Acoma Curio Shop
San Fidel, New Mexico
The Acoma Curio Shop is located at 1090 State Rd.
124, San Fidel, NM, on historic Route 66 about 15 miles east of
Grants, NM. The building currently is not open to the public.
An abandoned building in a small, quiet town does
not cry out tourist attraction to everyone, but behind the quiet
façade of this humble building is a little known and important
story of Lebanese immigration and mercantilism along historic
Most likely built in 1916, in what was then called
Ballejos, the Acoma Curio Shop is constructed of adobe bricks.
But unlike so many other adobe buildings in the Southwest, it
also features a false front more common to mining boomtowns,
making it a very rare blend of two distinct architectural
styles. While such blending is common in roadside vernacular
architecture, this particular combination is quite unusual,
especially in New Mexico, and adds to the appeal of what is one
of the few rural curio shops remaining along Route 66 in the
state. A metal-roofed porch faces the highway, supported by four
simple wooden posts. The north and west sides are neatly coated
in white stucco, while the eastern wall is mostly of exposed
adobes, showcasing the original construction.
originally opened a small mercantile business in the building,
which he likely designed and constructed himself. Fidel had
immigrated to New Mexico from Lebanon, part of what was in sheer
numbers a small contingent of Lebanese emigrants to the
newly-founded state. Given New Mexico’s low total population,
however, the Lebanese community, approximately two hundred
strong in 1920, was not insignificant, especially in the realm
of trade. Fidel initially settled in nearby Seboyeta, where he
stayed with Narciso Francis, Sr., probably the first Lebanese to
come to the area. Following a common pattern in the American
West, and one not restricted to Lebanese, Narciso was a
“pioneer” emigrant who, once established, attracted several
others, usually blood relatives or residents of the same home
village, to join him.
Within the Lebanese community,
competition was limited by an unwritten rule that allowed only
one Lebanese-owned business per town. With the sparse population
around Laguna and Acoma, this would have been doubly important.
Thus, once he had acquired the means to do so, Fidel moved to
Ballejos (now San Fidel) to open the small mercantile store in
the town of about 100 souls. Within a few years he opened a
larger adobe structure at the western edge of the town, which
also served as his family’s primary residence. It is not known
what business, if any, occupied the site of the small mercantile
building during these years, but in any case it remained
As a Roman Catholic, Fidel fit well into the
cultural milieu of rural New Mexico, and quickly learned Spanish
to better communicate with his neighbors and customers. It was
only later, as Anglo migration to the area increased, that Fidel
learned to speak English.
The highway through San Fidel
became part of Route 66 when it was commissioned in 1926, and
traffic increased significantly in the coming years. Perhaps
sensing an opportunity to capture tourist dollars, Fidel began
wholesaling local Native American crafts, and in 1937 moved this
operation into the mercantile building, where he opened a retail
business named the Acoma Curio Shop.
Unlike most curio
shops in the Southwest, which tended to feature a hodgepodge of
crafts from different pueblos or cultures that were sometimes of
dubious authenticity, Fidel dealt exclusively with local Acoma
artists. These included several well-known individuals, such as
Lucy Lewis and Mary Z. Chino. The former’s son, Alvin Concho
Lewis, himself a well-known Acoma silversmith, was an employee
of the shop for a time.
World War II and its accompanying
gasoline rationing curtailed travel along the highway, and the
Curio Shop closed shortly after America’s entry into the
conflict. Fidel refocused his attention on his larger mercantile
store, leasing the Curio Shop to the Standard Oil Company, which
operated it as a service station for several years. Since then,
it has since seen multiple tenants. While the building has
undergone minor alterations, it has maintained a high degree of
its historic integrity. It was added to the National Register of
Historic Places in 2009.