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


Knight Seavy stands arock to tell residents of his new subdivision plan in Placitas.

Cashwell development presented to the public

—Ty Belknap

Another Cashwell zoning application, this time for Special Use zoning for Cluster Housing Development, was scheduled for consideration at a July 28 County Planning and Zoning Meeting. This application is for the property to the immediate north and east of the firehouse on Hwy. 165, bordered by Overlook Drive on the east, and continuing up and over the ridgetop. The application includes 65 high-density homes with seventeen houses, tightly clustered on the ridgetop, along with possible commercial development.

A steadfast group of Placitas activists has opposed this development for years, since it was first introduced during the public hearings for the Placitas Development Plan. They contend that this development would deplete limited water resources, would be the first of many for Placitas if the application gets county approval, and that the houses would block their views.

County Development postponed the application and instead required Cashwell to present a re-zoning public meeting, which was held on August 12 at the Fire Station on Hwy. 165. Architect Knight Seavy presented the plan to a mostly hostile public, then led a site walk through the difficult terrain that is proposed for development. Seavy stressed the environmentally friendly aspects of his plan and the abundance of open space that it would provide. When asked why he was planning the development in the current absence of demand, Seavy responded, “We’ve been planning this for five years and have gotten nowhere,” implying that there might be a demand by the time they finally got through the application process.

Seavy said that the plan depends on a water supply that will remain unproven until the application is approved. Peggy Johnson, Senior Hydrologist from the New Mexico Bureau of Hydrogeology and Mineral Resources did a study of the entire water system of Placitas that cast doubt on the quality and sustainability of the water supply around the Cashwell tract.

Despite objections, the developers presented their application for approval to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission on August 25. [See related letters in Gauntlet, this Signpost.]

Planning against catastrophic wildfires

—Tony Lucero, President, San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant

The San Antonio de las Huertas Community Land Grant has had a positive stewardship relation with the greater Placitas area for approximately two-a-half centuries. Within that spirit of good stewardship, the Land Grant Community has, in the past three years, attempted to secure federal funds to address possible wildfire concerns in the area. Wildfires do not discriminate between private lands or what is now government land. It is a known fact that the citizens of this country have experienced much devastation and destruction from wildfires.

Grant funds available from the USDA Forest Service Collaborative Forest Restoration Program (CFRP) have to be applied in several phases. If an applicant is successful in acquiring an initial grant, the first step is to complete an environmental study. This is under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A NEPA study makes certain that a proposed project on federal lands, or using federal funds, will protect natural resources ranging from endangered species to water quality. Once a NEPA clearance has been accomplished, implementation funds have to be acquired. The process, whether it is the study/planning phase, or implementation, will involve much of the total community and additional funds.

The goal is fuel wood reduction and selective forest thinning in the highest catastrophic potential fire areas, thereby attempting to reduce catastrophic wildfire risks. Both limited access to Forest Wilderness areas and steep terrain present a challenge. It is very important to educate the public of the many dangers of wildfires as well as address the importance of reducing fire hazards around homes.

The Land Grant Community has received a letter from Mr. Corbin L. Newman, Jr., Regional Forester, USDA, stating that 33 grant applications were submitted requesting a total of $10,703,910. Ten applications have been approved totaling $3,107,435. The letter was not an official award, however, and after certain revisions and adjustments, the approximate approved amount of $119,994 for study/planning hopefully will be awarded. In addition, in kind contributions must be provided. The award process is currently moving toward completion.

Once an evaluation of the area is completed, the project will then facilitate an outreach process to bring the members of the Land Grant Community and the surrounding entities together to conceive a plan for mitigating the risk of catastrophic wildfires in our greater community.

The Land Grant Community is thankful to the committed partners in this endeavor: Sandia Range District-Cibola National Forest, State Forestry, Bernalillo High School, Bosque School, East Mountain Interagency Fire Protection Association, Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, Las Placitas Association, Las Acequias de Placitas, Las Huertas Ditch Association, and Sandoval County Placitas District Fire Department. Parametrix, an engineering, planning and environmental science firm, has and will work closely with the Land Grant in the total process. We look forward to working with the greater community and our partners.




