Albuquerque: Along the Rio Grande
Copyright The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, 2011
“We appear before your Lordship and in all right and conveniency we report that having given…a certified document in which we state the new buildings and towns that have been founded….also we report the growth and improvement which day by day is being made in the new towns, especially the Villa de Alburquerque and its jurisdiction.” – Petition from soldiers to Interim Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, 1706
La Villa de Alburquerque
The Villa of Alburquerque
In 1706, groups of settlers and soldiers journeyed south from Bernalillo to a fertile area of wooded land along a bend in the Río Grande. There, led by alcalde (mayor) Capitán Martín Hurtado, they founded the villa (administrative center) known today as Albuquerque.
The idea of founding a villa in the Rio Abajo (lower river) first surfaced in 1662, when Governor Diego de Peñalosa made an unsuccessful attempt to promote the area. After resettlement of the area by Governor Don Diego de Vargas in 1692, the municipal council of Santa Fe called upon him to establish a villa, but it never came about.
Settlers, however, were eager to reclaim lands granted to them prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and to settle on new lands along the river. On its east bank Don Diego Trujillo’s estancia (orchard), El Paraje de las Huertas, was now owned by Don Francisco Trujillo and his wife Doña Luisa. Together with their married children and ranch hands, they numbered enough by the early 1700s to look like a small village known locally as El Bosque Grande de San Francisco Xavier, and later, La Estancia de Doña Luisa de Trujillo.
In late 1705 or early 1706, under the direction of Interim Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, General Juan de Ulibarrí selected an area of high ground located directly on the Camino Real. There was a good ford on the river just to the west, and El Cañon de Carnué (Tijeras Canyon) provided access to the plains beyond the Sandia Mountains. In his dispatches to Mexico City, Cuervo y Valdés was careful to refer to the Recopilación, an important book of statutes governing the creation of new towns. He authorized Capitán Hurtado to conduct the ceremony, in which Hurtado and the citizens would have pulled grass, thrown rocks in the air, shouted, “Long Live the King!” and taken an oath to live on and improve the land.
The official founding document has never been discovered. Later documents show that Cuervo y Valdés authorized the residents to settle there sometime before February 23, 1706. His earliest letters to Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva Enríquez, 10th Duke of Alburquerque, Spain and Viceroy of New Spain, described the “want and misery” of the area. Just one year later, in April 1706, they spoke of progress and prosperity – a church, government buildings, settlers, and predictions of abundant food, water and livestock.
In 1706, the population of La Villa de Alburquerque numbered somewhere around 250. Old Town consisted of a rectangular plaza oriented east-west, with a church located on the west end, a few government buildings, and adobe houses scattered along the Rio Grande. By 1776 the villa consisted of 24 houses near San Felipe de Neri Church and a population of 763. By 1793 the church was in serious disrepair, and a new, larger church was built that year on the north side of the Plaza, facing south.
The formal name of the town, described by Cuervo y Valdés in 1706 as “La Villa de San Francisco Xavier de Alburquerque,” was changed by the 10th Duke in 1706 – and corrected again in 1776, by Father Francisco Atanasio Dominguez – to “La Villa de San Felipe Neri de Alburquerque.”