Center offers a taste of royal road experience

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El Camino Real International Heritage Center is to commemorate El Camino Real, the royal road created in 1598. The trail took travelers between Santa Fe to Mexico, says Ranger Bradley Kelly.

This two story center has a lot to offer its visitors with a gift shop and many exhibits. All exhibits are year-round.

This year there is a new exhibit — Piro — which will soon be open for visitors to see. The Piro Indian exhibit consists of excavated artifacts of bones and pottery from archeologist Dr. Michael Blitzer that were donated to the center by Edward Holm, Kelly said. The artifacts came out of the Piro Indian pueblo of Teipana, located in the area of Luis Lopez, about three miles south of Socorro.

Some of the artifacts at El Camino Real International Heritage Center are donated from other museums, Kelly said. However, a majority of them are originals belonging to the center. The center also has an observation deck that oversees the Rio Grande and Cristo Vaughn mountains so visitors can enjoy the view, Kelly said.

“The museum has history,” Kelly said. “A lot of people know how New Mexico was started,”

According to El Camino Real International Heritage Center website, El Camino Real trail was created by Mexican Explorer Don Juan Oñate and his military men and civilians. Along the trail, there were many trades that took place between travellers, involving items such as hides, minerals, turquoise and pigments. Trading was only the beginning — the trail brought settlers from Mexico and Spain into the region and the building of new missions to convert Native Americans to Christianity.

According to Kelly, the number of visitors at the center have remained steady over the years. Kelly wants to increase the number of visitors by having more signs so people are more aware of the center.

The center, which opened Nov. 19, 2005, features an exhibit that displays a video of an archeologist going over El Camino Real. The center is free for school groups, Sunday is free for New Mexico residents, and Wednesdays are free for seniors all the time.

General admission is $5 per person, and children are also free.

A new attraction at the center includes a new hands-on exhibit mostly in the children’s area, said Kelly.

The center is bringing in new changes with more Native American artifacts. The dates for the newest exhibit are still to be announced.

Current exhibits at the center include “La Guerva Con Estados Unidos,” “War with Mexico 1846-1848″ and “Los Presidios.”

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information call 854-3600 or visit the website www.caminorealheritage.org.