Many of us may not realize that the oldest continually settled city in the United States is not Plymouth, Williamsburg or Jamestown. The Acoma (pronounced Ah-Koo-Ma) Pueblo in New Mexico is actually believed to be America’s oldest continually inhabited community.

Acoma has been described as the “place that always was”, but it was supposedly settled in about 700 A.D., long before the arrival of the European settlers. Modern archeologists believe it was developed by the 12th century. With a population of 2000 in the 1500s’, it was visited and then nearly brutally destroyed by the Spaniards at the Battle of Acoma, but was later resettled by about 200 of the original families, whose descendants still live there today.

Often called New Mexico’s “Sky City,” due to its location atop a large mesa, Acoma today consists of several families or clans, many of whom are still living a lifestyle similar to their ancestors. There is no running water, but unlike their ancestors, instead of carrying water up the hill, it’s transported via the family automobile or pickup truck. There’s also no electricity in the pueblo, but many of the residents do get power from generators. Many pueblo people don’t live in the ancient Acoma full time, but return for special cultural occasions and to celebrate their Native American ancestry.

Acoma has long been famous for its distinctive thin walled native pottery, and there are still craftsmen in the pueblo creating their distinctive traditional designs. The nearby Sky City Cultural Center and Haaku Museum display some of the most unique collections of pottery and artwork created by native Americans, and it’s possible to arrange for a guided tour of the pueblo itself.  Photos are restricted.

Originally, the only way up to the village was via a very steep hand built stairway up the side of the mesa, but fortunately, today there is actually a paved road for the use of residents and the guided tour groups. The Acoma Pueblo has also established several businesses and tourist attractions in the area, including the Sky City Casino/Hotel and the Sky City RV Park. Campground guests may use the pool and gym at the hotel and take advantage of the restaurants and travel center. RVers may also dry camp in the casino parking lot for one night at no charge.

Conveniently located a few miles off the I-40 about an hour west of Albuquerque, Acoma is an interesting day trip from either Santa Fe or Albuquerque, or a fascinating overnight stop to soak up some of the past and art of the southwest.

New Mexico is a beautiful varied land of sweeping vistas of red topped rocks and mesas, but it also contains some of America’s most interesting history. Acoma certainly tops that list.

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