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Las Matachines, carrying rattles and palmas representing the Trinity, leave the mayordomos' home before performing their traditional dance.

As Las Matachines dance during the 2016 Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo in Bernalillo, they are led by Monarca, a figure representing the Aztec leader Montezuma, accompanied by his daughters. The dance is special to Bernalillo, but rooted in the conversion of Aztecs to Christianity after the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Photos credit: —Bill Diven

Bernalillo keeps promise made in 1693

~Bill Diven

Centuries of faith and tradition come together in the streets of Bernalillo, as dancers celebrate a vow made by Spanish settlers in honor of San Lorenzo.

The dancing by masked Matachines and a series of Catholic religious events and rituals have been an annual event in Bernalillo since residents returned 13 years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Accompanied by guitars and violins, the dances prior to the revolt were part of converting indigenous people to Catholicism after the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Las Matachines arrived in Bernalillo, taking on a new meaning after the rebellion. According to local lore, the residents of the town’s two initial communities were warned by friendly native neighbors of the planned uprising by the unified pueblo peoples who’d had enough of the Spanish occupation and years of various abuses. The revolt destroyed towns and churches, killed an estimated four hundred Spaniards, and chased the remaining two thousand colonists down the Rio Grande and into present-day Texas.

When the Spanish returned, it was with a new respect for their pueblo neighbors and a vow—la promesa—to honor the martyr San Lorenzo on his feast day of August 10, the anniversary of the pueblo rebellion.

In Bernalillo the 323rd annual Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo ended three days of dancing and other events on August 11, with the musicians and dancers leading a procession, as the Pete and Roberta Padilla and Bennie and Lori Lovato families, the mayordomos who cared for the small statue of San Lorenzo during the year, accompanied the icon to the home of the new mayordomos, Ruth Lopez and her family.


Bernalillo schedules State Of The Town event

Bernalillo’s mayor and town councilors plan to report on town projects and issues in a State of the Town meeting on September 14. One topic in particular is expected to be the widening of U.S. Highway 550 across the Rio Grande from Camino del Pueblo on the east to State Road 528 on the west. The first part of that project, a second bridge across the river, has been delayed until next year. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Bernalillo Town Hall.


County presents draft rules on oil and gas development

~Signpost Staff

The Sandoval County planning staff has scheduled two public meetings to review a draft ordinance to regulate oil and gas production in the county. The ordinance stems from the failed attempt by an Oklahoma company to drill an exploratory, and possible production well, on private land about four miles west of Rio Rancho. At that time, planning staff said the lack of a specific ordinance limited their ability to protect public interests.

The meeting notice posted on August 14 announced the meetings for August 30 and September 6, both from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the County Commission chambers. The draft is posted in the Planning and Zoning Department section of the county’s website SandovalCounty.com under Legal Notices and is also available in the department office.


James Dominguez

Road paving a start toward Peña Blanca improvements

~Signpost Staff

While Peña Blanca is welcoming recently announced paving projects, there are issues of traffic and parking enforcement that need to be addressed, according to residents.

Sandoval County Commissioner James Dominguez visited the community in August to announce that Calle Loma and the connecting Windmill Road as well as Calle Esquela will be paved at a cost of about one hundred thousand dollars.

Residents living on mile-long Calle Abrevadero urged Dominguez to seek money to pave the road, add speed bumps, and maintain a drainage ditch and culvert that the conservancy district, the county, and the state say, is not theirs.

“If we ever get a lot of rain, I’ll get the water at my house,” Carla Lucero said. “Who’s going to be cutting the weeds all the time? Me?”

Others complained of parking issues on Calle Loma and Windmill Road where a fence on one side and residents parking on the shoulder have narrowed the traffic lanes.

Dominguez said he’d look into those issues and see about adding road signs alerting motorists to children in the neighborhood. More paving projects will be done as money allows, he said.

The commissioner and his predecessor in office, Orlando Lucero, helped with upgrades to the local ball field. Dominguez said he’d like to see a second ball field and eventually a community park.

Parks bring families together, give kids a place to play, and are more controlled in part because law enforcement can help keep an eye on activities and events, he said.

“We’ve just started,” Dominguez said. “There’s a lot more to be done.”


County treasurer and manager squabble over investment data

~Bill Diven

Ongoing friction between the Sandoval County administration and County Treasurer Laura Montoya bubbled over on August 18 in a discussion of the county’s investment policy.

Montoya claimed county commissioners, who by law also sit as the county Board of Finance, are trying to micromanage the office of another elected official. As treasurer, Montoya places county money in short- and longer-term investments until the money is needed.

“We can usurp each others authority, and that’s exactly what’s going on here,” Montoya said.

County Manager Phil Rios in turn said the investment data Montoya provides him is incomplete and interferes with his ability to provide accurate financial advice to the commissioners.

“Anytime somebody is fighting about providing information and communicating, it means we’re either having a problem or someone is hiding something,” Rio said citing his 38 years in government. “I don’t believe we’re hiding anything. All I’m asking for is the information.”

