The Pueblo of Laguna, the largest of the Keresan pueblos, is 45 miles west of Albuquerque on Route 66. Its most prominent landmark, the whitewashed St. Joseph Church, is readily visible from the road. The entire pueblo covers four large counties and includes the six villages of Encinal, Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje, and Seama. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, the district consists of approximately 108 acres including a southeastern section of the pueblo that dates from the 1400s and a larger section established in 1699.
The historical record indicates that ancestors of the pueblo’s current residents have been in residence since at least 1300, and that people have inhabited the area since at least 3000 BCE. Pueblo tradition says that Pueblo people have always been there. Their Spanish name, Laguna, translates to lagoon and derives from a lake, now dry, once located in the pueblo. The local language is called Keresan, and the name of the people in that language is Kawaik. Prior to Spanish incursions in the region in the 1500s, Kawaik residents lived in a border region between Ancestral Pueblo people to the north and Mogollon people to the south. When Spanish people arrived there, they found a self-governing, agricultural society.
The pueblo we see today was established after the Peublo Revolt in 1699 by a group of Kawaik people and other refugees from Cienguilla, Santo Domingo, Cochiti, and Zia Pueblos. It expanded rapidly, growing to the north, east, and west. The pueblo’s main village is built into the soft, light-yellow sandstone slope on the west side of the San Jose River. Buildings are of stone and adobe, and the St. Joseph Church, which dates from 1701.