Adopt an Animal!

churro sheep
Did you know that it costs approximately $300 a year to feed, house and care for just one of our churro sheep, burros or goats? If you want to have a direct impact on our most popular ranch residents, we hope you will ADOPT an ANIMAL today — our latest addition of an adorable baby lamb, is featured in the above photo! Your name will appear on signage near our churro sheep pen this summer, and we’ll send you a photo of some of our menagerie!
All gifts to our annual fund go to support all that we do at Las Golondrinas. We are fortunate to have a private foundation that matches ALL GIFTS to our annual fund as well, so whatever you choose to give is automatically doubled!
If you have any questions about giving, click HERE to email Jackie Camborde, our Director of Development.

YouthWorks Culinary Team Providing Meals from El Rancho de las Golondrinas Kitchen

Beginning March 26, the YouthWorks Culinary Team is joining with Santa Fe Public Schools to cook and distribute nutritious, reheatable meals to Santa Fe youth ages 1-18. The team, working out of the commercial kitchen at El Rancho de las Golondrinas Living History Museum, will be preparing take-and-go boxes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pickup for these meals is Monday through Friday, 10:30am – 12:30pm at Chaparral Elementary, Ramirez Thomas Elementary, Aspen Elementary, and Kearny Elementary. In addition, Santa Fe Public Schools will offer breakfast and lunch pickup at Capital High and Sweeney Elementary 10:30am-12:30pm weekdays.

Founded in 2001, YouthWorks is a cutting-edge, innovative organization offering a continuum of services designed to reconnect “at-risk” and disadvantaged youth with our community through education, employment training, and job placement.

El Rancho de las Golondrinas is the Southwest’s Premier Living History Museum dedicated to preserving the history and cultures of New Mexico and providing unique hands-on-history experiences.

Working out of the commercial kitchen at El Rancho de las Golondrinas Living History Museum, YouthWorks is the primary food vendor for all of the museum’s festivals June through October.

Both El Rancho de las Golondrinas and YouthWorks are honored to be working together to help our community in this time of need.

If you would like to help these organizations fulfill their missions and service to our community, please donate and find volunteer opportunities at: 

CONTACT:  Jackie Camborde, 505.501.9238

Colcha embroidery artist showcases work at China folk art market

Julia Gomez Colcha Artist
Julia Gomez flips through photos of Churro sheep. The sheep, she said, are used to make wool that she gathers, cleans, dyes, weaves and uses for embroidery.

Longtime Traditional Spanish Market artist Julia Gomez has become an international ambassador for New Mexico’s heritage crafts.

For the past four years, Gomez has showcased her colcha embroidery at a folk art market in China called the Belt and Road International Forum for Cultural Heritage Cooperation and Exchange & Handcrafts Fair. She represents not only Santa Fe but the entire U.S. at the market, which hosts artists from 20 nations.

“I am the only American there,” she said.

Gomez dons a fiesta dress and cowboy boots for the market as part of her effort to raise awareness of the Spanish Colonial craft.

“I want [the world] to know about it,” she said.

Gomez, 78, a retired teacher, learned to embroider from her mother when she was about 10, stitching small designs on pillowcases and tea towels.

In the 1980s, she read a book about colcha and enrolled in a class taught by embroiderer Monica Sosaya Halford at the Museum of International Folk Art. In the 2000s, after Gomez had retired from teaching at De Vargas Middle School, weaver Beatrice Maestas Sandoval introduced her to El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum in La Cienega that raises Churro sheep and harvests their wool. She then began to immerse herself in the craft.

“I love the story of the sheep,” Gomez said, crediting the animals with enhancing her passion for the traditional craft.

Originally from Spain, Churro sheep were brought to the Southwest in 1598. The breed thrived in the desert climate and their wool was integral to keeping Spanish colonists warm during winter.

“The settlers and explorers, they lived off those sheep,” Gomez said.

She helps gather wool at Las Golondrinas after the sheep are sheared. Then she skirts the fleece, removing its dirty edges, cleans it, spins it and colors it with natural dyes made from marigold, onion skin, Navajo tea and cochineal beetles.

“And then, if you have any energy left, you embroider,” Gomez said with a laugh. “The embroidery is just one small part of the process.”

