Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Around Town

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Rebuilding Together rescues Bernalillo home

—Teri Pierce

Anna is an eight year old girl, who lives with her family, including two older brothers, in Bernalillo. Her parents both worked to support the family, and they had purchased a small lot with an old trailer with an addition on the front, and the plan was that they were going to save money, and build a home. But then the father had a terrible stroke; he survived, but he was disabled. The mom had to work two jobs, and the family was stuck living in the old trailer, which had actual holes in it, and some rooms had no insulation at all. But that is where they lived, throughout this last cold winter; when they had leftovers from dinner, they put a blanket over the doorway leading to what is now the boys room and the leftover food would stay frozen indefinitely. Often, all three children and the parents would have to sleep in one room together to stay warm.

Then, on a recent weekend, an army of volunteers descended on Anna’s house to make numerous repairs, including painting the whole outside of the house, which could not have been accomplished without a grant from Lowes. In the end, the family also received a new high-efficiency furnace which Rick Herrera, owner of Eclipse Plumbing, donated time and material to install, a new roof from Jim Doyle, owner of Doyle Roofing, who also donated time and materials, and electrical work donated by John Roth, owner of Rock Hill Electric. Also, volunteers installed insulation and new double pane windows, a low-flow toilet, and floors were repaired so the bedrooms would be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  The volunteers even reconfigured internal walls to make the boys’ room separate from Anna’s, allowing her to get to the bathroom without having to go through the room of her two older brothers.

Everyone who participated enjoyed the stimulation of the company of the other volunteers, and their easy camaraderie, coffee donated by Starbucks, water and soda donated by Albertson’s, and lunch donated by The Range Cafe. In short, many parts of the community got involved, and were rewarded by the joy of helping a neighbor in need, at the same time that they made new friends, and contributed to increasing the property values in the town as a result.

These well-meaning people were volunteers for Rebuilding Together Sandoval County, a local affiliate of the national volunteer not-for-profit organization (which used to be called Christmas in April) that rehabilitates the homes of low income residents, particularly the elderly and disabled, at no charge so that they may continue to live in warmth, safety and independence. RTSC operates on a year-round basis, and its projects routinely include roof repair or replacement, better insulation, fixing interior and exterior water damage, replacement of doors and windows, and substantial exterior repair and painting. 

RTSC has learned to do more with less. Every dollar spent is often leveraged with over $4 in donated goods and services, or more.  The program utilizes unskilled community volunteers, Kirtland AFB volunteers, and retired skilled volunteers as well as skilled, licensed workers from various trades such as plumbing, electrical, heating, etc. to complete the work. The selection process takes place locally with referrals coming from a variety of sources including non-profit agencies, police departments, social service organizations, churches, synagogues and individuals. The House Selection Committee makes the final determination on selection based on need and budget considerations. This selection is then passed on to the full Board of Directors for final approval.

Rebuilding Together Sandoval County is always looking for groups who may want to volunteer on a project, and for eligible residents. If you are interested in more information, please call 896-3041 and leave a message.

Rio Metro Board rescinds decision to eliminate weekend Rail Runner service

The Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board rescinded the proposed elimination of weekend service on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. Last month in a surprise six-to-five vote, board members took action to eliminate weekend service to balance the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which is 1.2 million dollars less than the previous fiscal year’s budget. Today’s 14-to-one vote means that weekend Rail Runner service will not be cancelled at the end of next month. Instead, board members voted on cost-saving modifications to both the weekday and weekend train service.

“The Board responded to the numerous public comments from people who wanted to keep weekend Rail Runner service in tact,” said Steve Shaw, Chairman of the Rio Metro Board. “While weekday train service will always be the main mission for the Rail Runner, we see the importance of weekend service as it relates to tourism and economic vitality in New Mexico.”

Rail Runner schedule changes are targeted to go into effect toward the end of August—early September timeframe, depending on the coordination with connecting transit services.

Changes to the weekday Rail Runner service include the following:

The first northbound train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe will be replaced with bus service.

The first southbound train between Sandoval County/US 550 and Downtown Albuquerque will be replaced with bus service. This bus may also continue further south to Los Lunas and Belen.

The last two southbound trains from Santa Fe will be consolidated into one train departing at 9:00 p.m.

Other minor schedule adjustments will be made to accommodate the soon-to-open Sandia Pueblo Rail Runner Station, and potentially Montano, and Zia Rail Runner Stations.

Changes to the weekend Rail Runner Service include the following:

During the winter months, Saturday Rail Runner service will be reduced to the equivalent of current Sunday service: two northbound runs and two southbound runs.

Other minor schedule adjustments will be made to accommodate the soon-to-open Sandia Pueblo Rail Runner Station, and potentially Montano, and Zia Rail Runner Stations.

Look for the modified final schedule posted at by the middle of August.

The Rio Metro Board also voted to direct staff to study and provide recommendations regarding fare increases, to be presented at the September board meeting.

The board also voted to create a Fiscal Sustainability Task Force to study and provide recommendations for Rail Runner revenues.

For more information, contact Augusta Meyers, Communications Manager at (505) 239-8612, or

Fire sunset

”Fire Sunset,” photograph by Diane Coady-Ramsay.
July fires in the Jemez create a brilliant sunset over Bernalillo.

