Turquoise has been mined in the Cerrillos Hills for a millennium - Albuquerque Journal

Turquoise has been mined in the Cerrillos Hills for a millennium

The Turquoise Trail community of Cerrillos is going batty over bats next weekend.

“One of the things that is startling for folks to understand, of the total mammal species, bats make up one-quarter of that number,” said Peter Lipscomb, Cerrillos Hills State Park manager. “Which means, without bats, life as we know it would be very different on this planet.”

Lipscomb will be delivering a two-hour presentation on Sunday, Oct. 29, that will discuss the many benefits of bats, dispel a few myths and is accompanied by an extensive slide show. A bat skeleton and bat puppet will aid Lipscomb in his discussion.

Old mining equipment and a large bottle display are among the exhibits at the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum.

“What they do for us: They are pollinators, they help disperse vegetation and different species of trees and other plants through their droppings,” Lipscomb said. “They’re natural pest control. ”

They also have a relationship with tequila.

“Desert flowers open at night, and since bats are the pollinators, without bats there is no agave, and that’s where tequila comes from,” Lipscomb said.

Although the Cerrillos Hills State Park is just outside the community, the talk itself will be in the park’s visitor center in Cerrillos itself. The visitor center is a good spot to check out some of the local lore and even some ore, he said.

The dusty streets of Cerrillos offer a place to stroll. (SOURCE: The Cerrillos Historical Society)

Old mining equipment and other local artifacts are on display, and it will help put the state park site into perspective, Lipscomb said.

The state park covers about 1,000 acres. Nearly five miles of trails wind through an area rife with various mines, some dating back more than 1,000 years to where Native Americans first pulled turquoise from the ground.

“You really can see how the natural history influenced cultural history,” Lipscomb said. “You have mines that date to about A.D. 900 with the Native people and turquoise, then mines from the Spanish Entrada when they were exploring things and they found galena, which is a lead-silver sulfide. Then you have the territorial mining boom. You can see how the little hills played a giant role in the settling of New Mexico.”

The Adobe Iglesia de San José is nearly 100 years old. (SOURCE: The New Mexico Department Of Tourism)

More mining equipment, as well as many other odds and ends of local history, is on display in the Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum inside the Casa Grande Trading Post.

“We have a large museum with a large open collection,” said Pat Brown, owner of the trading post and museum with her husband, Todd. “We have examples of local turquoise and a nice display of the Tiffany Mine, gold dry washers (devices for panning gold without water) and lots of antique-type tools, some stuff from coal mines and quite a display of old bottles.”

Townsend’s big-eared bats roost in Madrid. (SOURCE: Michael Roedel)

One of the big attractions is the raw turquoise that the family pulls from the ground in one of their three claims in the vicinity. This raw turquoise is then polished and used in jewelry made for sale in the trading post.

“We go out several times a year for our rough rock,” Brown said. “We come home, work it, grind it for stone setting, and we set our own jewelry. We have examples of the rough rock, polished stones and the jewelry. It is cool.”

The couple also own a petting zoo.

The Cerrillos Hills State Park visitor center offers a number of mining artifacts. (SOURCE: the New Mexico State Parks)

“We have a small barnyard with four goats, a llama, fancy chickens——they have a fabulous top, so they get a lot of attention—— and white pigeons,” Brown said.

The Cerrillos Station, a mercantile featuring a number of local artists in a fine-art gallery, recently opened in the community, which has about 100 residents.

The renovation of the 100-year-old building is a work of art in its own right as a means of connecting the building’s history with the future. The work took more than a year and includes solar-thermal-produced heat.

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