The Old Pueblo (Tamaya) is located twenty-seven miles northwest of Albuquerque, on the north bank of the Jemez River eight miles northwest of its junction with the Rio Grande. This fairly isolated location traditionally kept residents from much contact with non-Indians. The pueblo was all but abandoned in historic times because of low-quality arable land. The people then bought land and moved to a location (Los Ranchitos) about ten miles to the southeast and just north of Bernalillo.
Keresans have been traced to an area around Chaco Canyon north to Mesa Verde. In the 1200s, the Keresans abandoned their traditional canyon home-lands in response to climatic and social upheavals. A century or two of migrations ensued, followed in general by the slow reemergence of their culture in the historic pueblos. Old Santa Ana was probably established in the late sixteenth century.
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado may have visited Santa Ana Pueblo. In 1598, Juan de Oñate arrived in the area with settlers, founding the colony of New Mexico. Oñate carried on the process, already underway in nearby areas, of subjugating the local Indians, forcing them to pay taxes in crops, cotton, and work and opening the door for Catholic missionaries to attack their religion. The Spanish renamed the pueblos with saints' names and began a program of church construction. At the same time, they introduced such new crops as peaches, wheat, and peppers into the region. In 1620, a royal decree created civil offices at each pueblo; silver-headed canes, many of which remain in use today, symbolized the governor's authority.