In New Mexico, history is never an abstraction. Whether you are seeking shelter in a thick-walled adobe home, listening to the lilt of a native New Mexican’s words, tracing the path of acequias or tasting posole, you can sense history there. And there are few writers better able to tell that history than Marc Simmons.
The latest of his 37
books, Hispanic Albuquerque: 1706-1846, takes readers through the
Rio Abajo, or lower Rio Grande, during the time of Spanish rule.
Though the book is short and to the point, Simmons reaches three
hundred years into history and pulls out characters whose names
— and sometimes character traits — are familiar to
today’s residents of the Duke City (The city is named after
the Spanish Duke of Alburquerque). Simmons tells the tale of Elena
Gallegos (after whom a park on the east side of town is named), and
clues us into other individuals whose descendants still live in
these parts: Griegos, Chavez, Baca and Armijo.
reminds us of a time, not all that long ago, when the Sandia
Mountains hid Apache, Navajo and Comanche raiders; when Spaniards
retreated to El Paso for safety, and when settlers, soldiers and
missionaries vied for the land, power and souls of the Rio Grande
tribes. Even though the book is about Albuquerque, it’s also
about the Rio Grande. That river — now the scene of battles
among irrigators and cities and endangered species —
fulfilled a promise that gold never delivered. The river provided
water to drink, cropland to plow, a corridor to travel and a
defense against the desert.
by Marc Simmons
University of New Mexico Press,
More than just a city on a river
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