The Plaza Del Cerro was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Its condition and integrity reflect a fortified colonial plaza that is thought to be the only remaining one of its kind in New Mexico.
By 1680 the Santa Cruz valley area, where Chimayo is located, was thinly populated and there were 3 inhabitants in the Chimayo area, or the “Chimayo district”. There is no mention of a plaza in connection with Chimayo until 1785 when a baptismal record refers to the Plaza de Sanbuenaventura de Chimayo and again in 1806 when a document from a resident refers to the plaza as an enclosed space.
The plaza was surrounded by structures all facing the square with no openings toward the outside. A road crossed the square, the entrance and exit of which could easily be blocked in the event of attack. The square was planted with gardens to provide for the inhabitants which by 1878 included 44 names, eight Trujillos, seven Ortegas and five Martinezes.
Sometime around 1900 two Ortega siblings left the Plaza to build homes and develop a local weaving industry just outside. Following World War 1 the weaving industry expanded and still exists in the area today.
By the 1930’s the Plaza began to decline as older residents died and others left their homes to take more permanent, better paying jobs in nearby cities. After World War II, few Plaza houses were occupied although the interior garden space was cared for into the 1950’s. The Plaza is now basically abandoned.
At the invitation of the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association, on Feb. 14, 2017 Mac Watson, representing the Historic Santa Fe Foundation and Jake Barrow, representing Cornerstones Community Partnerships traveled to the Plaza Del Cerro to meet with community members and do an assessment of the Casita de Martina in the Plaza for the purpose of developing a scope of work to guide repairs of the casita, which the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association now owns.
During the summer of 2017, with funding from the Heritage Hotels, the Resiliency Alliance, other small grants and local donors, Cornerstones, in partnership with the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association and in collaboration with the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, began restoration work on Casita de Martina. Youth interns that included the grandson of a former Plaza inhabitant, were hired to learn adobe skills under the direction of an expert adobero. Community volunteers also participated.
By the end of 2018 the Casita was stabilized, plastered with mud inside and out and fitted with a new roof and repaired canals. Planning is underway to complete the earthen floor in 2019.
Photograph by Don Usner