32. Cuará

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The name of this pueblo is written either Quarra or Cuará, the pronunciation being the same for either form, and the former representing the older as the latter does the more modern style of Spanish spelling.

The original Indian name was Quarac and it appears in that form in many early documents, but gradually the final “c” was dropped, while the accent was continued on the second syllable and therefore designated on the final vowel, as in many similar cases of proper names. Villagrá for Villagran; Carnué for Carnuel; Po-Pé for Poc-Pec, etc., are familiar illustrations of this kind of abbreviation.

Cuará is situated twelve and a half miles from Abó and about four and a half miles southeast from Manzano, and is easily reached from Mountainair. One of the earliest descriptions of this pueblo tells us that it was populated by six hundred Indians of the Tihua nation, who spoke the Piros language, and who were converted to Christianity by Padre Estevan de Perea. The building of the church, however, is attributed to Padre Acevedo, in the year 1629. The pueblo was just on the border between the Tihuas on the north and the Piros on the south, and

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doubtless its people were made up from both nations. It was an important mission, and from its convento the zealous Franciscans served some of the Jumanos Indians living fifteen leagues away on the eastern plains.

It was the center of the missionary labors of Fr. Geronimo de la Llama, and here that indefatigable missionary died in 1659 and was buried in the church he loved so well. Just a hundred years afterwards Governor Marin del Valle made a personal visit to the ruins of this pueblo in search of the bones of this venerated missionary, and through the tradition still held by some old Indians of the vicinity, succeeded in finding them where they had been interred in the church, and carried them with all respect to Santa Fé, where with much ceremony they were deposited in a coffin in the wall of the parish church. This is commemorated by the Spanish inscription, still legible, which when translated reads as follows:


“Here rest the bones of the venerable P. Fray Geronimo de la Llama, an apostolic man of the order of St. Francis. These bones were unearthed from the ruins of the old Mission of Quarac, in the Province of Las Salinas, on April 1st, 1759.”


The career of this mission was unfortunately short-lived. Soon after 1670 the constant attacks of the Apaches began to tell on the Salinas pueblos and we are told that Cuará was the first to be abandoned, many of its people going to Tajique and afterwards to Isleta; and others to Socoro and Alamillo. All of the pueblos in this region were abandoned before

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1678, according to Escalante, who names Quarac, Abó, and Tabira among those thus destroyed. Thus the mission work which had erected these great churches of stone, was brought to an end almost in a moment.

The description of the Cuará ruins as given in the report of Major Carleton, in 1853, is as follows:


“These ruins appear to be similar to those of Abó, whether as to their antiquity, the skill in their construction, their state of preservation or the material of which they are built.

“The church at Quarrá is not so long by thirty feet as that of Abó. We found one room here, probably a cloister attached to the church, which was in a good state of preservation. The beams that supported the roof were blackened by age. They were square and smooth and supported under each end by shorter pieces of wood, carved into regularly curved lines and scrolls. The earth upon the roof was sustained by small straight poles, well finished and laid in herring-bone fashion upon these beams.”


Prof. Longuemare, about 1886, says of Cuará:


“This Pueblo is not as extensive as that of Abó, but in other respects resembles it very closely. The ruins of the red church built in the form of a Latin cross, constructed of red sandstone, are not a whit less interesting than those of Abó. In dimensions it is 100 feet in length by 35 feet in width, and what remains of the wall is about 40 feet in height, their width being from 4 to 10 feet. Before its destruction it must have been a most elegant structure with its two towers and battlements.”


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Our own measurements do not differ materially from the above, but they go somewhat further into detail and furnish all the data necessary to make an accurate ground plan of the church. The following


figures represent the distances in the interior of the building, and in calculating outside dimensions, it must always be remembered that the walls are about four and a half feet in thickness, so that to ascertain the length or width of the entire edifice it will be

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necessary to add nine feet to the interior measurement.

The length of the nave, from door to transept, is 64 feet; the width of the transept 24 feet; the depth of the chancel 15 feet; making the total length of the interior 103 feet. The width of the nave is 27 feet; the length of the transepts from wall to wall is 48 feet; the recessed chancel is 16 feet wide in front and only 8 feet in the rear against the back wall. The thickness of the outer wall of the church is generally 4½ feet, but it varies from 4 to 5 feet in different places.

The walls are irregular blocks of red sandstone, the separate pieces being from one inch to four inches thick and very few of them exceeding a square foot in size. From these facts, the enormous number of pieces of sandstone used in the construction, and the time required in laying them, can be imagined. Around the church are long lines of ruins of houses bearing witness to a large resident population.

The ruins of Cuará are so remarkable that we present three illustrations of them, showing not only the large extent, but the great height of this ancient mission. These clearly show the peculiar construction, of thin flat stones.

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