The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


El Rinconcito español

• El ratón le dice al gato: no juegues con la comida.
The mouse says to the cat: Don’t play with your food.

• La vida es como una receta de comida; el sazón tú se lo pones.
Life is like a recipe; you must add the seasoning to your own taste.

• Quien comparte su comida, no pasa solo la vida.
He who shares his food doesn’t pass through life alone.

Submitted by, Placitas—Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills.

Hikers pose for a picture on a previous Las Placitas Association outing

Hikers pose for a picture on a previous Las Placitas Association outing

Learn about the plants of the Placitas Open Space

William Dunmire will lead us on a tour of the Placitas Open Space on Saturday, May 12 to identify shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants. The wildflowers should be spectacular this year! Bill is a retired National Park Service naturalist and writer-photographer on natural history topics. To see the Placitas Open Space plant list, visit Please do not bring pets on the hike. If you would like to join us, meet at the Open Space East Access at 8:45 a.m. on May 12.

To reach the Placitas Open Space, travel east on Highway 165 for 6.9 miles. Turn left (north) onto Camino de las Huertas for 2.9 miles. Turn left on Llano del Norte and go 0.4 mile. As the road bends left, follow it around. Follow the dirt road west 0.7 mile. The “main road” bends left at a fence—keep going straight on the two-track road. Drive along the fence about 0.1 mile until you bear slightly right and come to a gate marked “BLM Property.” Drive through the gate (please close it!) and follow the two-track road around to the left. Go through the second drop-gate and keep following the two-track road; you will come to an Albuquerque Open Space sign where you should park.

Monument hosts May events

Two events are showcased this month by the Friends of Coronado State Monument. On Saturday, May 19, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., a gourd workshop will give you a chance to make your own creation—a birdhouse, bird feeder, mask, folk-art chicken, Southwestern doll, or whatever you can see in a gourd. The cost of $20 per person includes two buffalo gourds and supplies necessary to complete a beautiful project. Attend yourself or bring friends and family and a sack lunch to the portal of Coronado State Monument. Space is limited, so reservations are suggested. Call Pat Harris at 822-8571 or email by May 12 to reserve a space.

On Sunday, May 20, the Friends are sponsoring a presentation by Dr. Linda Cordell at 2:00 p.m. at Coronado State Monument, on the topic of “Making Community at Tijeras Pueblo.”

Tijeras Pueblo, a fourteenth-century mountain village, has just been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. New research (some of which was directed by Dr. Cordell) provides fascinating insights into the many-faceted relationships among the residents of this community and villages as distant as Socorro, Zuni, and Acoma, as well as those closer such as Paa-ko. Understanding the community at Tijeras Pueblo gives new perspective on a dynamic period in Pueblo Indian history.
Space is limited, so reservations are suggested. To reserve a space, call Gordon Forbes at 771-3464 or email Admission is $5 per person, and is free to members of Friends of Coronado State Monument. The Monument is on US 550, about one mile west of I-25.

“Dreamscape Desperado” recounts life of Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid is not only New Mexico’s most famous citizen, but the most famous outlaw in American history. Beginning on Sunday, May 13, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History will present the facts and myths that surround Billy the Kid, in the exhibition “Dreamscape Desperado: Billy the Kid and the Outlaw in America.”

Dreamscape Desperado will include historic artifacts from Billy and his era, along with a unique collection of pop culture items inspired by his legend. These will encompass everything from songs about Billy to comic books and movie clips.

Opening Day activities on May 13 will include a 1:00 p.m. Billy the Kid lecture. Learn more about famous outlaw Billy the Kid in a lecture by Paul Hutton, the guest curator of the Dreamscape Desperado exhibition. Hutton is a Professor of History at the University of New Mexico, specializing in U.S. history, the American West, and U.S. military history. He has appeared in, written, or narrated over one hundred-fifty television documentaries on CBS, NBC, PBS, Discover, Disney Channel, TBS, TNN, A&E, and the History Channel, and is also the Executive Director of the Western History Association.
The lecture is free with museum admission. Dreamscape Desperado is on display through July 22 at 2000 Mountain Road NW.