Montoya countered that the information Rios wants is discussed at regular meetings of the investment advisory committee she established that he’s welcome to attend. Rios said her committee has no responsibility to the Board of Finance and that Montoya has yet to appoint anyone to the board’s investment committee of which she is also a designated member.

“It seems to me there’s a terrible lack of communication,” Commissioner Nora Scherzinger said. “I don’t know if this is a power struggle or a personality struggle… Needless to say we’re not getting the information that we need.”

The back-and-forth came during a Board of Finance meeting where commissioners were considering changes to their investment policy. One change would take away the treasurer’s appointed member on their committee and let the commissioners appoint that person. Another would require the treasurer to attend quarterly meetings of the board’s investment committee. The amended policy passed 4-0 with Commissioner Glenn Walters absent.


Hospital tax returns to County ballot

~Signpost Staff

A new round of taxpayer support for Sandoval County’s two hospitals will be on the November ballot. If approved, the property tax would continue the subsidy at the same rate voters approved in 2008. In 2008, the county lacked a hospital, but two were in the planning stages.

The levy passed with 53 percent of more than 53,000 ballots cast.

Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in southern Rio Rancho opened in 2011 and UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center opened the next year in northern Rio Rancho. The two have divided about $67 million from the tax dedicated to medical services but not construction.

“We have a quality of life we didn’t have before,” County Commissioner Don Chapman said during the August 4 meeting where commissioners voted unanimously to include the tax levy in the November 8 election. “It’s a very short ride to get to the hospital now.”

The hospitals report a combined payroll of $108 million and an economic impact that includes creating 1,300 jobs in the county.

Opponents of the tax question whether it is still necessary, saying it was intended to help get the hospitals started, and that has been accomplished.

“The taxpayers met their obligation; the hospitals need to meet theirs,” Melvin Carlisle of Rio Rancho told commissioners. “This tax is hitting people hard.”

Others noted the hospitals are part of billion-dollar medical systems and said Rust isn’t open to all county residents since it doesn’t accept all insurance plans.

The tax rate is set at 4.25 mills or $425 on one hundred thousand dollars of taxable property value.


Before the town of Bernalillo bought the former Roosevelt Elementary School, Vietnam veterans Larry "Wolfman" Hurtado of Bernalillo and Julio Carattini of Placitas walked the halls inspecting the property as a possible home for a military museum.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Veterans expand push for Bernalillo military museum

~Bill Diven

A group of Army, Air Force, and Marine veterans sat around a table at the Range Café amid gentle needling about the shortcomings of the others’ branch of service. They did agree on one thing, though: creating a military museum rooted in service by New Mexicans as the town of Bernalillo turns the former Roosevelt school campus into a center for community programs and activities.

“Education: that’s our main goal,” said Julio Carattini, an Army veteran of Vietnam combat living in Placitas. “We want to make this a kid-friendly, hands-on museum… We want to make them realize war is in our history, and it is not a game.”

Carattini and others have been building a collection of soldiers’ personal equipment and artifacts, large and small. In each case they ask the veteran or family members to include stories so that the items don’t live in isolation but instead connect to real people.

What the group hasn’t done, however, is move from being a group of comrades to becoming a nonprofit corporate entity. “You need a legal structure we can take to our attorney and to the state,” Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres told the group.

The town bought the 7.7-acre school property now named the Roosevelt Complex from the Bernalillo Public Schools in 2015 for $1.2 million. The campus fronts on Camino Don Tomas across the street from Rotary Park and backs against Town Hall, the fire department, and Martha Liebert Public Library.

The 1930s two-story adobe building that was once the town school is to be the new home for the library, and the police and fire departments have each staked out one of the five portable classrooms on the property.

The town also signed a lease with its first tenant, Rebuilding Together Sandoval County, a nonprofit of volunteers and businesses that fights homelessness by rehabilitating homes for low-income residents particularly the aged and disabled.

“Our priority is finding a way to make that property alive again, a living place for the community,” Torres said. While the town is not looking to make money, neither can it give away space without running afoul of the anti-donation clause of the state constitution, he said.

The town can reduce and even zero out rent based on the documented value of services provided by tenants, Torres added. While the mayor said he personally supports the museum concept, final decisions on uses of the Roosevelt Complex are up to the town council.

“There’s a strong history of service in New Mexico, and honoring them locally would be incredible,” Torres continued. The museum also could help the town’s youth connect with family, neighbors, and the human side of history, he said.

While the veterans groups agreed to pursue nonprofit corporate status, retired Air Force pilot Jim Quick, who has previously sat on museum boards, said there’s another important preliminary issue.

“We’ve got to have a vision first,” said Quick, who flew Phantom fighter jets over Vietnam. “You can’t just empty your bedroom and put it in a classroom.”

So the group also agreed to look for someone with experience in museum curating to help out.

Quick took the opportunity to promote the Folds of Honor Patriot Gala at Sandia Resort and Casino on September 10. Folds of Honor raises funds scholarships and other assistance for children and spouses of service members killed or disabled in the line of duty.

Information on the event can be found on the RioGrandePatriots.com website.

 
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