The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Lt. Governor Denish comes to Placitas

On August 27, Lt. Governor Diane Denish hosted a town hall meeting at Anasazi Fields Winery, in Placitas. About fifty residents in attendance heard Denish speak about the administration priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Denish has been serving as acting governor when Governor Richardson is out of state campaigning in his bid for the presidency. She will be a candidate for governor in the next election.

Denish spent two hours discussing residents’ concerns about issues such as health care and problems resulting from poor planning of the rapid development in the area. She told the audience that the administration has been looking into initiatives to study water availability, traffic, and problems with infrastructure.

Denish said that she is holding town hall meetings throughout the state to find out about public concerns so they can be addressed by the government.

Saturdays with Mayor Chávez

The next Saturday morning with Mayor Patricia A. Chávez is scheduled for Saturday, September 8, 2007 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the Council Chambers. To sign up for a ten-minute session with Mayor Chávez or for further information, call Ida Fierro at 771-7128.

Town is looking for water rights

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez and staff are working to ensure that community drinking water supplies are adequate to meet future needs. Toward that end, the Town seeks to purchase additional water rights from individuals who are interested in selling them.

To qualify for consideration, the water rights must have been put to beneficial use prior to 1907 and cannot be Conservancy District rights. Purchases will be made at the current market rate, to be determined by the Town jointly with its water rights consultant.

If you would like to obtain more information, contact the office of Mayor Patricia A. Chávez at 771-7129 or Margaret Valdez at the Town’s Planning and Zoning Department at 771-7118.

El Rinconcito español

A bicho que no reconozcas, no le pises la cola.
If you don’t recognize a bug, don’t step on its tail.

A la vejez se apoca el dormir, y se aumenta el gruñir.
In old age, sleep dwindles and grumbling increases.

Cabeza grande, poco seso y mucho aire.
Big head, little brain, and a lot of air.

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

Smithsonian exhibit, “America by Food” comes to Bernalillo

The New Mexico Humanities Council and the Sandoval County Historical Society, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, presents “Key Ingredients: America by Food,” a traveling exhibit that explores the entertaining and informative aspects of our diverse regional cooking and eating traditions.

The exhibit, accompanied by lectures and demonstrations hosted by local experts, will be open to the public from September 29 through November 9. These programs will provide free learning opportunities for students and adults interested in Native American foods, prehistoric agriculture, Hispanic villages and traditions, and wine in New Mexico, in addition to current agriculture and acequia topics. For details, view the complete agenda at

All programs are free to the public and will be held at the Delavy House Museum at 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The exhibits are open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day during the six-week period. The museum is located in Bernalillo, on Highway 550. Look for signs to guide you to the museum—the home of the Sandoval County Historical Society.

Tours of the exhibits will be available on weekdays for clubs, school classes, tourists, groups, and visitors. Reservations for tours may be made by calling 867-2755.

Wines chosen for awards in wine festival competition

The Town of Bernalillo held its second annual wine competition of the New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo at the Sandia Resort and Casino on August 18. The competition was open to participating festival wineries using New Mexico grapes, fruit, honey, or other products in the making of their wine. Wineries will have the wine available for purchase at the upcoming New Mexico Wine Festival.

The wines were tasted in a blind format and evaluated on the following criteria: color/clarity, bouquet/aroma, balance/body, flavors/taste, length/finish, and overall impression. Wine entries featured over ninety wines representing many New Mexico wineries.

Awarding-winning wines received a judging consensus to be eligible for honors. The judges’ panel was well-rounded and represented wine buyers from New Mexico premium restaurants and boutiques, a fine-dining executive chef, wine growers, wine enthusiasts, and connoisseurs. Bernalillo Mayor Patricia A. Chávez will formally present awards of the top-scoring wines to wineries at the festival in Bernalillo on Sunday, September 2 at 1:00 p.m.

“As one of the founding members of the New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo, it is a pleasure to continue the competition this year and see it expand in the number of wineries participating,” states Mayor Chávez. “The Town of Bernalillo wants to recognize wineries and winemakers for a long history of winemaking in New Mexico and of New Mexico fruits. I am impressed with the professional evaluation and execution of the wine competition, and pleased with the support of the wineries. This annual competition showcases the talents of New Mexico wineries, winemakers, and grape growers.”

