As a Spanish period land grant, Atrisco’s history covers from 1692 to the 21st century. During that time, Mexico, declared independence from Spain and ruled New Mexico from 1821-1848. Following the Mexican War in 1848, the United States acquired New Mexico beginning a new era for Atrisco. In 2006, the lands of Atrisco were sold to a commercial developer.
Among the original settlers of New Mexico with Juan de Oñate in 1598 were founders of Atrisco. By 1650, farmers and stockmen had settled Atrisco on the west bank of the Río Grande in present Albuquerque. In 1680, the Pueblo Revolt forced New Mexicans to flee south to El Paso. Governor Diego de Vargas retook New Mexico in 1692, and many of the settlers, among them Fernando Durán y Chaves of Atrisco, returned to reclaim their family lands.
When the Villa de Alburquerque was founded in 1706, settlers were already living in Atrisco, which ran from the escarpment south of the volcanos on Albuquerque’s west mesa to Pajarito. Atrisco stretched westward from the Río Grande to the ridge on the western horizon. In 1769, the people of Atrisco received a second grant that ran from the ridge to the Rio Puerco. Between the Río Grande and the Río Puerco, the Atrisco Land Grant, encompassed 67,000 acres.
Who were these tenacious Atrisqueños? Among others, the 1790 census revealed that Atrisco had12 ranching and seven farming families. Among them were four weavers, a spinner, and several wool carders. Shoemakers, carpenters and laborers, including a musician also resided there. By 1894, 224 settlers occupied Atrisco. They lived near four principal plazas named for dominant families in each location. This was an early evolution of our Atrisco community. The tenacity of our ancestors had helped them to survive in their new lands and flourish as a clan. Our ancestors believed in the spirit of the community land grant which they sought to protect and derive life from. A belief that the land was to be used for the benefit of all, for community.
By the 20th century, the people of Atrisco still farmed and ranched. In the early 1900s, agriculture began to decline. Sheep herding, homesteading and government land management programs had depleted or changed use of grasslands in the valley. After the Mexican–American War, Atrisco became a territory of the United States. From 1848 to 1904 the U.S. Government and the City of Albuquerque challenged Atrisqueños over the legitimacy of the land grant and it boundaries. However, in the end, Atrisco prevailed achieving in 1905 a US Patent recognizing property ownership in the United States of the Atrisco Land Grant by the Atrisco people. Between 1905 and 2006 other issues and challenges associated with the growth of the City of Albuquerque predominated, however, the land grant remained intact well into the 21st Century. In December 2006, Atrisqueños were approached by several land buyers as real estate prices and risen and once again the land had become a focus of interest. This time however, Atrisqueños voted to sell the land grant. It was sold to developer SunCal Companies of Irvine, California.
Our story, thankfully, does not end there. In 2007, the Atrisco Companies were spun out of the land grant sale. From assets retained and assets bargained for, new seeds for a new beginning were laid. A new generation of Atrisqueños, unwilling to see our heritage lost and our story come to an end set in motion the latest phase. We began a new chapter and a continuation of our 400 year journey. Through six (6) companies today, mostly non-profit organizations, the social enterprise known as the Atrisco Companies provides support to New Mexico communities though the various missions within the non-profit work. Bringing our land grant full circle to the original intent of our ancestors. Using the lands for the benefit of the community.
Today, approximately 50,000 Atrisco Land Grant heirs are descendant from the early settlers. Atrisqueños are committed to preserve the rich history and sense of pride that began with their forefathers.
Beautifying El Campo Santo’s Cemeteries
Over the past three years El Campo Santo has made significant improvements to the aesthetics of all three cemeteries. Preserving our El Campo Santos is the same as preserving our heritage. An effort we believe is fundamental to our organizations. With each cemetery we have undertaken projects to improve the cultural look and appeal. At Santa Clara we re-constructed the bottom entry wall and updated the mural with two lovely angels and beautiful mountains with a blue sky background. We brightened up Evangelico with vibrant, colorful flowers on the inner south and east block wall, as well as added a serene and calming mural to the front of Evangelico. At San Jose, we renovated the pavilion and added a table so families can gather, sit down, and relax when visiting their loved ones. Colorful murals have also been added to San Jose de Armijo inner walls, enhancing the charm of our beloved cemeteries. We have also started to add monumental land marks. The first example of this is at San Jose Cemetery where we added three white wrought iron crosses created by one of our very own local artists from the South Valley who is also an heir to the Atrisco Land Grant. The crosses can be seen as you drive into the cemetery to the east of the pavilion. The three crosses create a profound image and send a message of peace and tranquility to all who see them. They are richly accented by the beautiful view of our beloved Sandia Mountains.
Our cemeteries are deeply rooted within our community and provide us with a meaningful link to our ancestors. They also embody diverse religious practices and cultural affiliations that represent each family’s traditions and personal preferences. El Campo Santo will continue to make improvements and place inspirational and culturally relevant landmarks through-out our cemeteries. Please be sure to take note the next time you happen to visit your loved ones!