The village of San Miguel del Vado (sometimes spelled “Bado”) is located in northern New Mexico on the west bank of the Pecos River along NM-3 south of II-25. It is the founding settlement of a Spanish community land grant made Governor Chacón in 1794 in response to an application by some 52 families.
These families sought to settle the area around “El Vado,” a preferred river crossing located about 20 miles downstream from Pecos Pueblo. The governor granted the applicants more than 300,000 acres of land that included the river, river valley, and surrounding mesas, which were to be divided among and shared by the vecinos—a term used to describe the citizens of the land grant.
The community of San Miguel del Vado held a prominent place on New Mexico’s eastern frontier throughout the following century. San Miguel’s vecinos welcomed trading parties of Comanches and Kiowas from the plains, and served as a common starting point for parties of New Mexican comancheros and cíboleros heading east to trade with the Indians or hunt buffalos. They welcomed the first party of American traders to travel the Santa Fe Trail following Mexican independence in 1821, and served as a significant resting place and part-time home for many involved in this trade.
Five years after capturing and imprisoning an invading force from the Republic of Texas in 1841, San Miguel was invaded and claimed by American forces who marched through the plaza on their way to Santa Fe at the beginning of the Mexican-American War.
San Miguel del Vado provides a unique view of Spanish land grant communities and of what it meant, day in and day out, to be a vecino. From the very beginning, the community was home individuals of varied cultural and ethnic heritage, brought together through the shared rights and obligations of living in a land grant community.
Construction of the church, which was and still is the center of the community here, began in 1806.