The 318th annual Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo parade (1693-2011) took to the streets of Bernalillo in August to feature La Danza de los Matachines with traditional musical accompaniment to tell an age-old story. It is celebrated in honor of Bernalillo’s patron saint, San Lorenzo. Las Fiestas are an integral part of Bernalillo’s rich cultural calendar and are accented with festivities including a parade, rodeo, car show and entertainment at Rotary Park. Bernalillo is known throughout the region as having the original and largest Matachines dance.

Spanish Colonial Period (1600-1700)

—Martha Liebert

There were three major European expeditions and several minor ones that came into the Rio Grande valley during the Spanish Colonial period, beginning with the explorer Coronado in 1540, then the colonizer Oñate in 1598, and finally, De Vargas and the reconquest in 1695.

Coronado had 336 soldiers, six priests, a thousand Aztec Indian servants, and 559 horses, plus a thousand mules in the baggage train. Thousands of sheep and cattle, as well as pigs and chickens, were designed for trail meat. His entourage included six companies of cavalry, and one each of artillery and infantry. The expedition was made up of many Europeans besides the Spanish, including the Portuguese, French, Italian, German, and Scottish. Their weapons were lances, crossbows, spears, swords, daggers, harquebus, and bows and arrows.

The expedition was funded equally by Viceroy Mendoza and Coronado at about the equivalent of a million dollars each. The mounted soldiers were mostly second sons (who did not inherit anything) of prominent families, out to make their fortunes, having been raised on the stories of Cortez and the gold of Mexico and Pizarro and the silver of Peru. They were sure they would find similar treasure on this adventure. The priests, of course, were there to bring new converts to Christianity. All were destined for disappointment.

Imagine moving such a massive group of people and animals over 1,500 miles into the unknown. They were unprepared for the severe weather they met (1400-1800 was known as the ”Little Ice Age”). The river froze over, and there was 18 inches of snow from Zuni to Bernalillo that winter.

They camped in the Bernalillo area, commandeering the Pueblo later called Santiago, driving the natives out to find shelter wherever they could. Further demands for corn and blankets from the Pueblos created a hardship for people who were already living on the edge of survival. Murders, rapes, thefts, and other brutalities followed one another in a constant stream. The Pueblo Indians were looked down upon for not being as strong as Toledo steel. The invaders had no idea of the complexities of the religion and culture.

Coronado sent exploring parties in all directions, seeking wealth they felt sure was here. One group went as far west as the Grand Canyon. Coronado himself led a group out to the plains of Kansas with no results. Upon his return to this area, he was hurt in a fall from his horse, which signaled the end of the adventure and their return to Mexico in 1542 in disgrace. It had been a disaster from the start, leaving a legacy of bad relations with the pueblos, which would set the tone for generations to come. In fact, the negatives were such that Coronado was brought up on charges of mistreatment of the Indians and mismanagement of the expedition.

It took fifty years before another attempt was made by Don Juan de Oñate. In 1598, Oñate was given the contract by the Crown to colonize the area at his own expense. His father owned silver mines in Zacatecas, and some of the 129 soldier-colonists were political prisoners there. In exchange for two years service as soldiers on this expedition, they were given freedom and forgiveness. Juan Archibeque and Jacque Grolet (Gurule) were two Frenchmen who had been with the LaSalle expedition who took advantage of this offer and became prominent in the colony. Archibeque became a wealthy Santa Fe trader on the Chihuahua trail. Gurule married and founded a dynasty of descendants with Elena Gallegos, one of the wealthiest women in the area.

Oñate brought ten Franciscans, plus the colonists and their families, along with livestock, tools, seeds, and root stock to plant. They had come to stay. The Priests went into the pueblos to build mission churches and attempt to convert the Indians. The colonists scattered up and down the river, establishing ranches with major settlements at San Juan and later at Santa Fe in 1610.

The Gonzales-Bernal family was one of those in the Oñate colony who settled in the Angostura area, ranching on the west side of the Rio Grande. The earliest mention of the name “Bernal” was apparently a military outpost called “Bernal’s Camp.” The name derives from this family.

