Rancho de las Golondrinas, just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a Spanish colonial living history site. It is also a beautiful park with rolling hills, river valley and scenic mills and historic buildings dotting the countryside. It is so scenic that movies.. ranging from Westerns to Civil War sagas, have been filmed there.
The museum, dedicated to the heritage and culture of Spanish Colonial New Mexico, opened in 1972.
Original colonial buildings on the site date from the early 18th century. In addition, historic buildings from other parts of northern New Mexico have been reconstructed at Las Golondrinas. Villagers clothed in the styles of the times show how life was lived in early New Mexico. Special festivals and theme weekends offer visitors an in-depth look into the celebrations, music, dance and many other aspects of life in the period when this part of the United States was ruled by Spain and Mexico.
As I toured the site, I was taken with the dedication of staff and volunteers to educating the public, children in particular, about how folks in colonial days actually lived. We saw the ovens where bread is baked, wells for water, threshing machines, a tanning shed, and more. As we toured the expansive site, a group of teens were also headed from building to building with a docent.
The staff and docents had taken great care in creating an experience that would draw children of all ages into the history of Santa Fe.
This is not easy to do in a time of video games and the commercial attractions of amusement parks and malls.
I thought about what might attract a young girl such as my granddaughter. The ranch had the answer. I entered the beautiful gift shop and found an entire corner dedicated to Josefina, American Girl.
American Girl dolls and all their trappings are very popular with today's young girls. In speaking with the volunteers in the shop, I found out that the ranch was the inspiration for Josefina. Illustrations in the book were taken directly from scenes at the ranch. And, I was pleased to find out that Rancho de las Golondrinas takes this connection one step farther... they offer special Josefina tours.
According to the American Girl website, Josefina Montoya® is a girl growing up in New Mexico in 1824. Ever since Mamá died, Josefina® and her sisters have bravely met the challenges of the rancho without her. As they watch the new americano traders arrive from the East, they struggle to hold on to their mother’s love—and the old ways she taught them. Josefina dreams of becoming a healer like her Tía Magdalena. Hopeful and caring, she is the star of her story.
On the American Girl website are illustrations of "Josefina's World," that mirror what you can see today at Rancho de Las Golondrinas. Our Photo Gallery has many photos that will take you back to the days of Josefina and her family.
Josefina, I found out, is the creation of The Pleasant Company, founded by educator Pleasant T. Rowland in 1986 and best known for its series of period dolls, the American Girl.
The Pleasant Company has sold more than five million American Girl dolls and 56 million American Girl books. The dolls represent girls who lived in various epochs of American history and offer stories that describe out their lives. These books read as a social history of the United States.
Needless to say, I purchased a colorful Josefina book for my Granddaughter and vowed to bring her to Rancho de las Golondrinas one day.
Enjoy our photo tour of Rancho de las Golondrinas.
When You Visit
Rancho de las Golondrinas living history museum is one of Santa Fe's best kept secrets. Part of the reason is that their hours are limited. The museum is closed for the winter season and re-opens in April each year for docent-guided tours (by appointment) and in June for general admission. Their phone number is (505) 471-2261.