Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Up Front

c. Mtthew J. Barbour

Girls meet “el Toro” at a past Fiestas de San Lorenzo in Bernalillo
Photo credit: —Ramona Martinez

The beautiful dance of subjugation

—Matthew J. Barbour, Site Manger, Jemez Historic Site

Bernalillo has been dubbed the “City of Coronado” due to the village’s location atop a Tiwa Pueblo sacked by Francisco de Coronado during the Tiguex War of 1540-1541. Archival documents suggest initial Spanish settlement of the region during the early seventeenth century. However, the villa of Bernalillo was not formally established until after the Spanish reconquista of New Mexico in 1693. Creation of the official villa can be credited to Diego de Vargas and his alliance with the Keres Pueblos of Puname Province (including Zia and Santa Ana).

Since its founding over three hundred year ago, the inhabitants of Bernalillo have gathered every August to celebrate their patron saint, Saint Lawrence (San Lorenzo), and thank God for a bountiful harvest. Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo is a three-day event that includes prayer, music, dance, and other festivities. The hallmark of the event is the Danza de Matachines, a dance referred to by anthropologist Dr. Sylvia Rodriguez as the “beautiful dance of subjugation.”

Origins of the dance are the subject of some academic debate. Some believe the dance has its roots in pre-Christian Spain, while others suggest the dance was created by the Catholic Church as a means of converting the Islamic Moors in the fifteenth century. Regardless of origin, the dance appears to have been transferred to the New World as a means for converting the indigenous populations to Catholicism.

The dance involves masked men (and in the case of Bernalillo, women, too), known as matachines, performing an elaborate choreography. In the dance, the Monarch, el Monarca, is tempted away from the flock by the malevolent Bull, el Toro. To bring him back to the fold, the grandfathers, los Abuelos, bring out the Princess, la Malinche. La Malinche uses her smiles and wiles to draw el Monarca back to the flock while los Abuelos keep el Toro at bay. Once el Monarca has been brought back into the fold, el Toro is killed and the dance is done.

Today, variations of the dance are performed throughout the New World from Peru to northern New Mexico. The widespread distribution and longevity of the Matachines Dance attests to both its function as a mechanism for religious conversion and its cultural significance among Hispanic and Native American populations.

The dance is both a thing of beauty and history. However, to fully appreciate and understand the dance, one must experience it firsthand. The dance is held in Bernalillo annually, on August 9 to 11, as part of the Fiestas de San Lorenzo. The location of the dance changes every year. Contact the Sandoval County Visitor Center at 867-8687 for times and locations.

Town of Bernalillo announces logo contest

—Steve and Margie Amiot

An organization dubbed the Business Roundtable is beginning a campaign designed to create more activity in the Bernalillo business community. The Roundtable is a group of business owners and town staff working cooperatively to increase business activity and awareness of businesses that are in Bernalillo. The need for residents to spend their money locally is critical to the prosperity of local businesses, and essential to the finances of the Town, as gross receipts tax is its main source of income.

A business directory will be published, soon. And, in order to both entertain and educate people about the long and fascinating history of Bernalillo, the Town will be partnering with the Sandoval Historical Society to feature presentations and enactments.

As part of this effort, the Town of Bernalillo and the Business Roundtable are announcing a contest to create a new logo and slogan promoting shopping locally. The intent is to utilize the newly created logo in numerous merchandising efforts. All town businesses will be invited to prominently display the logo and slogan. Hopefully, consumers can then recognize what businesses contribute to gross receipt tax and patronize them. The Roundtable is also considering using the logo and slogan on bumper stickers.

Rules for the contest are simple:

  • Maximum size: 8X6 inches
  • Submit two hard copies by September 13 by 5:00 p.m.
  • Include name and contact information
  • All decisions by the Business Roundtable will be final
  • Winning entry becomes the property of the Town of Bernalillo
  • Decision will be announced on October 14 at the Town Council Meeting
  • Top entries will be awarded prizes
  • Winning entry will be featured on promotional materials throughout the community

Send entries to: Ida Fierro, P. O. Box 638, Bernalillo, NM 87004, or drop off at the reception desk at Bernalillo Town Hall. All questions should be referred to Ida Fierro at 771-7128, cell 991-4093, or email questions to:

All Bernalillo business owners are encouraged to join the Business Roundtable’s efforts. The next meeting is August 14, at 6:00 p.m., at Bernalillo Town Hall.

