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Placitas History Project

—Bob Gajkowski

Visitors and Traditions

In May, the Placitas History Project (PHP) hosted a visit by the docents of the Corrales Historical Society. They came to tour the Village’s two houses of worship―Las Placitas Presbyterian Church and San Antonio Catholic Mission―and to learn about the history of the churches, their congregations, and how they relate to Corrales, Bernalillo, and the greater New Mexico area. Similar trips by the docents to other towns, villages, and sites throughout the area have been made in recent months.

In the Upper Room of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, Wendy Ingram, the church historian, was joined by Vivian DeLara and Bruce MacLauchlan to address the visitors. A summary of the Village history, beginning with the Las Huertas Land Grant, the original village of San Jose de las Huertas, and the 21 families of the grant, set the background for the story of the Reverend Jose Ynes Perea. The story goes that Don Jose H. Gurule, a descendant of the early families of the Village, invited Reverend Perea, the first Spanish Presbyterian minister ordained in New Mexico, to come and preach in Placitas. In February 1894, with 39 charter members, the organization of the United Presbyterian Church of Placitas was completed. The intervening 117 years have seen the church continue to thrive. The Upper Room, which was the original sanctuary, soon became too small to accommodate the growing congregation, and additions in the 1970s, 1984, and most recently in 2005 were needed.

Las Placitas Presbyterian Church bellBruce MacLauchlan talked about the church’s bell tower and its current ongoing stabilization and renovation. He related the history of the bell, which is believed to have come from the San Felipe Pueblo Mission where it once hung. Recollections of the annual performances of Christmas plays put on by the Village children in the Upper Room drew laughs from the audience. A favorite was the tale of child thespians disappearing during the course of the performances through a trapdoor located in the floor where the altar had stood. These performances were noted as highlights of the Village’s yearly social calendar, eagerly anticipated by young and old alike.

The church tour continued to the present sanctuary, which is used not only for church services, but also as the venue for the popular Placitas Artists Series and other events. The docents toured the Fellowship Hall, where rotating exhibits of the works of local artists are displayed. The docents had a unique opportunity to see the church’s monthly outreach program held in conjunction with the Roadrunner Food Bank, as church and community members joined together to distribute foodstuffs to needy residents of the greater Placitas area.

Following the presentation at Las Placitas Church, many of the Corrales visitors joined Bob Gajkowski to walk the short distance along Paseo de San Antonio to the San Antonio Catholic Mission. On the way, conversations centered on the several sites of historic significance along this main Village thoroughfare. A burned-out adobe structure where a local resident lost his life many years ago in a fire is believed to have been the impetus for the formation of the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade. A little further along is the Randall house, which is reportedly the location of the first Catholic service in the Village. Across the road is the house once occupied by the poet Robert Creeley, who played host to his contemporary, “Beat Generation” poet Allen Ginsberg, there. 

At the San Antonio Mission, Bob Gajkowski related the history of the mission’s beginnings and the construction of its current building in 1919. Although it did not have a permanent structure until that year, the congregation  had been established with the founding of San Jose de las Huertas shortly after settlement of the land grant. Fran Stephens spoke about the beautiful stained glass windows only recently added to the interior of the mission. With a stained glass studio in Rio Rancho, Fran had designed and executed these colorful and inspiring panels. 

On May 14, 2011, an event occurred which was of great interest to the Placitas History Project because it brought back to the Placitas community a tradition that had been lost for many years. Like the Christmas Posada and the 4th of July Parade, which have been making great strides in bringing back the celebrations that make our community so unique, the Resilient Placitas organization’s reintroduction of the Blessing of the Acequias of Placitas has reinvigorated many of us.

With the settlement of San Jose de las Huertas in 1765, the residents set about the construction of acequias to bring water from the mountain springs to provide for drinking, cooking, bathing, and irrigation of their fields. By 1840, three acequias or “ditches”―La Rosa Castilla, Las Acequias de Placitas, and Las Huertas Community Ditch―carried their waters from the springs to four earthen reservoirs: El Tanque del Oso, El Tanque de la Ciruela, El Tanquecito, and El Tanque del Cañon. With the arrival of spring, the men of the Village cleaned the springs and cleared the ditches of old growth and debris. Following the cleaning, the mayordomos of the acequias were carried on the shoulders of the men to join the community in thanking God for the water and to bless this life’s blood of their village as it began its yearly flow. It is said that grape wine from the previous year’s harvest was poured into the ditches to further signify the bountifulness of the land and the help of the Almighty. After the blessing of the water, with food prepared by the women, a celebration reflecting the people’s trust in their God’s care was enjoyed  by all.