From the time the colony was founded in 1598, and throughout the 1600’s, there were periods of drought. This, plus the raids of the Athabascan tribes (Navajos and Apaches), who were hunter-gatherers and had come into the area just prior to the Spanish, contributed to a period of starvation and disease. Another complicating factor was the conflict between church and state over the labor of the Pueblo Indians.

Europeans looked on the Indians as a slave labor source and had them working in mines, herding sheep, weaving cloth, and building churches—all without pay, of course. They also demanded that the Indians give up their own religion in favor of Catholicism, which was perhaps the hardest blow of all. As an example of these demands, in 1643, the Crown in Santa Fe raised the tribute level from one fanega (1-1/2 bushels) of corn and one manta (woven goods) quarterly per household, to one from each individual of age. At this point the pueblos were hard-pressed to feed their own families, and the number of pueblo people declined steadily from 40,000 in 1638 to 1700 in 1671.

In 1666, there was widespread drought, and for three years no crops were harvested. Indian and Spanish alike were starving. They boiled hides with herbs for food, but even the herds were dying. The suffering was terrible, and the Apache raids grew more frequent. Settlers were so spread out along the Rio that authorities could not protect them. There were only 170 soldiers in the whole colony anyway, and so the distances rendered them helpless.

The civil authorities had no tolerance for pueblo tradition or needs. As an example, in 1659 the governor took 840 Indian men away at harvest time to go “slave hunting” and so the harvest was lost. Another instance of intolerance was the destruction of kivas. In 1675 a Spanish tribunal hung four Pueblo leaders and whipped 43 more. Thus threatened, the Pueblos sent seventy warriors to confront the Governor and forced him to release their men. The repercussions of these brutalities went a long way in fomenting the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The pueblos became fearful they would not survive the Spanish occupation and banded together against them, killing 21 friars and 400 settlers. It had been 82 years of demands for produce, labor, and services with no compensation—a similar situation to “ taxation without representation,” which the American colonies went to war over a hundred years later. After the revolt, the raids of the hungry Athabascans continued and escalated. Most of the Spanish settlers got out of the Bernalillo area and fled with the other survivors to Mexico.

The Europeans returned with the third expedition from 1692 to 1695 for resettlement and reconquest, led by Don Diego de Vargas who brought seventy families, one hundred soldiers, and 17 Franciscans. De Vargas established a settlement in 1693 on the flood plain at the mouth of the Jemez River, west of the Rio Grande, the old site where the Bernal family had been before the revolt. A church and priory were built but washed away in 1695. Don Fernando Duran y Chavez was named Alcalde Mayor of Bernalillo. This area is at the narrows of the valley called, “La Angostura de Bernalillo” and “La Salida de Angostura,” which is an important river crossing due to a gravel spill across the Rio Grande from the Arroyo de las Huertas, which comes off the north end of the Sandia Mountains, thereby providing a safe crossing in a river of quicksand.

In 1695, 44 more families came, only to suffer a harsh winter with little food. In 1692, De Vargas wrote, “So very cold and abundant snow and rain and such heavy freezes and frost. Troops have suffered harsh weather with continued snow and high winds.”

Meager food supply and scarce firewood due to deep snow resulted in the death of 22 Spaniards. From 1695 through 1696 more than two hundred people died when pueblo and Spanish crops failed due to drought and crop worms. Residents were forced to eat dogs, cats, horses, mules, hides, and old bones. An epidemic followed with more loss of life, and the Pueblos revolted again.

In colonial New Mexico there were two concentrated population areas: Santa Fe in the Rio Arriba (upper river), and Bernalillo in the Rio Abajo (lower river). The Bernalillo site was on the border between the Tiwa and Keres Pueblos. The mission at San Felipe Pueblo was the church used by the people of Bernalillo.

Besides the Bernal family, the Duran y Chavez, Caravajal, Cuellar, Saenz, Bacas, Pereas, Anayas, Romero, Ramirez, and several others had holdings in the Angostura area in colonial times. According to Spanish archives, the Juan Ramirez de Salazar house that stood at the site of the river crossing was confiscated by Governor Alonso Pecheco de Heredia to build a fort (or torreon) called San Antonio. A captain and fifteen soldiers were stationed there to protect the river from the Faroan Apaches who came off the plains through Apache Canyon in the Sandia Mountains to raid the settlements on the west side of the river.