Hungry free-roaming horses are fed by concerned private residents during drought conditions in Placitas.

Horse news roundup

—Ty Belknap

Last month, we told you of County Commissioner Orlando Lucero’s intention to enlist volunteers to roundup the stray horses near the roads in Placitas. He felt that the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) had failed to come through on a promise (made at Lucero’s “No More Horsing Around” meeting held in early June) to relocate thirty or forty horses to prearranged homes.

Since the meeting WHOA refused to take action on the relocations until certain conditions were met. WHOA has requested a stipulated agreement from the BLM which would allow them to remove horses from the roads without affecting their legally wild status as contended in WHOA’s lawsuit against the BLM. WHOA also requested that BLM, NMLB, and New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) change current regulations to allow WHOA to administer the contraceptive PZP to the remaining horses.

Lucero’s roundup never happened. When contacted by the Signpost on July 23, Lucero said that the roundup was no longer necessary, because most of the horses seemed to have been removed from the roads. “I haven’t heard anything or had any complaints from anybody this month. I appreciate what people are doing to feed the horses and take care of the problem,” he said. “Things seem to be working out.”

Late one night in late June, the Signpost staff observed five horses being moved from the village to a private corral where they now appear to be flourishing. Leslie Linthicum’s July 28 article in the Albuquerque Journal, “Old West Showdown in Placitas,” reported that Gary Miles, head of Placitas Animal Rescue, had relocated 16 horses to an undisclosed corral. It is possible that even more horses have been corralled and are being fed without the cumbersome adoption process required by the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB), which has provided no help in resolving the Placitas horse problems. Miles told the Journal that WHOA is not in any way a part of his feeding program dubbed “Keep ‘Em North.”

WHOA is still trying to get state authorization to administer the PZP contraceptive. Nobody mentions castration as an option. The Journal article reported that twenty mares are presently pregnant.

Local attorney Dave Reynolds made a presentation at the Placitas Presentation Series at the community library on July 9, addressing the potential civil liability faced by area residents and others who provide feed or water to the horses, or who breach fences to allow the horses onto private property.

Zane Dohner, organizer of the Placitas Presentation Series has been posting a “Notice of Liability,” based on Reynold’s presentation, at residences where wandering horses are fed and watered. Cedar Creek subdivision resident Karen DeMart wrote a letter to the Signpost expressing outrage over Dohner’s delivery, considering it a threat, and saying, “I am not going to watch the Placitas horses perish, and there are plenty others with the same sense of decency as me.” Dohner’s notice and DeMart’s letter are both posted in the Gauntlet section of the Signpost August web edition.

At least six residents of the Cedar Creek subdivision who openly feed and water the horses are apparently unconcerned about potential liability. Cedar Creek and the Indian Flats area are becoming open corrals during the drought-and-overgrazing crisis that threatens the horses with starvation.

An article appearing in the Journal on July 6 reported “A Placitas animal advocate says donations are pouring in to help buy feed for free-roaming horses that are running out of natural food sources in the foothills community’s drought-stricken lands. Gary Miles estimated he’s received between $2,000 and $3,000 from donors all over the country since Corrales-based horse photographer Lynne Pomeranz posted an appeal about the plight of the Placitas horses on her Facebook page.”

One sign on Miles’s trailer read “Our Placitas Wild Horses Thank You.” Another read “If you don’t like our Wild Horses Move!!!”

Although the controversy has calmed, issues remain unresolved. Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District continues to press its demand that NMLB remove stray horses from the Placitas area. NMLB has not responded to this demand. WHOA’s lawsuit against the BLM drags on. Fencing the Placitas Open Space as promised by Albuquerque Open Space has not happened. County Manager Phil Rios did not follow up on his suggestion of a July meeting with Placitans concerned with the horse problem or the hiring of a “problem solution facilitator” to help find some consensus between competing advocates.

