History of Albuquerque

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The Rio Grande has always brought life to the inhabitants of the Albuquerque Valley. The river provided water to traders and nomads as they made their way across the high desert. As early as 500 A.D., pockets of civilization began to appear along the river that served as the principal trade route between the pre-pueblo culture and other groups who lived to the north. For over six centuries, this culture thrived as the people developed transportation and communication networks. The bounty of the region provided rich soil for farming, and the nearby mountains harbored wildlife for hunting. Although not a city by civilized standards, at least 15,000 people were cultivating the Middle Rio Grande Valley by the 15th century.

But the river that brought life to this peaceful civilization also served as a conduit for Spanish conquest. In 1540, under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a group of Spanish explorers encountered the natives when they traveled north from Mexico in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. At first, the Indians welcomed the new travelers with open arms, but the Spanish viewed the natives as heathens and therefore inferior. The two cultures inevitably clashed. Coronado set up his winter quarters in one of the pueblos, Tiguex (present-day Bernalillo near Albuquerque). This was a harsh winter for the Spanish as they suffered from fierce attacks by the natives. One year later, Coronado returned to Tiguex on his trip back to Mexico. This was to be the beginning of the Spanish colonization of this area now known to Europeans as Nuevo Mexico. The remains of Tiguex now form the heart of Coronado State Monument.

More than a century passed and the American Southwest was claimed as Spanish territory. Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, the territory's provisional governor, petitioned the crown for permission to establish a villa in the area in 1706. He proposed naming the new settlement, San Francisco Xavier de Alburquerque - in honor of the Duke who was responsible for preliminary approval of Cuervo's application. This settlement was nicknamed "The Duke's City" by the Spanish settlers. The 18 original families lived in a walled village in an area now known as Old Town. In later years, Anglo settlers shortened the name to Albuquerque leaving out the first "r".

The Spanish colonies grew and in 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain. The new government opened Nuevo Mexico to trade with the Americans. Under the spell of Jefferson's Manifest Destiny, Americans began settling in territory claimed by the young Mexican government. When the United States annexed the Texas Republic in 1845, Congress sent troops to the Rio Grande to protect the new territory. Clashes with Mexican forces eventually led to a declaration of war with Mexico in 1846. Two years later, U.S. General Stephen Kearny declared New Mexico a United States Territory and established a military outpost in Albuquerque.

Less than 20 years passed before another flag flew briefly in the skies above New Mexico, when the Confederate Army briefly occupied Albuquerque during the Civil War. 1880 marked the arrival of the railroad that changed the city dramatically and forever. The train depot divided the city into two districts, Old Town and New Town. The people who arrived in the next five years began to outnumber the original inhabitants. This brought changes in architectural style and the city's ethnic makeup. Soon afterward, telephone and electricity made their debut.

Albuquerque was incorporated as a town in 1885 and just six years later was recognized as a city. New Mexico was admitted to the United States in 1912, becoming the 47th state in the Union. Albuquerque's mild year-round weather brought about the building of sanatoriums that attracted many invalids from around the world. Two of the sanatoriums operating at that time are still standing today; Presbyterian Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital. In 1926, the United States established the first transcontinental highway, Route 66. This transformed Albuquerque's "main drag" into a thriving tourist attraction. In 1928, Albuquerque's airport opened, officially internationalizing travel to the city.

The First World War had very little effect on the thriving city, but this was not true for World War II. In 1942, the United States government built Kirtland Air Force Base that became integrally involved in the Manhattan Project. After the war, Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development facility was built on Kirtland. This top-secret facility became even more important during the Cold War. Sandia Labs has helped Albuquerque establish a reputation as one of the world's top high-tech research and development cities.

Albuquerque has made a commitment in recent years to preserving both its ancient and recent past. The city council's Quality of Life Tax has generated funds for the purchase and protection of many acres of open space and the enhancement of existing facilities. Old Town is now a thriving tourist center; Downtown is the subject of an ongoing and highly successful revitalization project. The All-Indian Pueblo Council created The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center documenting and celebrating Pueblo Indian history and accomplishments.