Cabin Bar
Salinas National Monument

The Ruin

The founding of Perea’s Bar was commemorated, somewhat brazenly, in a mural that covered the dance hall wall. They say the discovery of the event itself killed the Colonel and discovery of the mural about the event, killed his grandson, Alva.

Old Perea’s barn turned dance hall once stood atop the ruins of an ancient pueblo village. When Coronado swept up the Rio Grande valley with his entourage he chose this very place to occupy and destroy.
Archaeologists have long searched for any remains that might verify the early accounts of events but the Colonel’s son never allowed excavations.

In the years after first contact with the Spanish, endless waves of settlers flowed up the valley. By 1720, the native population was decimated and the land was granted to Spanish settlers. The former three-story adobe pueblo was used as a corner landmark of their grant.

At that time the ruin was a low hill with a few surviving walls and timbers. It was a popular camping area for travelers up the Camino Real because of the spring at the base of the mesa edge and a natural break in that cliff where a narrow road followed an arroyo drainage up off the valley floor toward the mountains to the east.

In about 1880, one of the Perea brothers repurposed the ruin walls and timbers into their barn which later became a meeting and dance hall. After that, the history gets a little sketchy. Or maybe painted.

Public sale of the land grants followed a pattern set by the Santa Fe Ring, a group of businessmen who practiced the art of exploiting New Mexico’s natural riches. Colonel Simpson was only following a formulaic legal pattern for “partitioning” the common lands. Even if only one heir of the original land grantees wanted a share, the whole thing got sold. So the Colonel found a widow in California who agreed to make a claim as an heir to the Perea grant. No one in the village knew her and she received a big cash payment up front, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter.

When it was finally over, after years of court battles, the Colonel thought he owned about 40,000 acres. There had never been a formal survey of the boundaries but now he had his new ranch and wanted it fenced off.

Things got weird that Christmas right before the survey crew arrived.


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