Museum admission price is $4 for adults ($1 discount to New Mexico residents with ID), $2 for seniors (65+), and $1 for children ages four through twelve. Children age three and under are free. General admission is free the first Wednesday of the month and every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

New Mexico’s Spanish livestock heritage

When crops, foods, and agriculture from the Old World made their way from Spain to Mexico then up El Camino Real with Don Juan Oñate to northern New Mexico in 1598, the Southwest would be changed forever. Unquestionably the most profound impact those colonists and Franciscan missionaries made on the lives of New Mexico’s Puebloan residents, and on the land itself, resulted from their introduction of domestic animals. Those herds of horses and cattle and flocks of sheep and goats accompanying Oñate’s caravan laid the foundation for a livestock industry that would dominate much of the Southwest in years to come. Chickens, originally from Asia, were one of the least visible animals that leap-frogged to New Spain’s northernmost outpost with Oñate’s, yet they soon spread rapidly from village to village. But though Puebloans were already propagating domesticated turkeys they seem not to have readily accepted the novel barnyard fowl. Pigs also accompanied Oñate’s wagon trains, but they failed to significantly disperse. That’s probably because New Mexico’s climate was far less conducive than Mexico’s humid lowlands for raising swine. Besides, Puebloans are unlikely to have tolerated domestic or feral pigs running amok in their precious corn fields where the low-statured strains of corn would permit easy stripping of ripening ears.

Horses were another matter. In the 1600s New Mexico’s far-flung missions needed horses and mules for efficient farm and ranch operation. Friars couldn’t possibly do all the necessary riding, so teaching horsemanship to Puebloan converts must have been a priority, regardless that Indian ownership of horses was discouraged, if not forbidden. Soon enough, though, a horse would stray from its mission settlement and become semi-wild, only to be recaptured and secretly retained by a Puebloan who likely had gained his experience in handling livestock by observing the Franciscans.

Occasional bands of short-legged feral mustangs—typically a stallion with half a dozen mares—still roam on public lands and Indian reservations in parts of rural New Mexico. Recent blood tests of horses from one of these wild bands wandering on Mt. Taylor west of Albuquerque showed that some of the animals can be genetically linked to original Spanish stock.

Where I live in rural Placitas, untamed mustangs, apparently long ago escaped from nearby San Felipe Pueblo Reservation, still move skittishly about our unfenced countryside and are a topic of community chit-chat. Either you think they’re great (the animal lovers) or a great nuisance (some of our farmers).

Most of the hundreds of cattle trailed to the new colony ended up being slaughtered for the table; nevertheless, enough survived to breed. So when Franciscans fanned out to establish their network of missions, they always took at least a few cows and a bull or two. Yet Hispanic New Mexico never became a primary cattle ranching center during colonial times. This may have been because Puebloans strongly objected to range animals trampling their irrigated fields.

If New Mexico’s infant cattle industry met with only indifferent success, an explosion in numbers of the colony’s sheep proved sensational. Old World sheep had actually entered the territory in 1540 with Coronado who drove huge flocks up the Rio Grande to his encampments. When that Don Quixote—like conquistador departed two years later, he left some sheep at Pecos Pueblo, but none of their offspring appear to have survived. Just how many sheep and goats streamed into New Mexico with Oñate nearly sixty years later is hard to say, but a flock of more than a thousand was counted in Santa Fe twelve years after the colony’s beginning. In another thirty years it was claimed each of the more than two dozen Franciscan missions in New Mexico owned up to two thousand head apiece.

These were not Spain’s famous “merino” breed of sheep, prized for their fine, high-yielding fleece. Instead it was the lowly “churro” breed that first made it to the West Indies with Columbus, then proliferated across the Mexican highlands, and finally accompanied Oñate on his trek north.

The tough churros were ideally adapted to enduring environmental rigors of the arid Southwest. They seemed to thrive on sparse grama grass and shrubby foliage. Compared with merinos, churros produced a better quality mutton, and their wool, consisting of hard, straight fibers, had a naturally worsted property that lent itself to hand spinning and weaving. Furthermore, churro wool was particularly suited for absorbing the vibrant pigments Puebloans knew how to extract from a number of wild dye plants. Rugs and garments woven from churro wool are prized among collectors more than ever today.
And finally—dogs. They were already here, for domesticated dogs had traveled with nomadic Native American tribes for thousands of years. Ancestral Puebloans kept spaniel-sized dogs, most likely for flushing our wild game during hunts and possibly as household pets. But, in contrast to some parts of Mexico, there is no evidence that dogs ever ended up in Puebloan stew pots.

This article has been partly excerpted from the author’s book, Gardens of New Spain: How Mediterranean Plants and Foods Changed America, published by the University of Texas Press in 2004. [Placitas, NM, resident Dunmire is an Associate in Biology at the University of New Mexico and serves on the Board of Directors for the Historical Society of New Mexico.] This article was distributed by the Historical Society of New Mexico.





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