El Camino Real, a north-south route once forged for trade between Meso and Native Americans, changed the western world long before anyone came from the east over the Santa Fe, Oregon or California trails. It was the most significant of the early trails on the North American continent and for a century the longest. Credited with "blazing" the northern stretch, Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate actually followed a series of Native footpaths into what is now New Mexico and claimed the land for Spain as he went. What followed were people, and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro became the lifeline for Spanish settlers. Remnants of their lives still exist in hand-hewn carts, tools, leather water jugs, and religious altars and relicarios. Described as a ship on the desert, El Camino Real International Heritage Center is an award-winning venue that appears to float over a barren but beautiful landscape charged with events and people of a distant past. Some had names still remembered: Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, Juan de Oñate. Some were Franciscan missionaries seeking converts; some were Spanish settlers seeking a few life. From their efforts came something they never imagined: a destination for settlers and traders from the East, who in time helped to establish the Territory of New Mexico and, eventually, the 47th of the United States.