The Royal Road - El Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe
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Photographs by Christine Preston
Text by Douglas Preston
Genealogical Appendix by José Antonio Esquibel

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In 1598, the Spanish Conquistador Juan de Oņate led the first permanent European settlers into what would become the United States. Four hundred years later, Douglas Preston and his wife Christine retraced the two thousand mile road blazed by Oņate between Mexico City and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Prestons journeyed by car, by horseback, and on foot, following the entire length of the trail. In one unforgettable experience, they crossed the dreaded Jornada del Muerto desert on horseback, becoming the first travelers in the 20th century to do so. The Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert was the most dangerous portion of the trail, where Oņate and his settlers nearly died of thirst.

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Royal Road Cover
Christine Preston’s photographs, made with a 4 x 5 view camera, show wild places that have hardly changed over the centuries as well as churches, ruins, villages, and modern cityscapes in Mexico and the United States. Douglas Preston’s text tells the story of one of the most ancient human trails in North America, which began twelve thousand years ago as a series of Indian footpaths following the migratory routes of mastondons. It became the most important prehistoric trade route in western North America, over which farming, corn, beans and pottery first came into the Southwest. He tells the story of Oņate and the later travelers on the trail, and chronicles his own exploration of the route. The book creates a fascinating and indelible portrait of New Mexico, the founding of Santa Fe, and the settlement of the Southwest.

The Royal Road won the 1999 Villagrá Award for outstanding publication of the year on New Mexico history.

The book was published in 1998 by the University of New Mexico Press in a small edition. It has become scarce.

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