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Acoma Pueblo is a Native American pueblo built on top of a 367-foot (112 m) sandstone mesa in the U.S. state of New Mexico. The Pueblo, believed to have been established in the 12th century or even earlier, was chosen in part because of its defensive position against raiders. It is regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States[citation needed]. Access to the pueblo is difficult as the faces of the mesa are sheer (a topographic map shows this best). Before modern times access was gained only by means of a hand-cut staircase carved into the sandstone..Tracing their lineage to the inhabitants of ruins to the west and north, the Acoma people continue the traditions of their ancestors. Acoma people practice their traditional religion and some also practice the Catholic religion that came with Spanish settlers in the 1500s. Acoma people have traded and interacted with their neighbors for centuries, some of which extended beyond the local Pueblos. Trade between Aztec and Mayan people was common prior to European settlement. Only more recently has trade and interaction with other tribes been hampered by international boundaries. Traditional alliances still exist between the Pueblos who often speak different dialects or different languages. The Acoma Pueblo and Laguna Pueblo have many ties, including location, language and a shared high school. Throughout the year feasts are held in celebration of historic occasions. Visitors are allowed to attend these feasts but are encouraged to be respectful and aware of local protocol...The Spanish settlers had the mission church of San Esteban Rey built at the pueblo from 1629 to 1641, under the direction of Friar Juan Ramírez[2]. Its 30-foot beams were carried 30 miles from Kaweshtima or Mount Taylor Mountain, and the dirt for its graveyard was carried up the mesa from the valley below. Both the mission and the pueblo are registered National Historical Landmarks.