Within the Abiquiú Region are the remnants of numerous prehistoric communities that thrived here in the 11th and 12th centuries. These ancient villages are the ancestral homeland of the historic Pueblo people of Santa Clara and San Juan (now Ohkay Ohwingeh), Pueblos on the Rio Grande.
Modern Abiquiú is a private village clustered around the historic church of Santo Tomas. The mesa top Pueblo of Abiquiú was established by the Spanish in 1754. The church of Santo Tomas was a mission of the Franciscans which served the first Genizaro (detribalized Native Americans) residents of the village. The Genizaro population of Abiquiú included Pueblo and non-Pueblo people from all over the Southwest who had lost their tribal affiliation through warfare and captivity. In Abiquiú, the Genizaro were Christianized, taught Spanish, and given full citizenship under the Spanish Crown. Abiquiú residents were also given a 16,000-acre land grant for grazing and timber use. In 1829, situated as it was on the edge of the frontier, Abiquiú became the trailhead for the Old Spanish trail, the 1,200-mile trade route linking Santa Fe and Los Angeles.
The village of Abiquiú is no longer a designated Native American Pueblo. However, the descendants of the first villagers continue to cooperatively manage the ejido (common lands) of the Abiquiú Land Grant.
The Abiquiú region of the Chama River Valley was settled by Spanish colonists in the 1730’s and 40’s. With little or no military support from the Spanish garrison in Santa Fe, families living in the isolated settlements of Santa Rosa de Lima, Tierra Azul, Barranco, and Silvestres endured decades of hostilities from the local Ute, Comanche, and Navajo tribes. These independent pobladores (pioneers) successfully established ranches and farms along the Chama River. The present day acequias which water the valley’s crops are part of the original irrigation system implemented by these first settlers.
In 1945, American painter Georgia O’Keeffe bought a house near the Abiquiú plaza. She already owned a home at Ghost Ranch, and by 1949 O’Keeffe lived year-round in the Abiquiú Region.