Stitching just one flower can take nearly eight hours, she said, and completing a full piece can require up to two weeks of daily work.

She says she enjoys every step of the process. “It’s very relaxing and it’s rewarding,” she said.

Her appearance at the folk art fair in China was prompted by a visit several years ago from an official from the Chinese government who attended the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe. Gomez said the woman visited Las Golondrinas, where she met Gomez and learned about colcha embroidery. The following year, the woman emailed Gomez an invitation to the newly launched festival in China.

Gomez attended for the fourth time in mid-November, she said. Her invitation always arrives just two to three weeks before the fair, “so you have to hustle,” she said.

But showing at the fair is worth the effort — the Chinese government pays the airfare and hotel for her and a guest.

In November, Gomez brought a close friend, Barbara Romero Alba, who also is a colcha artist. The women arrived in Jinguan for the five-day market, which is held in a different city each year. Afterward, they made a quick trip to Beijing to visit Gomez’s daughter, Saramaria Gomez, who teaches English there.

The goal of her participation in the market, Gomez said, is to connect with people from all around the world.

“Now I have friends in Nepal, in India, Belgium, in Holland,” she said, adding, “I want to be a good ambassador.”

She brings a map of the U.S. to her booth at the market, with a circle around New Mexico and images of Churro sheep. Assistants write Chinese translations on the map and photos for guests to better understand the context of colcha.

“The Chinese really don’t know much about the United States, and they were really interested in and fascinated about New Mexico,” Gomez said.

Gomez and Alba, both Santa Fe natives with roots in the area that date back generations, want to bring that same awareness of local culture to younger people in their hometown. Their mission is to keep the art of colcha alive.

“I do feel like we’re losing our culture,” said 70-year-old Alba. “Our ancestors did this kind of work. … But our grandkids, they don’t know our culture because you can’t get ’em away from their phones.”

She added, “We want to take history and put it in the children’s hands. I want to keep it going.”


Curator’s Corner: Spindle Whorls

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections

Here is a little insight on an overlooked object, but one that helped keep us clothed for a very long time.

Spindles are long sticks used to spin yarn, and the Spindle Whorl is the weighted piece at the end that helps maintain the spindles speed and spin.

Spindle Whorls were made of a myriad of material — coral, amber, stone, antler, and as shown in the photo to your left, pottery. For the past 9,000 years, the spindle and its ever-trusty helper the whorl has been spinning fabrics all around the world.

When weaving artifacts are found, often the spindle is gone, having been made of an organic material (often wood) that is no longer with us. Since the whorl was often made of tougher stuff, it is usually the thing that is found for the archaeological record.

Spindle Whorls have been found everywhere — Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas – where there is fabric to be woven, there are spindle whorls.

The example that is in our exhibition hall at the Ranch is made of a recycled piece of Puebloan pottery that has been repurposed as a whorl. It comes from a 17th century Spanish Colonial archaeological site named LA 20,000, a site for which El Rancho de las Golondrinas is the custodian.

LA 20,000 is a site that has been researched by archaeologists, including Dr. Heather Trigg of the Fiske Center for Archaeology and her graduate students, who come to toil away in the hot summer sun to learn more about Spanish Colonial lives.

Come by El Rancho de las Golondrinas during our season (June through October 1) to watch our talented weavers use spindles and whorls with expert hands — it’s an impressive thing to see to say the least.

Save the Date : Las Golondrinas Winter Lecture Series

Join us this winter at the New Mexico Museum of Art!

January 28: Dr. Anna Nogar will speak on her book “Quill and Cross in the Borderlands: Sor Maria de Agreda and the Lady in Blue”

February 25: Charlie Carrillo gives a talk on “Voice of the Hermandad: The History and Ritual of Penitentes”

March 31: State Historian Rob Martinez’s topic is “Brujería: The History of Witchcraft in New Mexico”

All lectures take place in the Saint Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art from 6:00pm to 7:00pm, doors open at 5:15pm.

Admission is FREE for Las Golondrinas and Museum of New Mexico volunteers and members, $10 for guests.

Curator’s Corner: Pumpkins!

