Francisco Vaques de Coronardo's army visited Acoma in the year 1540 and became the first white man to enter Sky City. The city is built on a high mesa which provided an ideal site for defense against enemies. The oral heritage of Acoma tells of the origin and migration fo Acoma people in search of HaK'u. Acoma (pronounced Ah-Ko-Ma) is derived from the Keresan word Hak'u. HaK'u means to prepare or plan. Archaeologists theorized the occupation of Acoma to A.D. 1150.
Acoma is located off Route I40 just 55 miles west of Albuquerque. Upon arriving at the scenic overlook at K'uumi, one gains their first glimpse of Acoma. Tall rock formations tower along each side of the road. We stopped at the Acoma Tourist Center as no commercial vehicles are allowed within the Sky City walls. A small bus then transported us to the top of a beautiful mesa to Sky City. Maria, our tour guide, leisurely walked us down the narrow twisted streets of Sky City. Around each turn, artisians adorned small card tables with hand made jewelry and Acoma pottery. Of course, our trip was not complete without several purchases of pottery.
The highlight of the walking tour was our visit to San Esteban Del Rey Mission. The mission rests on a 70 acre site of massive sandstone mesa which rises 367 feet above the valley and approximately 7,000 feet above sea level. The mission, built in 1629, was under the direction of Friar Juan Ramirez and completed in 1640. According to legend, Frian Juan gained enrty to Acoma when he saved an infant from a fall off the edge as he approach the mesa. His delivery of the child back to the mother was considered a miracle. All building materials were hand carried or hauled up the steep slopes of the mesa. As we walked inside the mission, it's beauty was quite elaborate yet primitive. Hand carved wooden pews sat on uneven dirt floors. Behind the alter were hand painted tapestries dating back to the mid-1600s. While our guide rambled on about the mission, we sat quietly several rows back from the alter absorbing the majestic beauty of it all. We have seen many mission churches on our travels but San Esteban Del Rey Mission was one of our favorites.