Until this May 14, it had been many years since Placitas had come together to bless the waters of its acequias and to celebrate. On that Saturday, the mayordomos and parcientes of the three Placitas “ditches” came together at El Tanque del Oso. Joined by Reverend Drew Henry of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, they gathered to bless the waters. Waters from each of the three acequias were mingled to signify the importance of each to the other and to its users. Reverend Henry’s blessing (given in both Spanish and English) conveyed the sentiments of  the 35-40 persons present:

God of many names,
Creator of us all
We ask today that you bless these waters that nurture us.
In this time of drought,
we ask for rain.
We swam in the waters of the womb before we walked the Earth.
Water is a resource we share.
Help us to protect it.
Help us to see in the Acequia
Madre your love for all creation.
Where water’s use and abuse has
divided us, bring us together.
So that all may have water.
So that all may have life. Amen.

After the ceremony, the participants gathered at the San Antonio Mission’s Social Hall to continue the celebration with a meal and much conversation. Resilient Placitas plans to continue  the “blessing” each year.

I would like to express my thanks to the following individuals whose help and encouragement with the events reported above made these past several weeks so interesting and enjoyable: Wendy Ingram, Vivian DeLara, and Bruce MacLauchlan at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; Fran Stephens at San Antonio Mission; Joan Fenicle and Vivian DeLara from Resilient Placitas for the information about the “Blessings of the Waters;“ Arlene Campbell, Bart Danford, and Judy Gajkowski for their operational skills; and Jim Conder, for calling to my attention an error in last month’s article about San Antonio Mission. The most recent addition to the mission is the north wing, completed in 2005 rather than 2004. Thank you, all! 

The Placitas History Project is looking for information on the “bead windows,” which were featured in some houses years ago and also information on the fertilizer plant located in Placitas at various locations. Call Bob at (505) 771-0253 with any information on either of these subjects.

The next monthly meeting of the PHP will be held at the Placitas Community Library on  Thursday, August 25, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

Indian dancers at the local flea market

—Anne Grey Frost
Mark your calendars for July 23 at 11 a.m. The Placitas Community Library has invited the Swift Eagle Indian Dance Group to dance at the Placitas Flea Market. The flea market is held across from the Merc in Placitas every second and fourth Saturday, and on July 23, the Swift Eagle Indian Dance Group will perform traditional Plains Indian dancing with dancers and drummers.

These dancers start to dance as soon as they can walk, and their parents make their regalias and encourage them to dance as a form of expression. Many of the feathers that these dancers will be wearing have been passed down to them by their elders for generations. 

This group has performed at many community events, and proceeds will help the dancers continue to perform. There will also be several Indian vendors at the Placitas Flea Market selling lovely Indian crafts. Please stop by the flea market, and enjoy traditional Indian dancing.

The Placitas Community Library will host Friday Night at the Movies on July 15 at 7 p.m. The crowd at the June movie night had a delightful evening and chose our next movie, which is historical fiction set in northern New Mexico. Our movie license forbids announcing the movie title in the paper, so please call the library at (505) 867-3355 for title information and to reserve your seat. $3 suggested donations to help cover costs. Traditional movie theater treats will be available.

Interested in your family history?? In August, the library will begin a series of programs on genealogy with local family history whiz, Jodie Streit. Jodie will cover the forms that are needed to get started, how to use the tools that are available at the library and online ( and and how to search for individuals in census records, military records, Civil War records, immigration and burial records, and much more. Please call (505) 867-3355 to reserve a space in this class.

Want to join a book group?? The library is starting up a new one so please call the library, and put your name on the list.

As always, the library is delighted to have new volunteers. It’s a great group, and we have fun serving our community. Please give us a call, and we will get you started.

Upcoming Adult Programs

July 2: Chess Club, 1 p.m.
July 3: Library closed in observance of Independence Day.
July 11: PCL Book Group, 4 p.m.
July 14: Placitas History Project, 6:30 p.m.
July 15: Friday Night at the Movies, 7 p.m. Reservations recommended.
July 20: PCL Board Meeting, 7 p.m.
July 22: Game Night, 7-9 p.m.
July 28: Office hours with Martin Heinrich staff, 1p.m. Your chance to share your concerns.
July 29: Artist Reception with Barbara Barkley, 5 p.m.

