As I survey the people have I met in Albuquerque, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that many of them know the origin of their city's name. "It comes from a duke from Spain," some of them tell you. But that's as far as it usually goes. Don't expect them to tell you the duke's name.
Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva Enriquez is not a household name here. Yet he was the 10th Duke of Alburqueque, Spain, the viceroy of New Spain and the namesake of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This city was built in his honor!
Southwest of Madrid and Northwest of Seville, near the border with Portugal, the original Spanish small town of Alburquerque (with an additional "r") is now the sister city of Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city. Mispronunciation of the Spanish "Alburquerque" gradually led to the American "Albuquerque," without the first R.
Yet one town has grown much faster than the other. While Alburquerque, Spain now has more than 5,000 residents, Albuquerque New Mexico has more than 500,000 — and half of them are Hispanic!
It was Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, the Spanish governor of New Mexico, who established and named this city on April 23, 1706 — some 70 years before the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
He named the new pueblo in honor his superior, the 10th Duke of Alburquerque, who was serving as Viceroy of New Spain at that time.
Yet, while an impressive equestrian statue of Cuervo y Valdés greets you at one of the key entrances to Old Town, I had to go to the Albuquerque Museum to find the Duke's image. I found that a little strange. The city's namesake is not nearly as well recognized as its founder.
But I don't mean to take away from Cuervo's accomplishment. The museum's exhibit explains that Cuervo "founded a villa with 35 families and 252 residents" and that they were "Spanish, and the others had African, Filipino, French, Indian and Mexican ancestors."
In other words, we have been a multiracial, multicultural and multilingual salad bowl, instead of a melting pot, from the very begining.
Cuervo also named the church. He called it San Francisco Xavier. But he was overruled and San Francisco Xavier was replaced by San Felipe de Neri as both the patron saint of Albuquerque and the name of the church.
To read other parts of this ongoing series, click: EXPLORING NEW MEXICO