El Rancho de las Golondrinas

El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico

El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Lying in the small valley of the Cienega stream some fifteen miles southwest of Santa Fe is El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the Ranch of the Swallows.  Evidence of ancient habitation show that man lived in the area long before the Spanish conquistadores came to New Mexico.  Their pueblos were located on nearby hills overlooking the valley.

In 1598 Don Juan de Onate led the advance guard of his colonizing expedition through the region on his way to establish the first Spanish settlement at San Juan Pueblo.  After the founding of Santa Fe in 1610 enterprising settlers explored the surrounding lands and found the valley of the Cienega stream to be suitable for farmsteads and pastures.  One of these sites, which has been extensively researched and excavated, is on the property of Las Golondrinas. Tree ring dates and other data place its occupancy between 1620 and 1680, ending in the Pueblo Revolt.  While the site was not reoccupied after 1680, other Spanish settlers moved into the region following the reconquest of new Mexico by Don Diego de Varga in 1693.

Throughout the early years the public road and single supply route from Mexico City to New Mexico, El Camino Real, passed through the region.  El Rancho de las Golondrinas became one of the first parajes, or camp sites, for travelers going south from Santa Fe and the last one for those going north.

In 1821 the Santa Fe Trail was opened by traders from the United States, bringing more and better goods into Santa Fe and down the Camino Real to Chihuahua.  This was a period of considerable prosperity for Las Golondrinas.   However, as new roads into Santa Fe were established, El Rancho de las Golondrina was largely bypassed by travelers.  Gradually, the well-known ranch deteriorated with the buildings falling into disrepair.

In 1932 the last descendants of the Baca-Pino family, whose ancestor Diego Manuel Baca provided the first documentation of El Rancho de las Golondrinas in his 1727 will,  finally sold the estate.  In 1946 Y.A. Palheimo married Leonora Curtin, the daughter of the Curtin family who had purchased the estate nineteen years previous.  The Paloheimos devoted themselves to transforming the neglected ranch into a living history museum devoted to New Mexico’s long Spanish heritage.  Remaining buildings were reconstructed and repaired.  Those in ruin were rebuilt on the existing foundations with other structures purchased from surrounding rural area to replace those that had disappeared or to illustrate specific activities of a Spanish rancho.

In the spring of 1972 El Rancho de las Golondrinas was opened to the public as New Mexico’s first living history museum.

El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico

El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

The two images shown here depict the original buildings of las Golondrinas.  The earliest buildings of El Rancho de las Golondrinas were built in a defensive square to protect the residents from attack.  Access was through one of the two entrances: a large wooden door which allowed access to wagons, animals and groups of people, with a smaller door for individuals.   Inside was a Placita, or little plaza.  This was the heart of the ranch.  It contained a well for water and ovens, called hornos, which were in use constantly.  Outside we see several carretas, a type of sold wheeled farm wagon which was common in New Mexico in the 17th through 19th centuries.

Over the next few posts we will take a further look at El Rancho de las Golondrinas starting with the contents of the carretas.

Learn more about southwestern life in the early seventeenth century in this thorough account originally written in 1630 by Fray Alonso de Benavides, a Portuguese Franciscan who was the third head of the mission churches of New Mexico.


  1. I didn’t make it down to see this on my trip and now I am sorry that I didn’t Mark. Excellent photos and great history lesson.

  2. Love these posts with the background history. The images help tell the story nicely. Really like these shots, particularly those old wagons.

    To have stood there with so much history before you, having an opportunity to photograph the scene must have been a thrill.

    Nice work, Mark.

    • This was part of American history that I did not know very much about. Researching the info for these posts has been very interersting. Thanks for for visit & comment, Jimi.

  3. Kristin

    Hi Mark, I lived on the ranch for a couple of years, I think from five years to seven years old. My father is a biologist and was hired to help bring the ranch back to working condition. It was a magical time in my childhood, riding my pony from our house to the mill, over to the “grave yard”, through the creek, along the trading post, to the pueblo, and around the old Victorian house, with no one else in sight. Glad you are photographing it’s beauty and sharing all the stories it has to offer. Thank you!

    • Many thanks for your visit and wonderful comment, Kristin. It is my pleasure to help publicize las Golondrinas. I had a wonderful time wandering through the site and capturing the images you see on this site. It is only fair that I tell other about it so that they, hopefully, can experience it as well.


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