Bernalillo Town Council approves interim municipal budget with a 2% pay increase for employees

Mayor Jack Torres and the Town Council approved the interim 2012 fiscal year (FY2012) budget submitted to the State of New Mexico by June 1st. The approved budget includes a 2% increase in pay for all employees. “We’ve improved our financial standing considerably since last fiscal year,” said Mayor Jack Torres. “One year ago, we were considering a budget with a 3% reduction in pay and twelve furlough days for all staff. This dramatic improvement is the result of cutting operating expenses, collecting delinquent utility payments, and restructuring the Town’s debt service,” he said.  Mayor Torres also attributes greater operational efficiency to staff at all levels. “From the top down, Town employees have been diligent in managing expenditures and trimming excess from department budgets,” he said.

According to Juan Torres, Interim Finance Director, the Town’s ability to restructure debt allowed the Town to save $213,353 in debt service payments annually. Additionally, the Town has reduced operating costs by $706,700.00 from the fiscal year 2010 budget and has collected in excess of $600,000.00 in delinquent utility payments since May, 2010.

In the FY2012 budget, the Town projects $16,848,693 in revenue and $16,464,358 in expenditures. The Town will also maintain a required 1/12 reserve of the general fund expenditures. Once approved by the State of New Mexico Department of Finance Administration, the FY2012 budget goes into effect on July 1, 2011.

“Novel destinations” —Summer Reading Program

—Judy Gajkowski

The theme for this summer’s program is “Novel Destinations.” What does that mean? This theme encourages you to read or listen to a book set in some exotic place or a locale that’s new to you. Maybe you’ll find a book that makes you feel like you‘ve caught the spirit of its setting and makes you want to visit that place. The real point of the Adult Summer Reading Program is to read! You can read or listen to any kind of book you’d like―it’s your choice. All adults are invited to participate. The rules are very simple: 

     1. Complete a reading program registration form, and pick up an information packet at the library circulation desk.

     2. Record the titles and authors you read during the summer on your personal log sheet, which will be kept in a blue binder behind the circulation desk. You can read or listen to any type of book from any library, personal collection, bookstore, e-reader, cassette, or CD.

     3. Each time you record a book on your log sheet, you have the option of filling out a very basic book review form. Fill it out, and put it in the designated box behind the circulation desk. Every two weeks, we’ll pick a prize winner’s name from the “review” box. The more books you read and review, the better your chances are to win a prize.

Our first winners were Suanne Bryden and Joan Byrd. YOU COULD BE NEXT!

     4. For every five books you read, put a travel sticker on our brown “Adult Program Suitcase” as a way of showing how many books we’ve read as a group. The suitcase is located behind the circulation desk.

     5. Record books read from May 14 through August 13. All books must be recorded by August 13. Then join us for an end-of-the-program celebration with wine, cheese, snacks, prizes, and surprises on Sunday, August 21, at 4 p.m.

It’s easy to register, and fun to explore new authors or areas of interest. Just check with the volunteers at the circulation desk if you have any questions, or call Judy G. at (505) 771-0253.

Trash service in the Town of Bernalillo

—Town of Bernalillo
Trash service is included in your monthly utility billing. Unlike other municipalities, the Town of Bernalillo does not add a surcharge to this service.

Current rates: $12.98 per month; extra cart―$3.90 per month. Recycle bins are charged at $2.84 a month, whether or not they are used. Things that should not be placed in trash carts for collection: motor oil or bulk liquids, human waste, auto parts, rocks, concrete, sand, gravel, or dirt.

Cart(s) must be placed curbside, with the lids closed no later than 7 a.m. on the collection day. Please bag your trash prior to placing it in the garbage cart. Please note that trash and recyclables are collected by different trucks and at different times during the day. Also, recyclables are collected every other week.

Use brown paper sacks to contain your recyclables, especially newspapers to also prevent them from blowing out of the trucks upon dumping. Please do not put yard clippings in the recycling container—they should go in the trash container.

If there is a missed pick up or late set out, please call Waste Management at (505) 892-1200.  For billing issues or additional carts or to start new service, stop service, or increase service, call the Town of Bernalillo at (505) 771-7122.

