It’s More Than Just A Highway
The tradition of the Keresan speaking Pueblo Indians is that their people have lived at the site of Laguna Pueblo for at least seven hundred years. Legend has it that the people were led to the location where a natural dam on the Rio San Jose that created a lake. The Keresan word for lake is Kawaik. The Spanish word for pond or marsh is laguna. The first European references to the lake and the people here are contained in reports from the Coronado expedition of 1540. Construction of the current pueblo dates to 1698. The following year the governor, Pedro Rodriguez Cubero, stopped at the pueblo for a ceremony that resulted in the naming of the community as Laguna. As the population grew, numerous satellite villages were established including Cuba and New Laguna.
The America era of association predates establishment of post office at Laguna Pueblo since 1879, and in New Laguna in 1900. Laguna was originally named Nacimiento, a village that appears on maps of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition of 1776. The site for this settlement is just to the east of present day Laguna. Persistent Navajo raids led to abandonment in the first years of the 19th century. Resettlement commenced in about 1878 under the name Cuba. Shortly after this date establishment of a suburb at the present site eclipsed the original community resulting in a second abandonment. For reasons unknown the Cuba name was not continued. Jack Rittenhouse in his guidebook published in 1946 provided a lengthy overview of Laguna Pueblo and Laguna. He noted that services were limited to a small grocery store and service station.
This is but one example of why Route 66 is often referenced as a bridge that links the past and the future. All along the highway corridor there are tangible links to centuries of history. However, it is in New Mexico where the blurred lines between past, present, and future are most evident. Consider San Jose, a favorite little village of mine.
Located along the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66, as well as the National Old Trails Highway and the Santa Fe Trail, this remains as one of the oldest communities in San Miguel County. Farming at this site along the Pecos River in 1803 by colonists from Santa Fe predates the actual settlement of the community. There are tangible links to villages lengthy history. Most notable is the small adobe church in the square has cast its shadow across all three of these historic roadways. It dates to 1826. Of particular interest for Route 66 enthusiasts is the single lane, steel truss bridge spanning the Pecos River at the east end of the community. This bridge opened to traffic in 1921.
Route 66 is more than a highway. It is an almost magical place, a drive through time. It is the ultimate road trip.