In the 2000 U.S. Census, Cerrillos had 229 permanent residents. On the road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and a few miles north of Madrid, another New Mexico ghost town, Cerrillos has even more ghosts than Madrid.
The town has a few art galleries, shops, a U.S. Post Office, the nearby Cerrillos Hills State Park with hiking trails, the Cerrillos Mining Museum, a General Store, the Saint Joseph Catholic Church, train tracks, a lot of quiet, and a small town rural New Mexico pedigree.
According to a town history, on a board by a little public restroom by the headquarters of the Cerrillo’s Hills State Park, this town started as a tent city for miners,and was once considered to be the location for the state capital. This area has always been big on mining and the original inhabitants, the Tano Indians,way way back, were slave labor in the mines till they revolted. Turquoise, gold, silver, and lead are the main minerals that have brought people here looking for easy riches. There was a movie, ” Young Guns, ” made here, and many of the residents work in Santa Fe and commute, just liking to be away from city life.
Highlights of today’s visit was encountering a California “Hippie Bus ” with its occupants a family who spend their life on the road and were looking for turquoise in town. When they had trouble navigating, the woman would get out of the bus, step back and direct her driver till he got the bus going the right direction. Another place, good for the spirit, was the Saint Joseph Church at the end of a main street. The church goes back a hundred years and there is an open courtyard visitors can stroll through and meditate on the human condition. The Mining museum and trading post were closed but you could still see the camel, goats and birds at the petting zoo, along with mining machines all rusted and inoperable. A local man, waxing his older Volvo, that is a classic, told me his son was living in New York and he and his girlfriend haD to sneak out at night just to get relief from the lock down there.
” No way I’d want to live there, ” I volunteered, and the man, who was a contractor who builds in Santa Fe, agreed.
” We’re still working but you can only have five in the house at one time, ” he said, ” It makes making a living difficult.”
This little town used to be full of hotels, saloons, dance halls, shops and short order houses, brothels and boarding houses, but it is now just a sleepy little burg for sightseers and tourists.
Cerrillos means ” Little Hills ” in Spanish, and , later IN the evening, as the sun goes down, these little hills will get a pinkish tint that makes them look like some of the art canvases in the shops.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this little town was feeling it’s oats.
Now, Cerrillos is a place to escape the bustle of the big city, revisit the state’s mining history, pick up some rare turquoise mined from this area, hike in the ” Little Hills”, and spend a lazy Saturday petting camels in the petting zoo.