Albuquerque is the largest city in the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the county seat of Bernalillo County, and it is situated in the central part of the state, straddling the Rio Grande. The city population was 552,804 as of the 2011 population estimates from the United States Census Bureau and ranks as the 32nd-largest city in the U.S. It has a 2011 estimated metropolitan population of 898,642 according to the US Census. Albuquerque is the 57th-largest United States metropolitan area. The Albuquerque MSA population includes the city of Rio Rancho.
Albuquerque is home to the University of New Mexico (UNM), Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and Petroglyph National Monument. The Sandia Mountains run along the eastern side of Albuquerque, and the Rio Grande flows through the city, north to south.
It is generally believed that the growing village that was to become Albuquerque was named by the provincial governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes in honor of Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva y Enríquez de Cabrera, viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660. One of de la Cueva's aristocratic titles was Duke of Alburquerque, referring to the Spanish town of Alburquerque.
The Alburquerque family name dates from pre-12th century Iberia (Spain and Portugal, being the old name of the Portuguese family Albuquerque) and is habitational in nature (de Alburquerque = from Alburquerque). The Spanish village of Alburquerque is within the Badajoz province of Extremadura region, and located just fifteen miles (24 km) from the Portuguese border. Cork trees dominate the landscape and Alburquerque is a center of the Spanish cork industry. Over the years, this region has been alternately under both Spanish and Portuguese rule. The name of the New Mexico city of Albuquerque is identical to the Portuguese spelling with only one 'r' of the family name in Portugal, probably due to Spanish or native local pronunciations. The name is Latin (Roman) in origin and from alba quercus or "white oak" (the wood of the cork oak is white after the bark has been removed). The seal of the Spanish village of Alburquerque is a white oak tree, framed by a shield, topped by a crown.
Western folklore offers a different explanation, tracing the name Alburquerque to the Arabic 'Al-Barquq', meaning "the plum", and the derivative Galician (Galicia, northwest Spanish region) word 'albaricoque', the "apricot". The apricot was brought to New Mexico by Spanish settlers, possibly as early as 1743. As the story goes, the settlement of La Ciudad de Albaricoque was established near an apricot tree. As frontiersmen were unable to correctly pronounce the Spanish (Galician) word, they pronounced it as "Albuquerque."
Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as the Spanish colonial outpost of Ranchos de Alburquerque. Present-day Albuquerque retains much of its historical Spanish cultural heritage.
Albuquerque was a farming community and strategically located military outpost along the Camino Real. The town was also the sheep-herding center of the West. Spain established a presidio (military garrison) in Albuquerque in 1706. After 1821, Mexico also had a military garrison there. The town of Alburquerque was built in the traditional Spanish village pattern: a central plaza surrounded by government buildings, homes, and a church. This central plaza area has been preserved and is open to the public as a museum, cultural area, and center of commerce. It is referred to as "Old Town Albuquerque" or simply "Old Town." Historically it was sometimes referred to as "La Placita" (little plaza in Spanish). On the north side of Old Town Plaze is San Felipe de Neri Church. Built in 1793, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.
After the American occupation of New Mexico, Albuquerque had a federal garrison and quartermaster depot, the Post of Albuquerque, from 1846 to 1867. During the Civil War Albuquerque was occupied in February 1862 by Confederate troops under General Henry Hopkins Sibley, who soon afterward advanced with his main body into northern New Mexico. During his retreat from Union troops into Texas he made a stand on April 8, 1862, at Albuquerque and fought the Battle of Albuquerque against a detachment of Union soldiers commanded by Colonel Edward R. S. Canby. This daylong engagement at long range led to few casualties.
When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1880, it bypassed the Plaza, locating the passenger depot and railyards about 2 miles (3 km) east in what quickly became known as New Albuquerque or New Town. Many Anglo merchants, mountain men, and settlers slowly filtered into Albuquerque creating a major mercantile commercial center which is now Downtown Albuquerque. Due to a rising rate of violent crime, gunman Milt Yarberry was appointed the town's first marshal that year. New Albuquerque was incorporated as a town in 1885, with Henry N. Jaffa its first mayor, and it was incorporated as a city in 1891. Old Town remained a separate community until the 1920s when it was absorbed by the city of Albuquerque. Old Albuquerque High School, the city's first public high school, was established in 1879.