The history of Bernalillo—Part I

—Martha Liebert

The history of Bernalillo is not a simple one. It includes powerful geologic events and climate changes, several migrations of different peoples, as well as a succession of different communities occurring over the centuries.

The “little ice age” was in place from 1400 to 1800, setting the scene for a very inhospitable climate. The Rio Grande Trench (a fault), which carries our major river, determined much of what followed here, as did the formation of the Sandia Mountains, as did the arroyo, which runs down the north end of the Sandias and flows into the Rio Grande.

Early man was here thousands of years ago, hunting wooly mammoth and other edibles. We find his finely crafted tools and weapons around the area. But the first MAJOR migration came about a thousand years ago by a communal group of stone age farmers, fleeing a decades long drought in the high Colorado Plateau.

These Pueblo (village) dwellers sought an abundant water source with which to plant their com, beans, squash, cotton, and tobacco and found it along our “Great River.” Over centuries, they drifted down in family and tribal groups, speaking five different languages, building villages, and staying sometimes two to three hundred years before moving on to new locations all along the river. Several of these pueblos are a basic part of Bernalillo’s history: Our Lady of Sorrows site, Kuaua, Santiago, Sandia, and San Felipe Pueblos.

These things we know now, but this is a changing science and new archaeological finds are happening every day, so who knows what tomorrow may bring.

One of these Pueblos is the 1300 -1450 Pueblo that lies under the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church complex in the heart of Bernalillo. It was never completely excavated, but judging by the limited “dig” of a fifty foot wide trench done by UNM in 1980’s, it was a Tiwa Pueblo with a large kiva and pit houses. Its pottery indicates it might be ancestral Sandia.

Kuaua (Coronado State Monument) is another pueblo of the same period on the west side of the river, across from eighteenth century Bernalillo. It is well known for its kiva murals, depicting religious motifs.

Santiago Pueblo (one half mile south of Kuaua, on the west side of the river) is now accepted as the true site where Coronado wintered in 1540-41. It did not survive the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and is now the site of a housing development by the same name.

Directly across the river is the living Pueblo of Sandia. Most of what is now called Bernalillo used to be Sandia land and was called “EI Guache” ( a Tiwa word). Sandia land went as far north as the Catholic Church.

The two by three block area known as the “Cocinitas” (little kitchens) was Sandia land in 1824 when a group of landless Spanish settlers petitioned the pueblo for the right to farm and live on that land. This was granted by the pueblo, and the legal claims were not settled until a hundred years later. This part of town was called “lower Bernalillo”.

“Upper Bernalillo” was formally established by Governor De Vargas in 1693 at “La Salida de Angostura” (the narrows) on the west side of the river on the flood plain at the mouth of the Jemez river. A church and plaza were built there. It was a military post called, “Bernal’s camp,” with eleven families, about 63 people. Because it was on the flood plain, it washed away in 1695. One of these families was the Gonzales-Bernal family from which, it is thought, the name Bernalillo came.

Prior to this formal settlement, Oñate had settled families on ranches all along the west side of the river from 1598 on. They were mostly scattered farms with no central organization. The Angostura area was one of two colonial centers; Santa Fe was the other.

All these Pueblos and villages were connected by networks of trails—trails for trade, trails for hunting, trails for war. The trading trails stretched down into Mexico and up into Colorado.

The reason Angostura (Bernalillo) was so important was because of its safe river crossing in a river of quicksand. The arroyo of San Antonio de las Huertas, which came down the north end of the Sandias, deposited a spill of gravel across the river at Angostura, thus making it safe for livestock, wagons, and families to cross. This had been part of a trail used for hundreds of years for the pueblos to go to the eastern plains to trade corn for buffalo with the Commanche tribe there.

The next migration came just before the arrival of the Europeans with Coronado in 1540. This one was another group of Native Americans: the Athabascans (Apache and Navajo). These tribes were hunter-gatherers, not settled farmers like the Pueblos. They followed the game herds, and when the herds did not come, instead of starving, they raided the most dependable food source—the pueblos. Prior to the arrival of the Athabascans, the Pueblos had enjoyed a golden age of peace and were able to develop a highly sophisticated ceramic tradition and complex social and religious patterns.

This latest migration made life in the area a misery. Between river floods and those from mountain arroyos, raids and droughts, life was very difficult for all and the Pueblos feared for their very survival.

This article was reprinted with permission from El Crónicon, a publication of the Sandoval County Historical Society.

“Novel destinations” ends soon

—Judy Gajkowski

The Placitas Community Library’s Adult Summer Reading Program will end on August 13th, but there is still time to register and record those great summer reads. You can complete a registration form and get all the information at the circulation desk at the Library. August 13 is the LAST day to record any books you’ve read—no exceptions—so get busy with those lists.  Don’t forget to put one travel sticker on the old suitcase behind the circulation desk for every five books you’ve read.

Those readers already registered are doing great, some even filling out multiple log sheets for books they’ve finished. Readers—don’t forget to complete a short review form for each book and have the volunteer at the desk include it in our drawing. Every two weeks, we pick a name and award a prize. You could be a winner even if you haven’t read many books this summer.

Congratulations to our newest winners: Bev Ledbetter and Nancy Hawks!

Reading Program members—don’t forget the “End-of-the-Program Party” on Sunday, August 21 at 4:00 p.m. at the Library. We’ll have food and wine, sharing of favorite books, prizes, and surprises. It’s a great way to celebrate a great summer of reading.




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