For information about recycling, visit, and see the next newsletter.

Do not burn weeds

The Town of Bernalillo Fire Department, in cooperation with the Sandoval County Fire Department, has declared that due to extreme fire danger, there will be no burning of weeds allowed in the town
until further notice.

Overproduction of produce? Casa Rosa loves fruits and veggies!

—Betsy Model
We understand completely—when you bought that little tray of six zucchini starts or those cute little tomato plants in their four-inch containers at the nursery, they looked so puny that you thought you’d buy a few extra, just to make sure you had some actual produce on hand in midsummer.

Well, sometimes those beans, zucchinis, and tomatoes have a mind of their own, and this summer’s unusually hot weather may have caused your little, tiny plant starts to take on a growth cycle that rivals Jack’s beanstalk. 

If you’re faced with an overabundance of garden produce this year—fruits, veggies, herbs, or nuts—consider donating your spare vitamins to Casa Rosa Food Bank. Fresh produce isn’t always easy for the food bank to order through Roadrunner or via the commodity list, so that spare spinach, those audacious artichokes, or bountiful beans will be a welcome addition to their Saturday food distributions.

Casa Rosa Food Bank can easily accept fresh produce donations on Friday mornings, when volunteers are busily unloading the Roadrunner truck from 9 to 10 a.m. and then during actual Saturday morning grocery distributions, from 9 a.m. until noon.

Can’t make either of those times for a quick-and-easy drop off? You can e-mail Casa Rosa Food Bank at to find out whether a food bank volunteer can meet you at the facility, or contact one of our board members directly—Tom at (505) 404-8104, Karen at (505) 867-5749, or Sherrill at (505) 771-1125.

Last but not least, you can also reach out to the church administrator at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church between the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Refrigerator space at the church—located next door to Casa Rosa Food Bank—is limited, so the ability for them to accept large donation amounts of produce requiring refrigeration may be limited.

Water harvesting

—Dennis Fortier, Resilient Placitas
In 1989, I purchased a plot of land in the Tunnel Springs area with the intent to build a home myself, which I had never done before. The land of interest had a well, so I acquired the well driller’s report that stated the well produced 12 gpm. Based on that information, I purchased the property and began building. 

The first phase was to build a full basement, and I needed water for that phase. No problem, I have a well, so I purchased a submersible pump, wire, and supply pipe and proceeded to install the pump. Having purchased a generator to run power tools, I figured it would be possible to run the pump and use the water for the basement phase. After starting the generator and getting water, I quickly discovered the water was pumping drilling fines also and hoped the water would clear after several pumping cycles. Unfortunately, after 15 minutes on the first cycle, the well stopped producing.

Panic mode set in, and I determined that I didn’t have enough funds to invest in a well also, so I did research on water harvesting. This resulted in my deciding to install a sloped roof using metal roofing materials and associated gutters, downspouts, and collection pipes. That was the easy part, but how would I manage the collected water? I needed a storage unit, but my research showed that getting a fairly large fiberglass/plastic tank would be costly, and at that time, I had decided it not wise to store water above ground due to the visual impact and potential moss/algae generation from the sun and freezing from the winters. 

I had just completed casting a concrete basement and thought that experience could be applied to building a cistern. Using the average rain fall figures from the Albuquerque airport, the roof surface area, site location for physical space, and building materials, I decided to build a 6,000 gallon, underground cistern patterned after my basement. The cistern was cast using eight-inch thick walls eight feet high and fully laced with rebar at 12-inch centers vertically and horizontally. Its location allowed gravity to do all the work, so no pumps were needed to collect the water.

Being now quite greedy with storing water, I decided to also capture gray water from the washing machine, so I buried two new 1,000 gallon plastic ribbed septic tanks and routed wash water into them, one overflowing into the other. I then installed an overflow pipe from the cistern into the gray water tanks, so if and when the cistern overflowed, that water could be captured also. The gray water system is used for gardening, and after 13 years, the plants and trees haven’t complained and grow quite well. In 13 years of water harvesting, my system has overflowed only four times.

I decided I needed to know more about rainfall in my immediate area and started keeping records, which showed that over the past 12 years and prior to this one, the average annual rainfall is 12.92.” The lowest year was 2001 with 7.08 Inches, and the highest year was 2006, at 18.29 inches. For the first eight years, this system completely supported a family of four with showers, clothes washing, dishes, etc. Conservation was a priceless lesson which we continue to practice.