Early 20th century
By 1900, Albuqerque boasted a population of 8,000 inhabitants and all the modern amenities, including an electric street railway connecting Old Town, New Town, and the recently established University of New Mexico campus on the East Mesa. In 1902, the famous Alvarado Hotel was built adjacent to the new passenger depot, and it remained a symbol of the city until it was razed in 1970 to make room for a parking lot. In 2002, the Alvarado Transportation Center was built on the site in a manner resembling the old landmark. The large metro station functions as the downtown headquarters for the city's transit department. It also serves as an intermodal hub for local buses, Greyhound buses, Amtrak passenger trains, and the Rail Runner commuter rail line.
New Mexico's dry climate brought many tuberculosis patients to the city in search of a cure during the early 20th century, and several sanitaria sprang up on the West Mesa to serve them. Presbyterian Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital, two of the largest hospitals in the Southwest, had their beginnings during this period. Influential New Deal–era governor Clyde Tingley and famed Southwestern architect John Gaw Meem were among those brought to New Mexico by tuberculosis.
Decades of growth
The first travelers on Route 66 appeared in Albuquerque in 1926, and before long, dozens of motels, restaurants, and gift shops had sprung up along the roadside to serve them. Route 66 originally ran through the city on a north-south alignment along Fourth Street, but in 1937 it was realigned along Central Avenue, a more direct east-west route. The intersection of Fourth and Central downtown was the principal crossroads of the city for decades. The majority of the surviving structures from the Route 66 era are on Central, though there are also some on Fourth. Signs between Bernalillo and Los Lunas along the old route now have brown, historical highway markers denoting it as Pre-1937 Route 66.
The establishment of Kirtland Air Force Base in 1939, Sandia Base in the early 1940s, and Sandia National Laboratories in 1949, would make Albuquerque a key player of the Atomic Age. Meanwhile, the city continued to expand outward onto the West Mesa, reaching a population of 201,189 by 1960. In 1990, it was 384,736 and in 2007 it was 518,271. In June 2007, Albuquerque was listed as the sixth fastest-growing city in America by CNN and the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1990, the Census Bureau reported Albuquerque's population as 34.5% Hispanic and 58.3% non-Hispanic white.
Albuquerque's downtown entered the same phase and development (decline, "urban renewal" with continued decline, and gentrification) as nearly every city across the United States. As Albuquerque spread outward, the downtown area fell into a decline. Many historic buildings were razed in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for new plazas, high-rises, and parking lots as part of the city's urban renewal phase. As of 2010, only recently has downtown come to regain much of its urban character, mainly through the construction of many new loft apartment buildings and the renovation of historic structures such as the KiMo Theater, in the gentrification phase.
During the 21st century, the Albuquerque population has continued to grow rapidly. The population of the city proper is estimated at 528,497 in 2009, up from 448,607 in the 2000 census. During 2005 and 2006, the city celebrated its tricentennial with a diverse program of cultural events.
Urban trends and issues
Alvarado Station provides convenient access to other parts of the city via the city bus system, ABQ RIDE. And the city plans to provide better public transportation opportunities to ease the city's growing traffic woes.
The passage of the Planned Growth Strategy in 2002–2004 was the community's strongest effort to create a framework for a more balanced and sustainable approach to urban growth.
A critical finding of the study is that many of the 'disconnects' between the public's preferences and what actually is taking place are caused by weak or non-existent implementation tools – rather than by inadequate policies, as contained in the City/County Comprehensive Plan and other already adopted legislation.
Urban sprawl is limited on three sides—by the Pueblo of Sandia to the north, the Pueblo of Isleta and Kirtland Air Force Base to the south, and the Sandia Mountains to the east. Suburban growth continues at a strong pace to the west, beyond Petroglyph National Monument, once thought to be a natural boundary to sprawl development.
Because of less-costly land and lower taxes, much of the growth in the metropolitan area is taking place outside of the city of Albuquerque itself. In Rio Rancho to the northwest, the communities east of the mountains, and the incorporated parts of Valencia County, population growth rates approach twice that of Albuquerque. The primary cities in Valencia County are Los Lunas and Belen, both of which are home to growing industrial complexes and new residential subdivisions. The mountain towns of Tijeras, Edgewood, and Moriarty, while close enough to Albuquerque to be considered suburbs, have experienced much less growth compared to Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Los Lunas, and Belen. Limited water supply and rugged terrain are the main limiting factors for development in these towns. The Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), which includes constituents from throughout the Albuquerque area, was formed to ensure that these governments along the middle Rio Grande would be able to meet the needs of their rapidly rising populations. MRCOG's cornerstone project is the New Mexico Rail Runner Express.