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections

The humble pumpkin, or Cucurbita pepo has a fascinating history, and a really interesting present. Pumpkins are actually just one variety of winter squash, the pumpkin is simply the most recognizable. One of the oldest domestic crops, humans have been having their pumpkins and eating them too for about 7,000 years. First grown in Mesoamerica and possibly the American south, pumpkins gradually spread all over the continent, because they are delicious, quite hardy and easy to grow in many climates.

Native peoples used all parts of the pumpkin, roasting the flesh or cutting it into long strips to dry for the winter. The seeds, which we all know are delicious, were eaten whole or could be ground into flour and helped fortify other dishes. The leaves and flowers were also cooked and eaten. In many parts of the world, the greens of the pumpkin are as valued as the fruit—and if you have never had a fried squash blossom I highly recommend it!

Native peoples crossbred and selectively bred pumpkins for so long, there are now an almost countless amount of varieties—just head on over to Trader Joe’s and you’ll see what I mean. After contact, the pumpkin spread all over the globe changing as it went. Today, across the world humans collectively grow about 30 million tons of pumpkins, with China leading the pack, growing about 1/3 of the world’s favorite orange squash.

Of course, the pumpkin serves as an iconic reminder of the coming of fall and Halloween. The jack o’ lantern came to us by way of a British tradition of carving vegetables, particularly turnips, for Halloween. This was said to keep away the bad spirits that came with All Hallow’s Eve. (note: if you’ve never seen a carved turnip, look to your left and prepare to be horrified.) When British, Irish, and Scottish folks immigrated to the United States they began using the much more common, not to mention larger, pumpkins. Today in America we collectively spend around $380 million on our beloved jack o’ lanterns each year—that’s a whole lot of green for a whole lot of orange!

Curator’s Corner: Annual Sunflowers

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections

Even long after agriculture had taken a firm grip amongst Pueblo people here in northern New Mexico, wild plant resources continued to be eaten, used medicinally, and, of course, used to make all manner of stuff. We can still see New Mexicans enjoying wild plant foods — I saw quelites (wild greens) on a menu in Pecos last week! So this month I wanted to talk about a wild food that is near and dear to my heart, especially this time of year.

The Helianthus annuus, or Annual Sunflower, loves to grow in disturbed soil, so you often see it in newly dug up land or on the side of the road. If you drive around New Mexico in August or September you are bound to see lots and lots of these happy, peppy flowers! It has very little need for water, making it an ideal candidate for the high desert. It seems that sunflowers were one of the few wild plants to be domesticated north of Mexico.

It is likely that as people spread around the region, sunflowers did as well, occupying the disturbed soil humans left behind. They spread through the Rio Grande Valley and eventually up to the plains by way of trade, making these blooms ubiquitous in much of the west.

The Helianthus annuus, are a valuable and loved source of food. The seeds can be eaten in their natural state, baked, or ground into flower to add to other foods. High in both calories and nutrients, sunflowers turned out to be a very important source of nutrition for folks. Not to mention that they also taste great — have you tried dill flavored sunflower seeds? They are definitely next level!

In Pueblo cultures sunflowers were used as decoration for dances and feast days as well as for medicinal and practical uses. In San Ildefonso, the flowers are woven into women’s clothing for corn dances. Ohkay Owingeh men weave the flowers into head dresses that they wear for harvest dances.

Medicinally, the sap from the sunflower stalk was used to clean small wounds, and in Zuni the sap was used to treat rattlesnake bites. Puebloans used the strong light stalks as bird snares and for arrow shafts; and hollowed out the centers to make flutes.<

Like all plants here in the desert, the Annual Sunflower has lots of uses. Of course, the sunflower also happens to have another advantage — it’s so unbelievably pretty!

Curator’s Corner: What is That Thing?

Threshing Sled

A Threshing Sled

by Amanda Mather

So, you may wonder—what is this thing you’re looking at? Is it a cart of a thousand tiny cuts? A medieval torture device? The world’s meanest sled? Well, it’s pretty much the last one—it’s a threshing sled!

