 2000, overseen by the National Park Service), to identify unmapped segments of the trail and to educate the public regarding the multicultural heritage of the trail, as well as to expand participation and build membership.

The collaboration is particularly appropriate because the headquarters of NRGNHA are only a stone’s throw from the officially designated terminus of the trail at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. NRGNHA covers three Northern New Mexico counties — Santa Fe, Río Arriba and Taos — while the Camino Real links two countries, Mexico and the United States. 

For more than two centuries, traversing the 1,600-mile route from Mexico City to the former Spanish province of New Mexico required between three and nine months of hard traveling. The Mexican portion, some 1,200 miles, was designated a world heritage corridor by UNESCO in 2010. The 400-mile segment within the United States — 12 miles comprising the Mission Trail on the outskirts of El Paso, Texas, with the remainder paralleling the Río Grande through New Mexico — actually extended, unofficially, all the way to Taos Pueblo, traversing the national heritage area. 

 In addition to articles that shed light on any and every aspect of the Camino Real’s four centuries of history, each issue of Chronicles of the Trail features an interview, an account titled “Ancestors along the Trail” and an overview of an organization dedicated to a related set of goals. In the current issue (Spring/Summer 2017), the interviewee is prize-winning ceramicist Camilla Padilla of Española, the “Ancestors” department revisits several New Mexican families who departed Abiquiú for California in the 1830s along what is now known as the Old Spanish Trail (also recognized as a national historic trail) and the featured caminantes hermanos organization is NRGNHA. 

Copies of the current issue of the magazine are available at NRGNHA headquarters. An equestrian statue of Juan de Oñate, first governor of New Mexico, marks the location of NRGNHA offices along NM 68 north of Española. Oñate led the first colonists and livestock from Mexico to New Mexico in 1598, settling at nearby Ohkay Owingeh and Yunque Owingeh, renaming those settlements San Juan de los Caballeros and San Gabriel. Although his group followed trails long traversed by Pueblo groups, Oñate has been credited as trailblazer of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

Julianne Burton-Carvajal is editor of “Chronicles of the Trail,” the publication of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Trail Association.

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