26 Aug 2016

The Spanish and Pueblo Roots of Sunrise Springs

NM Landscape

Community News
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department is proposing a 450-acre public indoor and outdoor shooting range on BLM land just above Hipico Santa Fe. The La Cienega Valley Association (LCVA) does not oppose the shooting range complex but feels the location so close to the La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs, Hipico Santa Fe, and residential homes in La Cieneguilla is totally inappropriate. In respond to the proposal the LCVA has initiated a petition drive requesting the Game and Fish select another location for the shooting range.

History of Sunrise Springs and La Cienega
(The following is a work in progress and will continue to be researched and documented as I learn more about Sunrise Springs’ and La Cienega’s history.)

In the 13th century, Ancestral Puebloans, driven by severe drought, moved south from their settlements in Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Some of those people settled in the La Cienega Valley, drawn by the area’s abundant water resources and land for farming. These were the ancestors of the Pueblo People, who built communities on water courses where they could grow crops. There are a number of significant archaeological sites in the La Cienega and La Cieneguilla area, including large unexcavated Pueblo ruins.  

The La Cienega Valley was first settled by the Spanish in the early 1600s. The Spanish brought new societal structures to the valley, which included acequia (irrigation ditch) associations. Building on the Ancestral Puebloans’ established farm lands and irrigation systems, the Spanish worked to improve watering and to expand the amount of farm land in production. 

Acequia associations were established to ensure irrigation water was shared fairly and in accordance with the association’s rules and conditions. This required the election of an acequia commission and mayordomo. The mayordomo, or ditch boss, is responsible for monitoring water use, ensuring ditches are maintained, and for overseeing the collection of ditch fees. Many consider acequia associations to be one of the first forms of democracy in New Mexico

There are still two active acequia associations in La Cienega, both of which are over 300 years old and whose members include relatives of the Spanish families who first settled in the valley.  Farmers who settled the Sunrise Springs area did not need an acequia association, as natural flowing springs provided a steady source of water.

The area around Sunrise Springs was called “El Paraje El Alamo,” and from all indications this is the site of the original paraje in La Cienega. Parajes were resting places for travelers on the Camino Real in the 17th century. El Paraje El Alamo was reportedly a plazuela, or compound, of connected buildings around a centrally located courtyard. Part of the plazuela was built on the foundation of a small Pueblo Ruin located across Los Pinos Road from Sunrise Springs

Then along came the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and things changed.

(To be continued in the next Notes from the Road.)

Guest Comments

It was a stunning experience.

The grounds are absolutely beautiful and so calming.

Carl Dickens

Carl Dickens, Human Resources Coordinator
Carl Dickens grew up in New Mexico, his parents having met and fallen in love here. After a brief stint in Alaska, the family returned to the warmth and light of the high desert. Carl was raised in the farming community of Los Ranchos, in the North Valley of Albuquerque, among alfalfa fields and arroyos. He began working at Sunrise Springs in 1984, the same year he and his young family moved to the valley. Carl remained at Sunrise Springs for five years, returning again in September of 2012. Carl is active in the local community and is passionate about the history of the area, preserving its agricultural traditions and water conservation.