It is unlikely that people who prefer a healthy environment to free-roaming horses (horse haters) will ever find consensus with the people that think horse haters should get out of town. Nevertheless, it appears that the steps that have been taken this summer, behind the scenes and without government assistance, have improved the horse problem. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, many Placitans agree that too many are bad for the environment, public safety, and the horses themselves.

Mullanes appeal Powell’s rejection to district court

—Ty Belknap

On April 12, 2013, former District Judge James A. Hall, serving as hearing officer, ruled that state Land Commissioner Ray Powell acted improperly in rejecting assignment of the Dixon Apple Orchard lease to San Felipe Pueblo. On May 11, 2012, Dixon Apples filed an appeal with the New Mexico State Land Office regarding the decision by Powell to deny a lease transfer deal between the Mullane family and San Felipe Pueblo. Flood and fire destroyed much of orchard in the summer of 2011.

Hall found that Powell’s rejection of the lease transfer was primarily based on an erroneous assumption that he had the authority to separate a substantial portion of the leased land from the lease if it was in the best interest of the state, and that rejection of the transfer was arbitrary and capricious. The Dixon family has cared for land containing 345 archeological sites on eight thousand acres adjoining the orchard since long before it became state trust land. Hall recommended that Powell reconsider the options for reassignment of the lease.

On June 28, Commissioner Powell issued his response to Hall’s ruling, accepting the recommendation that the Mullanes should be given an opportunity to explore a mutually agreeable assignment of their lease, but rejected the recommendation that the Mullanes have a contractual right to assign the entirety of the lease free of any ability on the commissioner to reduce the 8,641 acres of “non-productive lands.” Powell still insists that the assignee must have sufficient experience successfully managing an apple farm. He concluded that San Felipe Pueblo lacked this experience and that this point is largely moot at this time because San Felipe has indicated that they are no longer interested in pursuing the lease.

Although the Mullanes had found great success in operating their iconic seventy-year-old family business, they decided that continuing was neither safe nor economically feasible after the orchard was severely damaged by the Las Conchas Fire and ensuing floods of 2011. Much of the irrigation system and other infrastructure was completely destroyed. They arranged to transfer the State Land Office lease to San Felipe Pueblo last year for a reported $2.8 million.

Powell issued an emphatic public denial of the transfer, saying allowing reassignment of the lease would perpetuate a “sweetheart deal” arranged by former Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons that would waste taxpayer dollars. He said San Felipe lacked the orchard experience required by the lease and were motivated by an interest in cultural sites in eight thousand acres of Land Office land surrounding the orchard.

The Land Office installed a temporary irrigation system that was wiped out by recent flooding that also destroyed more apple trees. Becky Mullane said that the Land Office has done nothing to mitigate flooding and could have installed a gravity-fed irrigation system that could survive flooding. 

Attorney Thomas Hnasko said that the Mullanes have appealed the case to district court.

BLM issues decision on natural gas pipeline project

Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Farmington Field Office, New Mexico, has completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) evaluating a right-of-way (ROW) application from Enterprise Mid-America Pipeline (MAPL) for the construction, operation, maintenance, and abandonment of about 233 miles of natural gas pipeline known as the Western Expansion Pipeline III Project (WEPIII).

The EA reflects response to public comments made during a thirty-day public comment period on the EA, including comments requesting additional information on public safety, floodplain information, adjustments to avoid impacts to Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and additional groundwater well data.

The BLM has developed an EA to analyze the environmental impacts from the proposed project. The EA serves as the basis for the BLM’s decision to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed action. After a thorough analysis of the potential environmental impacts and consideration of comments from the public and State and Federal agencies, the BLM has decided to approve the MAPL WEP III Project.

The pipeline route will cross approximately 67 miles of BLM land, 26 miles of tribal lands (Navajo Nation and Zia Pueblo) administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 27 miles of state land, and 114 miles of private lands. The Applicant estimates construction could begin as early as summer 2013 and will take approximately six to nine months to complete.

For additional information on the project, contact Lorraine Salas, BLM National Project Manager, stationed at the Las Cruces District Office, 1800 Marquess St., Las Cruces, NM 88005 (phone 575-525-4388, email:

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