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Sunday 10 September 2023

Acoma Pueblo Racetrack: A Journey Through Native American Racing History in a Remote Desert Setting

Acoma Pueblo Racetrack: A Journey Through Native American Racing History in a Remote Desert Setting
In the arid expanse of New Mexico's high desert, nestled atop a towering mesa, lies a place where horse racing transcends mere sport and transforms into a sacred cultural tradition. The Acoma Pueblo Racetrack, situated on the Acoma Pueblo reservation, stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Native American horsemanship and a connection to the land that dates back centuries.

A Rich Cultural Heritage

The Acoma Pueblo, also known as "Sky City" due to its elevated location, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States. This ancient Native American tribe has a rich cultural heritage deeply intertwined with equestrian traditions. Horses, introduced by Spanish explorers and settlers in the 16th century, became an integral part of Acoma life, facilitating trade, transportation, and cultural exchanges.

Racing Through Generations

The Acoma Pueblo Racetrack has been a focal point of community life for generations. In the early 20th century, Acoma Pueblo leaders recognized the significance of preserving their equestrian heritage. The racetrack was established as a place where Acoma youth could learn horsemanship skills, and elders could pass on their knowledge.

The racing events at Acoma Pueblo are far more than competitions; they are celebrations of culture, heritage, and community. The racetrack is where stories are shared, traditional regalia is worn with pride, and the spirit of Acoma is on full display.

Remote Desert Setting.... What sets the Acoma Pueblo Racetrack apart from mainstream racing venues is its remote desert setting. Perched atop the Acoma mesa, the track offers panoramic views of the sprawling desert landscape. It's a place where the earth meets the sky, where the stark beauty of the desert is juxtaposed against the vibrant colors of tribal regalia.

The racetrack's remote location adds a layer of mystique and enchantment to the racing experience. Visitors must navigate winding roads to reach the mesa's summit, immersing themselves in the ancient culture of the Acoma people long before they even arrive at the track.

Annual Acoma Pueblo Race Day

The highlight of the racing season at Acoma Pueblo is the Annual Acoma Pueblo Race Day. This event is a grand celebration that draws tribal members and visitors from near and far. The festivities typically include traditional dances, music, and, of course, horse racing.

Acoma Pueblo Race Day is not just a day at the races; it's a day of cultural revival and community bonding. Families come together to support their jockeys, who often wear traditional attire adorned with symbols and patterns that carry deep cultural significance. The rhythmic sound of drums and cheers fills the air as the horses thunder down the track.

Preservation of Tradition

The Acoma Pueblo Racetrack plays a crucial role in preserving Acoma culture and tradition. The knowledge of horsemanship, passed down through generations, remains alive and well. Young tribal members learn the art of horse racing, ensuring that this cultural heritage endures for future generations.

The racetrack also serves as an essential economic resource for the Acoma Pueblo. The Annual Acoma Pueblo Race Day attracts tourists and visitors, creating opportunities for local artisans to showcase their crafts, including pottery, jewelry, and traditional foods.


The Acoma Pueblo Racetrack is not just a place where horses run; it's a place where the spirit of the Acoma people soars. This remote desert setting, perched high above the New Mexico landscape, serves as a living testament to the enduring power of culture and the deep connection between people, horses, and the land.

As visitors stand at the track's edge, watching the jockeys in their vibrant regalia race beneath the vast desert sky, they are not merely spectators; they become witnesses to a living history, a history that continues to be written with every hoofbeat on the dusty track. The Acoma Pueblo Racetrack is more than a racing venue; it is a sacred space where tradition, culture, and community come together in a celebration of the enduring spirit of the Acoma people.

Photo: Pixabay (free)