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Albuquerque History

Albuquerque history is one long tale of intrepid travelers. Seventy years before the Declaration of Independence, Spanish settlers slogged their way north from Mexico and set up a farming outpost on the banks of the Rio Grande—not too far from where American Indians had started cultivating land around 1100. The Villa de San Felipe de Alburquerque (the extra ‘r’ got lost somewhere along the way) prospered, thanks to its location on a major trade route with Mexico. And it only got bigger when the railroad showed up near the end of the 19th century. The tracks were laid about 2 miles to the east so entrepreneurs established “New Town” (what’s now downtown Albuquerque) to trade goods and welcome money-hungry visitors from the East. At this point, Albuquerque history diverged into two strands. The agricultural roots and culture laid down by the Spanish stayed strong, and are still cultivated today along the river but the new Anglo culture drove the economy. The population jumped from less than 3,000 to more than 11,000 in 1910. Soon there was a university, with striking “pueblo revival” architecture, and the school’s success came in part from an unlikely source: wealthy tuberculosis patients, who made their way from the East Coast to recuperate in the crisp, dry air. After World War II, the city boomed again, with drivers gallivanting along “the Mother Road”—Route 66—and scientists coming to work at the newly established national labs on Kirtland Air Force Base. Population more than doubled in a decade, pushing the city to the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, and growth has been steady ever since. But like many Western metropolises, this city of 600,000 has nearly reached its natural limits. Short on water, Albuquerque’s government has taken a more environmentally conscious tack, trying to limit development, laying down bike lanes, and using river water instead of drawing on the aquifer.

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