In 1701, Felipe Gutierrez, a presidio soldier, petitioned the Crown for a grant of land which became in the 1770’s the scattered ranches of “lower Bernalillo” or “Las Cocinitas.” In 1704, Governor de Vargas came down from Santa Fe with soldiers to chase raiding Apaches into the Sandias. According to local tradition, DeVargas fell ill during the expedition and died in a home in lower Bernalillo.

At this time, the area was simply a scattering of small ranches on both sides of the river from San Felipe to Sandia, home to about one hundred people. Diego Montoya’s hacienda was on the north side of what is now Coronado Monument. Across the river was an area called “Weavers’ Bend,” which is now called EI Llanito. With a name like Weavers’ Bend, it makes one wonder if there weren’t a lot of folks involved in working with wool. In 1706, Captain Martin Hurtado took 35 families from Bernalillo to found Old Town Albuquerque. They included families of Trujillo, Garcia, Carabajal, Varela and Diego Montoya. Diego had land in the area north of the villa and later transferred his land to Elena Gallegos, whose plazuela was called “Los Ranchos” in what is now Alameda’s north valley.

In 1738, Captain Juan Gonzales Bas was Alcalde Mayor of Bernalillo. He had acquired the Montes Vigil grant, which included Corrales and Alameda. He was an important player in the area.

In 1748, Franciscan brothers went to Hopi country to bring back the Indians that had fled there from Sandia Pueblo at the time of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. The pueblo had stood empty all this time but now there was a need for labor, so some Sandia descendants and some Hopis were brought to resettle the village.

Movement of populations throughout the 1700s continued south along the east side of the river from Angostura to EI Llanito—first called Los Gallegos because two Gallegos brothers built haciendas there in 1730 near a church, which washed away in the flood of 1735. A cross still marks this spot.

By 1776, there were still 27 families, totaling 81 people, who were using the San Felipe mission, but as floods changed the river’s course, the fate of “Upper Bernalillo” changed too, constantly moving south, until the population shifted gradually to the east side of the river to the site of present day Bernalillo.

But this was still not an easy place to live. From 1748 to 1771, almost four thousand Spanish and Pueblos were killed by Apaches, Navajos, and Comanches. In 1771, 170 people were killed and seven thousand horses and mules stolen. In 1775, a major Comanche raid on Sandia Pueblo destroyed all crops and livestock and killed 32 inhabitants. The scourge of smallpox killed five thousand pueblo people and many Spanish in the 1780s. It seemed there was no end to the major disasters the colony suffered.

Overgrazing was becoming a problem by 1757 because there were 112 thousand sheep and sixteen thousand cattle plus seven thousand horses in the colony. Sheep became the medium of exchange, and, due to a lack of coinage, the barter system prevailed. The effects of this problem have lasted to the present day. Ranchers traditionally raised sheep rather than cattle because nomadic raiders could more easily drive cattle away and when attacked herders could scatter sheep to reduce losses. In 1779, Governor de Anza defeated the Comanche, Cuerno Verde, and made a treaty to stop the raids.

During the Colonial period, this was a closed world with little outside contact. Spain and Mexico were too far away and had lost interest because of the lack of discovered wealth. The colony was a distinct drain on revenues with little to show for it. Local law took precedent over the Law of the Indies, art was replaced by crafts, and local custom prevailed. Church and state warred constantly over control of the colony, with the Inquisition being used as a tool to break the power of the state.

All in all, it was a most hazardous two-hundred-year period for everyone. On the plus side, the Europeans introduced the use of metal tools and weapons. Their livestock made a big difference in the quality of life. Perhaps more than anything, the introduction of new trees and plants such as grapes, cherries, apples, apricots, peaches, nuts, legumes, peas, guavas, wheat, oats, barley and rye increased food production in the new world.

If you survived the first two hundred years, things were bound to get better. By 1790, the population of the colony, including Indians, was thirty thousand. By 1800, there were 164 acequias in use, and Bernalillo was known for its abundant produce, especially grapes.

