Within the Abiquiu 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 Abiquiu is a private village clustered around the historic church of Santo Tomas. The mesa top Pueblo of Abiquiu was established by the Spanish in 1754. The church of Santo Tomas was a mission of the Franciscans that served the first Genizaro (detribalized Native Americans) residents of the village. The Genizaro population of Abiquiu included Pueblo and non-Pueblo people from all over the Southwest who had lost their tribal affiliation through warfare and captivity. In Abiquiu, the Genizaro were Christianized, taught Spanish and given full citizenship under the Spanish Crown. Abiquiu residents were also given a 16,000-acre land grant for grazing and timber use. Situated as it was on the edge of the frontier, in 1829 Abiquiu became the trail head for the Old Spanish trail, the 1,200 mile trade route that linked Santa Fe and Los Angeles.
The village of Abiquiu is no longer a designated Native American Pueblo. However, the descendents of the first villagers continue to cooperatively manage the ejido (common lands) of the Abiquiu Land Grant.
The Abiquiu 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 that 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 Abiquiu plaza. She already owned a home at Ghost Ranch and by 1949, O’Keeffe lived year round in the Abiquiu Region.