Existence here would not be possible without conservation. We live in the desert, and rain is a blessing and something we can’t and shouldn’t take for granted. We all need to conserve. I believe if we all harvest water in one way or another, water shortage may not become a serious issue. There are economical and attractive ways to harvest and store water.

Wars have been fought over water and may yet be fought, perhaps even in Placitas. How long could you live in this beautiful area when your well goes dry and ground water is no longer available or iffy at best?

Many villages, towns, and homes harvest water throughout the world, and so can we. If we don’t reduce our dependency on pumped water, the day will come when you will ask yourself, why didn’t I harvest water, too? 

Please check the Resilient Placitas Web site at  for resources and workshops on resilient topics, including ones on water issues.

Inner Cowboy

Satisfy your inner cowboy

The Rodeo at Tamaya is back. Participants of this weekly rodeo include professional rodeo riders from around the country, cowboys and cowgirls from the Stables at Tamaya, experienced local residents, and resort guests who have been trained throughout their stay at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa.

“We are delighted to provide guests and local residents the experience of attending and participating in an actual rodeo,” said Jena Marquez, public relations and marketing manager from the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa. “The rodeo provides fun for the entire family and includes events that are seen on a national circuit at a reasonable price right here at the resort.”

The rodeos will include a variety of traditional rodeo events including:

  • Grand Entry. A traditional opening to a rodeo, which features the participants riding on horseback and carrying flags around the arena. The Grand Entry is used to introduce the riders to the audience.
  • Team roping. A timed event in which two riders rope opposite ends of a steer. The person selected as the “header” will rope the front end of the steer, and the “heeler” will rope the back end.
  • Team branding. Two people on horseback rope a heifer, while two people on foot secure and simulate branding. Actual branding of the heifer does not take place. It is only a reenactment.
  • Barrel racing. An event in which a person on horseback rides through a timed course of preset barrels.
  • Team penning. Includes three riders on horseback who identify three specific cattle from a herd and put them into a pen at the opposite end of the arena.
  • Stick barrel race. An event in which children are allowed to compete against one another in a barrel race, while riding a “stick” horse.

Connie Collis, director of the Stables at Tamaya, teaches resort guests how to ride a horse and the fundamentals of rodeo participation. “As many of our guests are unable to watch or participate in a rodeo where they live, we are pleased to provide them with the experience, as well as the instruction to take part in the event,” said Collis. The rodeo program is designed to safely provide guests with the Southwestern experience of rodeo by providing professional training and guidance prior to their participation in the event.

The Rodeo at Tamaya is $20 for resort guests, free for guest children 12 and under, $30 for nonresort guests, and $15 for nonresort guest children 12 and under. Entrance to the rodeo includes a cowboy dinner with all the hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, and water guests can enjoy. The rodeo takes place every Thursday evening between June 16 and September 1 at 6 p.m. and lasts until 7:30 p.m., weather permitting. 

For more information on the Rodeo at Tamaya, please visit, or call the resort activity desk at (505) 771-6037.

Movies under the stars

The City of Rio Rancho’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department is offering free outdoor movies all summer long at different park locations.

Family friendly movies will be shown on a large inflatable screen on July 4, July 16, July 30, and Aug. 6. Please visit the city’s Web site at for a listing of movies that will be shown.

Movies will begin at dusk, and all ages are welcome. Those under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. In addition, blankets, folding chairs, and picnic baskets are encouraged; alcoholic beverages and smoking are not permitted. Restrooms will be available.

Movies will be canceled due to inclement weather, including wind and lightning. Weather cancellations will be made one hour prior to the start of the movie.

City of Rio Rancho Fourth of July holiday closures

In observance of the Fourth of July holiday, City of Rio Rancho offices, facilities, and programs will be closed on Monday, July 4, 2011, with the exception of the city’s three outdoor pools.

The Haynes Community Center Pool (2006 Grande Blvd.), the Cabezon Recreation Center Pool (2307 Cabezon Blvd.), and the Rainbow Pool (301 Southern Blvd.) will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on July 4. The daily fee to use any of the outdoor pools is $4. The fee for children ages 12 and under, as well as adults 55 years of age and older, is $3 per day.

For additional information, please visit the city’s Web site (, or call the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department at (505) 891-5015.



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