Visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas

New Mexico's Living History Museum Recreates the Past

Las Golondrinas

El Rancho de las Golondrinas (Ranch of the Swallows) is a living history museum that recreates what life was like in the Santa Fe area in the 1700s and 1800s. Set on 200 acres in the village of La Cienega, the museum is dedicated to the history, culture, and heritage of the people of the territorial southwest. The original buildings on site date from the 1700s. The museum opened in 1972, dedicated to the history and culture of 18th and 19th century New Mexico.

The ranch lies along the Camino Royal, which connected Santa Fe to Mexico City, with many stops along the way. The trade route included the ranch, which was a paraje, or official rest stop for those traveling along the road. La Cienega was and still is a small farming community just a few miles south of Santa Fe. 

Leonora Curtin purchased the ranch in 1932, and she and her husband Yrjo Alfred Palahiemo devoted themselves to restoring the property. They rehabilitated the buildings that were on site and brought in historic buildings from other places in New Mexico. They also created some buildings in the style of the same time period as the other buildings.  

The Pino House was a farmhouse from the early 1900s and gives visitors a sense of what life in New Mexico was like then. The earliest buildings at the ranch were built in a square with walls and heavy doors, to protect those who lived there from any kind of attack. The large door was opened for wagons, animals and larger groups of people, and the smaller door for individuals. Inside the doors was a well, and a horno, or oven, for baking bread. This area was the heart of the ranch. When the ranch has festival days, there is often someone at the horno demonstrating how bread was made.

The chapel was used by colonists, who the devout Catholics. An altar is decorated with handmade wooden crosses, statues, and saints. Local artists in the 1990s constructed an altar screen and the 14 santeros on the Stations of the Cross on the side walls. A working water mill demonstrates how grain was once ground into flour. A one room schoolhouse with desks and board reminds visitors of how valued education was. The small houses contain primitive and scant furnishings, much as people lived in those days.

Golondrinas puts on several festivals each year and is open year round for visitors who want to take a self-guided or guided tour. The annual festivals take place on a weekend, so you can visit on a Saturday or a Sunday. Events include special activities and lectures as well as living history presentations. There's also a marketplace where you can purchase goods related to the festivities. When visiting, remember that the ranch is outdoors. Take a hat, and be sure to put on sunscreen. Wear good walking shoes and drink plenty of water.

Fairs and Festivals

The Civil War and More, in late April or early May, provides a glimpse into New Mexico during the period of the Civil War. See military drills, hands-on demonstrations and re-enactments of the battles fought in New Mexico.

Fiesta de la Familia takes place each May and is geared toward families with young children. You'll see how to spin wool, make small adobe bricks, learn how to make a walking stick, play Spanish period games, and see a puppet show. Kids can learn how to wash clothes on a washing board and dress up like a settler.

The Spring Festival and Fiber Arts Fair takes place in June and demonstrates sheep shearing, wool dyeing, spinning and weaving and bread baking. There are wagon rides and crafts for the kids.

The Herb & Lavender Festival also takes place in June and presents lectures and activities related to lavender, as well as a marketplace devoted to lavender and lavender products.

The Santa Fe Wine Festival takes place the first weekend of July, celebrating wine and wine growing in New Mexico. Buy directly from vintners and enjoy the food and arts and crafts.

Viva Mexico, held in July, celebrates the music, arts and crafts and cuisine of Mexico. As of 2017, Lucha Libre was added to the festivities.

The Summer Festival and Wild West Adventures takes place early August. Find out what life was like on the frontier for the cowboys and mountain men of long ago. There are shootouts, a camel corps, dress ups and more.

The Santa Fe Renaissance Fair takes place in September, where jousters, fairies, and Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand take part. There are jugglers, a costume contest, dancers, games for kids, food and arts and crafts. 

The Harvest Festival takes place the first weekend of October. Enjoy the bounty of the harvest and take part in crushing grapes for wine by foot. Learn how to make tortillas, bake fresh bread, and string ristras. 

Like living history museums? Be sure to visit the Gutierrez-Hubbell House in Albuquerque's south valley.

If you enjoyed Las Golondrinas, be sure to visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque and Acoma, Sky City.