Los Luceros Historic Site - Atlas Obscura

Los Luceros Historic Site

Alcalde, New Mexico

This ranch on the banks of the Rio Grande is home to a little-known LGBTQ history of Mary Cabot Wheelwright, Marie Chabot, and two-spirit Navajo weaver Hastiin Klah. 

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Nearly 1,000 years ago, the unassuming spot next to the Rio Grande River was home to the ancestors of today’s Tewa residents of Ohkey Owingeh Pueblo (meaning “Place of the Strong Ones”). The ancient pueblo, Po’yege, is an archaeological site now, but the legacy of the Strong Ones lives on. The people of Ohkey Owingeh, located just downriver from Los Luceros, was one of the first sites to resist Spanish colonization and cruelty in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. (The Pueblo is the only one with a stone Catholic Church (others are adobe or wood) because the Strong Ones burned it three times.)

At the time of the Revolt, Los Luceros was part of the Sebastian Martin Serrano land grant. The original hacienda, encased inside the 19th-century renovations, dates to the 1700s. It is one of the earliest sites in the Spanish colony where apple trees were planted. There are over 1,000 trees still on the property. 

The Ortiz family, who owned the property in the 1800s expanded the Hacienda and constructed the present capilla, or chapel, onsite. It is still owned by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the site had fallen into ruin and was part of a larger dude ranch. But a wealthy Bostonian, Mary Cabot Wheelwright, came west after the deaths of her parents. She fell in love with the site, purchased it, and had it restored. Hiring noted artist Olive Rush to paint murals on the kiva fireplaces. While spending time at Los Luceros, Wheelwright met two-spirit Dine weaver Hasteen (or Hastiin) Klah. She and Klah collected Native arts from throughout New Mexico, creating the original collection for what would become the Wheelwright Museum.

Marie Chabot, a young woman seeking her place in the world, came to New Mexico from San Antonio, Texas. She was working as a magazine writer. Chabot found her way to Los Luceros where Wheelwright was hosting gatherings of “New Women” like Georgia O’Keeffe, Mabel Dodge Lujan, Carol Stanley, and others. Chabot stayed on, living for a while in the Hacienda and, later, in a nearby casita. Chabot inherited Los Luceros upon Wheelwright’s death. She would go on to have a relationship with O’Keeffe. In those days, they would have been referred to as having “Boston marriages.”

The site is a hidden gem with a deep and complex history. More than one ghost story has been told about the hacienda. If you don’t come for the history or the ghosts, then definitely come for the flock of Churro sheep that graze out back. 

Know Before You Go

Alcalde is a tiny, blink and you might miss it, town off of State Road 68.  If you are coming up from Santa Fe, turn onto County Rd 37 which will take you to County Road 41 that parallels the Acequia Madre, the oldest Spanish irrigation ditch in the country.  It's scenic.  There are several excellent wineries in the area, including one on your way to see Los Luceros. 

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