Las Palomas

One look tells the observer that Las Palomas has seen better days, but her days of glory were exciting times. Nearby ruins of an Indian pueblo testify to prehistoric dwellers. Indians, Spanish colonists, and miners stopped here to soak in hot water that bubbled from springs. The area took its name from the thousands of doves that lived in the cottonwoods along the river and around the springs.

The settlement was founded by the Garcia and Tafoya families who brought numerous peons with them, only to have to comply with a law releasing indentured workers from their obligation. Las Palomas became the gateway for east-west traffic passing through a gap in the Caballo mountains.

There was a plaza in the middle of town, surrounded by houses. Here early settlers gathered their livestock for protection during Indian raids. Legend has it that Indians came out of the Caballo Mountains with gold nuggets to trade for provisions and fire water. This attracted gold-seekers who used the springs for placer mining but, when the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 erupted, the fleeing residents destroyed not only the mines but the springs to rob the Indians of water and impede their pursuit.

A story of buried treasure has brought many to the area. During the first half of the seventeenth century when there was an influx of Spanish settlers into New Mexico, one Pedro Navarez, a renegade Spaniard, joined a murderous band of Indians. He was captured in 1649 and taken to Mexico City where he was tried and condemned to death. He turned to religion for consolation and confessed his sins.

Navarez told of a deep cave containing arms, crockery, clothing and harness, and many bars of silver. His directions pointed to the springs near Las Palomas: "In the gap where the sun rises look for the spring; it is very large."

Vincente Vasques, a sacristan to the priest who heard the confession, made copies, presumably hoping to share in discovery of the loot. Copies of this document have been passed down from generation to generation . To date there has been no report of the treasure having been found. Some who looked reported seeing mysterious lights in the mountains, thought to have been campfires of watchful Indians who guarded the tesoro de los muertos , the "treasure of the dead."