Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is the state of New Mexico’s largest city. It is also the county seat of Bernalillo County and sits on both banks of the Rio Grande.

Albuquerque is the state of New Mexico’s largest city. It is also the county seat of Bernalillo County and sits on both banks of the Rio Grande. The city’s population according to the 2010 census was almost 550,000, making it the 32nd largest city within the United States.

The city of Albuquerque is the home location of the University of New Mexico, the Kirtland Air Force Base and the Petroglyph National Monument. To the east of the city lie the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande flows through the city, flowing from the north to the south.

The once small settlement that would grow into the city of Albuquerque was named by the provincial governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes in honour of the viceroy of New Spain between 1653 and 1660. The viceroy was Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva y Enriquez de Cabrera, one of his titles was the Duke of Alburquerque, spelt slightly differently after the Spanish town of that name.

The family name and aristocratic title date from before the 12th century. The village of Alburquerque in Spain is close to the Portuguese border and is the centre of the cork industry. The region has been invaded and settled by both the Moors in 711AD and the Romans in 218BC. The name of Alburquerque originates from either of these ancient languages. The Arabic (Moorish) word of Abu al-Qurq means ‘father of the cork oak’ or ‘land of the cork oak.’ In the Latin language of the Romans ‘alba quercus’ means ‘white oak.’ The wood of the cork oak is white in colour, this tree features on the seal of the Spanish village.

Other explanations to the origins of the name claim that it was Al-Barquq which means plum, or albaricoque, the Galician word for apricot. Spanish settlers first brought the apricot to what is now New Mexico in the mid 18th century. Frontiersmen were unable to correctly pronounce the Galician word and it became Albuquerque.

Albuquerque in what would become New Mexico was founded in 1706 as a Spanish colonial outpost. Its original name was Ranchos de Alburquerque (Spanish spelling). It was home to just 18 families; originally it was a farming community and a military outpost along the route of the Camino Real. It also became the centre for sheep herding. After the region was ceded to Mexico after independence was granted in 1821 it became a Mexican Military Garrison.

The town of Alburquerque was built in the style of the traditional Spanish village, many of these buildings have been preserved and the central plaza, complete with government buildings, traditional homes and a church. The preserved area is now a museum. It is known as ‘Old Town Albuquerque’ or just as ‘Old Town.’

After New Mexico was handed over to America the town continued its role of being used by the military. Confederate troops occupied Albuquerque during the Civil War, after advancing northwards the troops then had to retreat from troops loyal to the Union army. A day long battle was fought which became known as the Battle of Albuquerque. The engagement led to few casualties on either side.

The railroad first arrived into the settlement in 1880, it was located 2 miles east of the main settlement and newly arriving merchants and settlers constructed new buildings close to the railroad in what became known as New Albuquerque. With an escalation of violence in the growing town its first marshal was appointed, it was incorporated into a town in 1885. The town was incorporated into a city in 1891. The town locations of Old Town and New Albuquerque remained as separate communities until the 1920’s.

The dry climate of New Mexico attracted many sufferers of tuberculosis to the city during the early years of the 20th century. Several hospitals were built in the hope of finding a cure for these patients. Two of the southwestern United States largest hospitals began in the city during this period.

Route 66 attracted travelers from 1926, motels, restaurants and gift shops were soon constructed to cater for this need. The original route ran through the city along Fourth Street, in 1937 it was re-routed along Central Avenue. Surviving structures from this era are visible along both Central and Fourth.

The Kirtland Air Force Base was first used from 1939, together with other major employers arriving into the city and its surroundings the city has continued to grow. In 2007 it was named as the 6th fastest growing city in the USA.

In addition to the preservation of the historic Old Town, the city has a number of museums and places of interest including the Museum of Art and History, the Museum of Natural History and Science.

Albuquerque has several areas for biking and hiking with numerous bike paths across the city. The best areas for these activities are located in the foothills of the Sandia and Manzano Mountains. The city was voted as the fittest city in the USA in March 2007.

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