[The “History of Bernalillo” third and final segment will be printed in the October Signpost.]

Pueblo pots These three Pueblo pots were recovered during an archaeological investigation conducted at San Jose de las Huertas in 1980. All three pots were fond buried beneath the floor of a two-room Spanish house and were probably used for the storage of grain. (Top:) a Ranchitos Polychrome Jar, probably from Santa Ana Pueblo and dating around 1760-1810. (Middle:) a Kapo Black Jar, perhaps from San Felipe Pueblo.(Bottom:) A Ranchitos Polychrome Jar with atypical design, probably produced at Santa Ana Pueblo.


LPA presents tour of historic San Jose de las Huertas site

—Las Placitas Association

On September 18, 2011, from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., James Walker, SW Regional Director of The Archaeological Conservancy, will lead a tour of the site of San Jose de Las Huertas, a Spanish Colonial period walled village located just north of Placitas.

On September 20, 1765, Juan Gutierrez of Bernalillo made a petition before the Spanish Governor of New Mexico for a tract of vacant land at the place commonly called Las Huertas at the northern foot of the Sandia Mountains. It is possible that Gutierrez, and the other eight families mentioned in the petition, had already settled at Las Huertas. The Governor died before issuing the grant. By 1767, a total of 21 families were living at Las Huertas. They petitioned the new governor for a grant. On December 31, 1767, the Alcalde visited Las Huertas, allotted the settlers the individual fields they had opened and designated a town site and the grant boundaries. As a condition of the grant, the settlers were required to build a fortification around the village area.

Isolated villages like Las Huertas were at great risk from Navajo and Apache raids. Only villages with well-organized defense plans survived during this period. In 1786, the Spanish initiated a policy of military intervention to combat the increased raids. This brought about twenty years of relative peace, and during that time, some houses were built outside the walls at Las Huertas.

The start of the Mexican Revolution in 1810 resulted in a diversion of money, supplies, and soldiers from the northern frontier. This resulted in the renewal of Indian raids. By 1821, the revolution had ended, and a Mexican Governor now ruled New Mexico, but with very limited resources. In 1823, the residents of Las Huertas were ordered by the Governor in Santa Fe to abandon their village and move to settlements along the Rio Grande for their own protection.

Although there is evidence that within fifteen years the grant lands were reoccupied (in fact, some say many never have left), most of the people who returned moved to one of the new villages on the grant including Placitas, Tecolote, and Ojo de la Casa. There is evidence of only one family, Miguel and Josefa Trujillo (ancestors of Tony Lucero), reoccupying the original Las Huertas village location.

 The ruins of the walled village of San Jose de Las Huertas appear today as low mounds, although some residents of Placitas remember standing walls there. The village walls can be seen from the air as a square, approximately four hundred feet on a side. Remnants of old fields as well as fragments of an old irrigation system can also be seen.

One two-room Spanish house, located outside the walled village, was excavated in 1980. In October 1986, Cortez Pipeline Company donated 12.1 acres of the Las Huertas site to The Archaeological Conservancy. The Conservancy purchased 7.32 acres of the site, containing about one-third of the walled village area, and in December 1999, an additional four acres of the site were donated to the Conservancy by the Shaffer Family. In 2003, a 1.5 acre lot was added to the preserve.

The Archaeological Conservancy is currently the only organization in the country that acquires and protects archaeological sites.

Fire restrictions rescinded

On August 4, Cibola National Forest and Grasslands Supervisor Nancy Rose announced that three districts are rescinding their fire restrictions.“These districts have been getting widespread precipitation and district staff have determined that the moisture levels in the vegetation are high enough to limit the spread of any human or natural-caused wildfires,” Rose said.

With the recision of the fire restrictions, all designated forest roads and campgrounds will be open and campfires will be allowed. Visitors are asked to use caution when maintaining campfires and to remember that the use of fireworks of any kind is strictly prohibited on all National Forest lands. Sandia Ranger District is lifting all fire restrictions at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, August 5. All designated forest roads and picnic areas will be open except for Las Huertas and Capulin picnic grounds. For additional information, call Karen Takai at 505-281-3304.

For more information about current fire restrictions, go to Cibola National Forest and Grasslands:



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