Take this bad boy, throw some wheat on a threshing floor, then drag it behind a mule or horse and it will separate the wheat from the hay using the hundreds, if not thousands. A large threshing sled consists of about 3,000 pieces of stone; sharp bits of flint or obsidian. This was the first process in getting the actual seed of the wheat, (the delicious part), and separating it from the not so tasty stuff. There are other stages, but they sound challenging and boring so I won’t go into it right now.

The threshing sled has been with us since we decided wheat was a good thing, which was about 8,000 years ago. To the shock and awe of no one, threshing sleds showed up where wheat showed up, first in the Middle East and then around the rest of the planet as wheat arrived through trade from place to place.

Throughout history, people were really excited to talk about the threshing sled. It shows up quite a few times in the bible and in Roman and Greek literature as well. Cato talked about it, Pliny talked about it; apparently it was a popular item.

The major center for making threshing sleds was Cantalejo in Spain starting around the 11th century. Anyone who needed wheat threshed after the 11th century in Europe had a threshing sled from Cantelejo. This industry continued to sustain Cantelejo well into the 21st century. Briqueros, the threshing sled makers, developed their own secret language called Gaceria by which they could discuss business—and all things threshing sled—safe from the prying ears of customers or passersby.

The threshing sled you see here in the Spanish style, but was more than likely manufactured in the US using local materials including the wood and the flint.

Although threshing sled use has fallen out of practice amongst more industrialized countries, this technique is still used in many places around the world to this day—if it ain’t broke for the last 8,000 years don’t fix it, right?

The threshing sled here at Las Golondrinas can be found in our exhibit hall, waiting with breath that is bated to give a little love nip to those that dare get to close. I can personally attest to its propensity for nipping.


Object of the Month

Buffalo Gourd

Buffalo Gourd

by Amanda Mather

Since we are about to (finally!) start into the hot long days of summer I thought I would talk about something that always makes me think of those fun spicy days!

Buffalo Gourd, or Curbita foetidissima if you want to get fancy science talk about it, is an indigenous species from the squash family that grows in Northern Mexico and throughout the Western and Southwestern United States. If you are lucky enough to live in the west, you have surely seen this plant. It grows like crazy on the side of the road all summer long, sending out long green tendrils dotted with big yellow squash blossoms and small green gourds.

The Buffalo Gourd has been found within archaeological contexts here in New Mexico dating back to about 5,000 years ago. We and the Buffalo Gourd go way back.

When young, the squash can be and is eaten by both animal and human. As it ages however the squash takes on a bitter taste and strange smell, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “stinking gourd.” I distinctly remember this trait of the gourd from childhood when after playing with those gourds for far too long I would come home smelling…less then good, to put it mildly.

Other than being eaten young, this plant has many other helpful and delicious traits. The root of the Buffalo Gourd as well as the fruit contain saponin, which means that when introduced to water it creates soapy foam. The Buffalo Gourd was used by Native cultures as a soap and shampoo along with yucca root, which also contains the magical chemical saponin.

The seeds are tasty when roasted and also contain a high amount of oil, making them a great source of fat, which is a rare and precious thing in the desert.

Many Native American cultures of the southwest and plains used Buffalo Gourd medicinally. Most of the references I found regarding medicinal use was for skin disorders in both humans and animals. It seems the gourds were ground and used as a poultice for all kinds of unpleasant skin things.

So this humble little squash gives us so many things! Things we need here in the less than forgiving desert. And at least for right now this sweet squash is giving me some major summer nostalgia!

Talk Tuesdays

May 21st
Acequia Culture & Water Rights by Las Golondrinas Board Members, JJ Gonzales, Michael Romero Taylor and Kyle Harwood 
El agua es la vida. Come and learn about Acequia systems and all their complexities from three Golondrinas Board Members. Their vast knowledge encompasses everything from water law to the history and future of Acequias and agriculture in New Mexico. Call Laura at 505-471-2261 (212) for the time of this lecture.
May 28th 10 am
The Harvey Girls and La Castaneda Hotel by Madeleine Quillen
The newly renovated Castaneda Hotel has many stories to tell. Madeleine Quillen’s research on the Harvey Girls is one very fascinating story to hear. This lecture will take place in the Museum’s Paloheimo Education Center and is limited to 100 people. Come and get a front row seat.