Piro Indians return to Socorro Saturday
For El Defensor Chieftain
By special arrangement, a group of Piro Indians will return to their Socorro homeland Saturday, Nov. 17. The “Welcome Home” activities will be held at El Camino Real International Heritage Center, south of Socorro, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Piro Indians were the original inhabitants of Socorro County. They were the builders of Pilabo Pueblo and the 1600s Socorro mission, today’s Socorro and San Miguel mission. When the Spaniards arrived in the late 1500s, their population was estimated at more than 5,000 people living in 14 pueblos.
The Piros fled with the Spaniards to the El Paso area during the Pueblo Revolt — never to return. This will be their first ceremonial return to Socorro since 1680.
Activities begin with a slide presentation “Piro Pueblos Along the Rio Grande,” by historian Paul Harden. With photographs and maps, Harden describes the Piro Nation, the development of El Camino Real trail, and the building of the 1600s mission churches along the Rio Grande, including today’s San Miguel mission.
Archaeologist Dr. Michael Bletzer is the special guest speaker. His slide presentation “Excavation of Teypana Pueblo” begins at 11 a.m. Teypana was the pueblo first named Socorro by Juan de Oñate in 1598.
The location of Teypana was a mystery until discovered, in 1984, and excavated under the direction of Dr. Michael Bletzer, from 2001 to present. His talk includes numerous photos of the excavation, artifacts recovered and maps of the 250-room pueblo.
This is a unique opportunity to meet the archaeologist and learn why Teypana was abandoned and moved to today’s Socorro.
Bletzer will also unveil a new exhibit at the Camino Real Center titled “Native Peoples Along the Rio Grande.” This museum-quality exhibit contains many of the artifacts excavated from Teypana. Manos, metates, utility and ceremonial pottery and other items show how the Piro people lived hundreds of years ago.
Grilled hamburgers for noon lunch will be available for a donation of $5, and hot dogs for the children for $3. Proceeds are used to sponsor special events at the Camino Real Center. Attendees are welcome to bring a lunch if desired.
At 1 p.m., Richard Sims, director of New Mexico State Monuments, will welcome the Piro people back to Socorro. Today’s Piro-Manso-Tiwa tribe are the remnants of the ancestral Indians who once lived from Isleta Pueblo to El Paso along the Rio Grande, including Socorro. They have kept the Piro culture and heritage alive over the centuries.
The Piros will present ceremonial music, dances and their traditional drummers, all performing in authentic ancestral dress. Whether you live along the Rio Grande, or are here for the Festival of the Cranes, you don’t want to miss the unique experience of ceremonial life in the Piro pueblos hundreds of years ago. Photography is allowed.
The award-winning museum of the Camino Real, and Piro Indian exhibit, can be visited at any time throughout the day.
This special event is sponsored by the Camino Real Foundation, the friend’s group of El Camino Real International Heritage Center, a New Mexico State Monument.
The Camino Real Center is located south of Socorro on Interstate 25 at exit 115. All activities, except lunch, are included with the $5 monument fee. Free admission to children under 16 years of age and U.S. military veterans.
All activities are suitable for the entire family, including treasure hunts for children throughout the day. Start the hunt at the Camino Real Gift Store; a choice of a prize or a hotdog will be awarded to the winners.
For information, visit www.elcaminoreal.org or call (575) 854-3600.