Albuquerque is a city of great diversity where geography and history brought Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures together to create a unique multicultural community. The land is both awesome and inspiring. To the east of Albuquerque, are Sandia and Manzano Mountains and the Rio Grande cuts through the city. To the west is the West Mesa escarpment with its past of volcanic activity. Albuquerques weather is mild and it is not unusual for a 70 degree day during the winter and people can be seen skiing in shorts.

Albuquerque is a mixture of old and new architectural styles is stunning. In spite of the size of the city and all of the amenities that go along with big city life, Albuquerque manages to retain a small town charm.

The annual balloon festival in Albuquerque is a magnificent spectacle


In the desert valley of the Rio Grande, surrounded by far-off mountains, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico. Albuquerque also has the only major airport in the state, into which almost all New Mexico-bound tourists fly. Unfortunately, most of those visitors immediately hop into a rental car and drive north to Santa Fe, the more potent, more typical and far more commercialized touristic capital of New Mexico. And that pattern causes more grief to residents of Albuquerque than most of them are willing openly to admit. “We are a real city,” one of them once told me, through clenched teeth. “We have far more art galleries than they do, more cultural activities and the same amount of authentic Western history.” But Santa Fe gets the visitors. Albuquerque has real people, a great university, a more modest style of living. Albuquerque is more western and more authentic than Santa Fe. In the picturesque “Old Town,” hardly any concessions are made to tourist tastes and you are served New Mexican dishes with the spicy, hot tastes of molten lava. Rather than ultra-wealthy retirees, one meets a broad range of working people in Albuquerque. Rather than the overly commercial galleries and souvenir shops of Santa Fe, you find a broader offering of regional art. And Albuquerque also possesses a vital community of American Indian and great institutions relating to their history and art.

Albuquerque’s weather Near perfect, for some. There is barely any rainfall in the summer. The hottest it gets is 90 degrees in July. No wonder that a great many modestly incomed retirees are moving into the city, to live quiet lives without rarified social pretensions.

Old Town is famous for its Hispanic and Native American history and culture, as well as the goods to purchase

History & Culture

The Rio Grande 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., settlements began to appear along the river, which served as the main 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 allowed for hunting. Although not a city, at least 15,000 people were cultivating the Middle Rio Grande Valley by the 15th century. The Rio Grande that brought life also served as a conduit for the Spanish conquest. In 1540, a group of explorers commanded by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado encountered the native in their travels from Mexico in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. The Indians welcomed them with open arms but the Spanish viewed the natives as heathens and therefore inferior. Inevitably, the two cultures clashed. Coronado set up his winter quarters in one of the pueblos and the Spanish suffered from fierce attacks by the natives. One year later, Coronado returned on his trip back to Mexico. This was the beginning of Spanish colonization of the area known to Europeans as Nuevo Mexico. The pueblos remains 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 provisional governor, petitioned the crown for permission to establish a villa in the area in 1706. He proposed naming the settlement San Francisco Xavier de Alburquerque, to honor the Duke responsible for preliminary approval of Cuervo’s request. In later years, settlers shortened the name to Albuquerque leaving out the first “r”.

The Spanish colonies grew and in 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain. Under the spell of Jefferson’s Manifest Destiny, Americans began settling in territory claimed by the young Mexican government. After the United States annexed the Texas Republic, 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 an outpost in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Botanical Gardens features elegant wildlife and florals

The arrival of the railroad in 1880 changed the city forever, dividing the city into two districts, Old Town and New Town. Over the next five years the new arrivals began to outnumber the original inhabitants changing architectural styles and the city’s ethnic makeup.

Albuquerque was incorporated as a town in 1885 and 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. 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, internationalizing travel to the city.

The First World War had little effect on the city, but this was not the case for World War II. In 1942, the United States government built Kirtland Air Force Base, which became an integral part of 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.

A view of Albuquerque from the nearby Sandia Mountains Tram

Albuquerque has made a commitment in recent years to preserving both its ancient and more recent past. The city Quality of Life Tax has generated funds for the purchase and protection of open space and the enhancement of existing facilities. Old Town is a thriving tourist center and downtown is undergoing a revitalization project. The All-Indian Pueblo Council created The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center celebrating Pueblo Indian history and accomplishments.

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