The wine competition award results are as follows:

• “Best of Festival,” granted to one wine with the best overall total score without regard to varietals or category: Santa Fe Vineyards, Zinfandel Port

• “Judges’ Favorite,” a newly-introduced category award: Arena Blanca, Chocolate Diablo 2005

• “Best of Class—Sparkling Wine:” St. Clair, Bellissimo NV

• “Best of Class—White Wine:”Arena Blanca, Gewurztraminer 2004

• “Best of Class—Blush Wine:”Luna Rossa Winery, White Zinfandel 2006

• “Best of Class—Red Wine:” DH Lescombes, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

• “Best of Class—Other Wines:” Santa Fe Vineyards, Zinfandel Port

• “Gold Medal Winners:”

—Black Mesa, Black Beauty 5% RS

—Blue Teal Vineyards, Muscat NV

—Luna Rossa Winery, Shiraz 2005

—Santa Fe Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

—St. Clair, Malvasia NV

—Tularosa Vineyards, White Zinfandel NV

—Wines of San Juan, Merlot Blend 2004

• “Silver Medal Winners:”

—Arena Blanca Montaño Blanco NV

—DH Lescombes, Brut NV

—DH Lescombes, Syrah 2006

—Luna Rossa, Malvasia Blanca 2006

—Mademoiselle, Muscat NV

—Mademoiselle, Ruby Cabernet NV

—Santa Fe Vineyards, Harvest Gold 2005

The 2007 New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo will be held on Labor Day weekend, September 1, 2, and 3 at Loretto Park in Bernalillo. Visit for festival details and tickets.

Coronado State Monument offers crafts workshops

On September 8 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., a tin-punching workshop will be held at the Coronado State Monument, located at 485 Kuaua Road, one mile west of I-25 on Highway 550/44 in Bernalillo. Tinsmith Jason Younis y Delgado, a Santa Fe native, is the workshop instructor. Jason learned tin-punching from his grandmother Angelina Martinez and today continues the craft of five family generations using tools given to him by his grandmother. He makes punches to reproduce designs of seventeenth century Spanish Colonial tinwork, incorporating his own unique imagery, and draws from traditional family patterns and historical tinwork.

The workshop fee is $75, and includes all materials (tools and tin), as well as personal instruction for making three tin pieces which participants may keep. Each piece introduces new skills and techniques. Additional tools, punches, and tin will be available for sale.

The tin-punching workshop is limited to ten participants. Contact Scott at 867-5351 or email to reserve your space.

On September 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the Friends of Coronado State Monument will hold a Southwestern candle-making workshop. The event will begin with an informational talk on how to pour gel candles. Following this, participants will decorate two candles in their own style. Four fragrances are offered along with several colors of candles. The fee is $30 per person, which includes instruction and all materials, supplies, and decorations for the candles you make. Contact Linda Vogel at 821-8432 or email to reserve your space.

Respiration and inspiration: tuberculosis and New Mexico’s literary history

It’s perhaps fortuitous that the word “inspiration” in Greek means to inhale. The Southwest and in particular New Mexico have a long history of inspiring artists, many of whom came here not so much for artistic or literary inspiration as they did for an enhanced ability literally to breathe, to live—to recover from sundry pulmonary ailments such as asthma and tuberculosis. And in the coming and the caring received here, their illnesses became part of both the method and the message of their art.

The list of literary “lungers” is thus long and intriguing, prompting the question of just what the causal relationship was and still is between illness and creativity, between time in one’s creative life and mortality. Edward Said traces some distinctive traits of an artist’s late style and Susan Sontag makes some convincing connections between illness and metaphor. It’s no coincidence that much of these two critics’ fascination with death and dying occurred during their own physical deterioration and demise. The English poet John Keats is perhaps the most poignant example of an artist inspired to even greater heights of accomplishment due to his health, to what was then referred to as consumption.

Chances are that any reader of this knows or is related to someone who settled in New Mexico because of tuberculosis (TB) or some related illness deemed curable or at least treatable in the warm, dry, clean, thin air of New Mexico. My own father was such a person. He came to New Mexico in 1929 diagnosed with TB and given only a few years to live. He credited New Mexico as giving him his health back. He loved the place for it and told everyone about it, collaring whomever he could to tell his story of recovery. He didn’t write about it, but he sure did talk about it, in keeping with his Oklahoma Hills oral folk traditions.

That ever-haunting question soon follows: To the extent that some of the complexity of New Mexico as health spa, sanitarium, and “contagious hospital” can be isolated, what difference does it make then or now? One answer is that literature reflects life and that, often, literature is life—biography reinforcing autobiography, social and cultural history echoing individual and generational life myths and narratives. History is at some point impossible to separate from story. Ultimately, they are, Calliope and Clio, as sometimes called, twin muses, twin sisters.

Any survey of the literary lives and settlement of New Mexico by artists of all kinds might lead one to a wrong-headed belief that Santa Fe and Taos, as artists’ colonies, were inseparable from TB and creativity and exclusive because of the lungers that came to sanitariums like Sunmount in Santa Fe. However, Albuquerque, too, often wrongly perceived as a less-inspirational, more commercial town, had its own sanitariums as well, as the history of, say, Presbyterian Hospital there testifies. The site of that “sanitarium for consumptives” was chosen as early as 1908, as reported by Marion Woodham, who also cogently summarizes the treatment for TB in those days as requiring rest, wholesome food, fresh outdoor air day and night, and plenty of sunshine (from “A History of Presbyterian Hospital,” Presbyterian Hospital Center, 1976). The assumption was that TB patients required rest because they needed to breathe as little as possible to allow their lungs to heal.

