Named Acomilla by the Spanish, these buttes form the walls of a narrow passage for the Rio Grande, along which Spanish encountered the Apache. Travelers organized armed caravans to assure their safety along this section of the Camino Real. An earlier pueblo named Alamillo sat below the black basaltic buttes of San Acacia to the southwest.For many years, all I thought of this area was the neat wooden rest stops that sit on the sands on both sides of the interstate. Headed north, it's the last decent restroom break before hitting Albuquerque (unless you like to exit in Belen or Los Lunas), and heading south, it's the first convenient rest stop. But there's so much more than that here. One look in any direction tells you as much.
For more than 100 years, not much lay between this point and El Paso (a run of nearly 150 miles). As the marker states, around this point, the river and the buttes set up something of a bottle neck that made for a convenient attack location for the Apache raiders along the route. It was partly because of this spot that caravans would wind their way up and down the Camino Real in large, armored groups, to ensure the safety of travelers.
Modern day San Acacia is near this location, less than 2 miles to the south. The small town sprung up with the addition of rail lines in the latter 19th century. By this time, of course, the Apache threat had been removed.
It's a small and simple reminder about New Mexico's origins (the Camino Real leading to Santa Fe), and the dangers that travelers faced in the most treacherous and famed part of the royal road.
My sources for this post are as follows:
- Roadside New Mexico: A Guide to Historic Markers, by David Pike: The definitive guide to historical markers in New Mexico. A must own for anyone interested in New Mexico history.