Placida of Mexican House, Los Lunas, New Mexico by Alexander Gardner, 1867.
Placida or Interior Court of a Mexican House, Los Lunas, New Mexico taken by Alexander Gardner, 1867.

Los Lunas: Roads Less Traveled 

(For a more in-depth look at Los Lunas' rich and colorful history click here.) 

Although the Village of Los Lunas was incorporated in 1928, Los Lunas traces its origin to the Eighteenth Century and has stood at the crossroads in North America for nearly two hundred and fifty years. Centuries before its settlement, native peoples inhabited sites along the Rio Grande and Rio Puerco, where they engaged in hunting and gathering throughout the region. Their trails extended far afield in all directions, and when Spaniards began exploring present-day New Mexico in the Sixteenth Century, they followed existing native trails. Don Juan de Oñate's entrada in 1598 established a public road maintained by the Spanish Crown, and during the Colonial Era, settlements such as Los Lunas remained connected to Mexico over the Camino Real. Later, in the Twentieth Century, Los Lunas was included in 1926 in the first, circuitous route of U.S. Highway 66, a distinction it enjoyed until 1937 when the auto trail was rerouted. 

In addition to the Village's location on the crossroad of the Camino Real and Route 66, Los Lunas figures into many other historical episodes. During the Spanish Colonial Era, the establishment of the San Clemente Land Grant in 1716 spurred settlement in the Rio Abajo, including the future site of Los Lunas. By 1778, a mission church had been established south of Isleta and north of Los Chaves, and in the following year it first appears on a map as "S. Clemente." In the early Nineteenth Century, descendants of Domingo Luna and other families moved large herds of sheep into the region, and as principal landowners the settlement that emerged near the mission church soon became associated with the Luna family. The first known reference to the area known as "Los Lunas" was mentioned in the 1784 probate records of Domingo Luna's son Antonio de Luna. 

By mid-century, when the United States acquired much of northern Mexico, the War Department established forts throughout the Ninth Military District, which encompassed New Mexico. From 1852 to 1869, dragoons stationed at the Post at Los Lunas protected settlers and travelers along the old Camino Real. On April 15, 1862, Confederate and Union forces fought a skirmish in the neighboring community of Peralta as the Confederate Army retreated southward from their loss at the Battle of Glorieta east of Santa Fe. 

In the post-Civil War era, the population of Los Lunas slowly grew with the influx of immigrants from the United States and Europe. Agriculture, livestock raising, and mercantilism served as the community's economic foundation until the tracks of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1880, becoming yet another route connecting Los Lunas to the world beyond. 

For a more in-depth look at Los Lunas' rich and colorful history click here

Source: The Los Lunas Museum of Heritage & Arts. The Museum of Heritage & Arts strives to interpret and preserve the rich, multi-cultural history of the Village of Los Lunas and Valencia County.