The catalog of literary lungers and luminaries is too voluminous to consider here. It’s sufficient to say, however, that the lure of New Mexico for the sick and ailing turned into reciprocal recruitment by various tour guides, impresarios, and hosts such as Alice Corbin Henderson, herself a patient at Sunmount in the early 1920s, along with Mabel Dodge Luhan and others such as Wytter Bynner, a character who to some minds, given the love and loathing associated with TB and its carriers, was a case of one contagion attracting another.

Bynner came to visit Henderson . . . came only with severe influenza, but stayed much after his recovery, becoming as some have naively quipped the person credited with bringing homosexuality to New Mexico. Bynner’s role in entertaining authors and other famous visitors to Santa Fe is legendary, the most notorious perhaps being D.H. Lawrence, himself a roamer in search of soul and lung cures, but an immediate captive to the spell and mystique of New Mexico, a locale which Bynner called “Adobia.”

Bynner’s friend Paul Horgan’s early novel No Quarter Given is a classic example of TB as inspiration and subject. Horgan’s father too came to New Mexico to cure his TB and he became a fictive and biographical counterpart to the central character in that book. Edmund Abbey, the TB protagonist, composes his greatest and final musical score by reliving, imaginatively and through memory, his past . . . and stimulated by an at once deadly but loving relationship with another artist, the actress Maggie Machaelis, and the rhythms of a summer Indian dance he experiences at Santo Domingo, dies giving his all, his last bit of inspiration, his very breath, to his art. He gives “no quarter” to his illness, to his mortality—just as tuberculosis (often referred to as Captain Death) and death itself gives him no final options.

No doubt, with the increased incidences of TB and new more virulent, drug-resistant strains so much in the news, the early and mid-twentieth century romance of New Mexico with tuberculosis seems not just elegiac but idyllic. TB control these days is often seen in terms of police state therapy and quarantine, more euphemistically called Direct Observed Therapy, whereby patients are forced to complete a full nine months to a year treatment of antibiotics under strict observation by public health employees. Or, as recently reported, today’s treatment can require radical lung surgery.

Although Denver has a high-profile hospital for such cases of national and international concern, the continuing travelogue and tour mystique of the Southwest as a place of healing and restoration seems to have taken on a darker hue. And in a time of severe drought, limited water resources, and the general diminishing quality of clean air, the allure of high mountain or low desert air is also in the decline. “Too many people! Too much crime! Too much development! Too much traffic and pollution! Poor public schools! Racial and ethnic shifts in demography and politics!” The Land of Enchantment doesn’t seem so enchanting. Once a land of sacred places, now a land of highways and urban sprawl, the controlling image and identity isn’t so much inspiration and respiration as it is “a place to cough.”

Enter then not the quaint, refined, Pueblo-Deco TB fictions and soirees of Horgan, Bynner, and company. Enter now a robotic, mechanistic world seeming more of apocalypse than apotheosis. Medicine is advancing by leaps and bounds, but death is still death, to be sure. Or is it? Enter now the specter of pandemics and world-wide scourge, literature and history hyped by identity politics and technological advances in a digitized age where people’s passion is a Bluetooth, a Palm Pilot or an iPhone, an age where even computers must beware of affliction, of this or that virus. Enter a brave new world where both respiration and inspiration must be assisted and delivered through post-modern media, of entertainment news, of “factions” and “anti-facts” of “science fiction” in a virtual, satellite-scanned and transmitted geography rather than a landscape of real fresh air, a place of health and hope. Ahhhh, progress!

Robert Gish is the author of several books, including West Bound: Stories of Providence. He lives in Albuquerque.

This story was distributed by the Historical Society of New Mexico.


This letter—courtesy of William and Paul Stamm—was written about 1899 by Bill Echart of Placitas. It was written to interest various parties in buying his claim to the mine.

In reply to your favor asking for a history of the Old Montezuma Mine, permit me to say that the tradition of this old mine reads like a romance, and indeed there might be room to question the most remarkable features of the story if they were not backed up by old Spanish and Mexican documents recently brought to light and in possession of an old native living here, and if everything in the mine itself, so far as I have cleaned out and reached, did not correspond with the testimony of the oldest inhabitants who with their ancestors have lived here for a century or more.

I have made a careful study of this old Spanish mine and its history. For three years I have been prospecting and mining in this camp, and will only refer to such circumstances as I am satisfied are well founded.

To go back to the beginning, we all know from history that the Spanish Conquerors of this land of Montezuma subjected various tribes of Pueblo Indians and worked them as slaves in the mine, from which gold and silver fairly flowed, enriching the treasure vaults of the Spanish realm and the coffers of her adventurous sons. The yoke of slavery in time became galling to the children of Montezuma, who rebelled against their masters and by a general and simultaneous uprising of the Indians, their tribes drove the invaders from the soil. This was the period in which the most of the valuable Spanish mines were filled in and covered up and gold and silver bullion was buried from view.

That the Montezuma was worked by the Spanish there is no doubt, and subsequently by adventurers from Old Mexico. The old Montezuma Mine of Las Placitas is frequently referred to in documents in possession of Don José Gurale of this place, bearing date A.D. 1667, which I was permitted to see recently, [that] refer to five lost mines in this district, of which the Montezuma is one.

It speaks of “la mina de Bentana, la mina de la Escalera” and says “al sure de Placitas la mina de Nepumeseno y en el miseno Canon la mina de Cola, which interpreted reads, The Window Mine, The Ladder Mine, and to the south of the Placitas is the Nepumeseno mine and the Coloa mine. Then it says “lado orenta de Placitas Travegardo la mina Montezuma Antonio Jinenez,” meaning that to the east of the Placitas Antonio Jinenez was working the Montezuma mine, and supplements it with the statement that Jinenez took twelve mules loaded with bullion to Old Mexico and never returned.

The Spaniards smelted the ores in ovens of mud, adobe structures the remains of several of which now stand to be seen in the vicinity of the old Montezuma, and shipped the gold and silver product on the backs of animals to their strongholds in Old Mexico. By a process of their own, now one of the lost arts, the lead was destroyed; parts of lead adhering to the slag, as can be seen in the slag piles in the mines of these Spanish Arastas. The process was simply for the charge of raw ores, and the fluxes, whatever they were, were put into these ovens, the lead was destroyed and the gold and silver extracted.

The Montezuma was worked by Indian slaves from the Pueblos of Chochiti, San Felipe, San Domingo and Sandia, situated in the Rio Grande, within a half day’s ride of the mine. Since their slavery in the mines, none of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, who are very superstitious on the subject, have worked or gone near the mine. They must know where the lost mines are, but no amount of coaxing can get them to say a word on the subject; although it has been tried a thousand times. These Indians, slave miners, who worked in the Montezuma dwelt in a village near the mine the remains of which now stand in Las Huertas canyon. It is estimated that about one hundred and twenty-five Indian families lived on the spot.

The old workings of the Montezuma are filled in and under water but by the size of the dumps they must be extensive. The Chief of the Cochite Indians says his ancestors worked in the Montezuma mines for six moons in every year and the remainder of the time was spent in the valley of the Rio Grande not many miles distant. He says the gold and silver ornaments used on the churches of the Pueblo Tribes came from the old Montezuma mine.

They say one of the lower shafts of the mine caved in, burying five Indians. Montezuma is 300 feet deep and that there are seven levels run off from the shaft. There was no pumping machinery those days and the water was carried to the surface in earthenware vessels and rawhides on the back and held in place by straps around the forehead of the slaves. Those natives also say that the crown of the statues of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary in St. Joseph’s Church at Algodonas, where they worship, were made from beaten silver from the Montezuma mine. It is well known among the natives here that Felix Samoza, one of their number, while ploughing north of the Montezuma mine twelve years ago, in the vicinity of where one of those ovens was recently discovered, brought to the surface a bar of bullion 15 inches long, 1-1/2 inches wide and an inch thick, a piece of which bar was tested by a San Francisco assayor and was found to be very rich in gold and silver. Five of those old Spanish ovens for ore roasts have been discovered in all, three of which I discovered myself. Recently, within five years, one Wilson [see note] while ploughing near the Montezuma mine ploughed up a bar of gold said to be worth $1,950, but parted with it for $1,550. Ample testimony, if required, can be had to substantiate those facts. Those matters prove two things to our satisfaction; first, that the mine was extensively worked, and secondly that rich ores were taken out of the lower levels now filled in and covered by the Indians, and where we have discovered the old workings with a good deal of labor, the shaft filled with water to within 72 feet of the surface.

It is also a part of the tradition, and as likely to be true as any of it, that a quantity of bullion was hidden in one of the lower levels of the mine at the time it was filled in during the Indian insurrection; but none of these statements, traditional or otherwise, are necessary to show that the Montezuma mine is a valuable property the ore is here to show for itself in the works as far as we have cleaned them out to the water level. Of course when depth is gained by cleaning and pumping out the lower levels there is no doubt in my mind that rich ores will be found that are known to have been worked by Spainards, and no doubt the bullion referred to.

[Note: In an issue of the Albuquerque Journal published about 1950, there is a news item in a column “50 Years Ago Today” about a prospector named Wilson who lived in Placitas and was murdered close to his mine. The killer fled toward Bernalillo. The law was on his trail.]





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