SANTA FE – A bill that would make the historic Los Luceros property north of Española part of the Museum of New Mexico passed the House on Monday.
If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, House Bill 692 would make the 148-acre property the state’s ninth state historic site, joining Coronado State Monument, Jemez Historic Site and the Bosque Redondo Memorial, among others.
Currently under the oversight of the state Department of Cultural Affairs, it would be managed by that department’s state historic sites and monuments division.
In addition, a separate measure, House Memorial 47, calls for a study to be conducted to determine the feasibility of an application to list Los Luceros as a World Heritage site should the United States rejoin the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (The U.S. withdrew from UNESCO in December, citing “anti-Israel bias” after UNESCO agreed to designate the Palestinian city of Hebron as a World Heritage site.)
There are more than 1,000 World Heritage sites around the world, including the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Grand Canyon. New Mexico already has the most World Heritage sites of any state with three: Carlsbad Caverns, Chaco Canyon and Taos Pueblo.
“I just think Los Luceros is deserving of having that designation,” said Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who introduced the legislation. “It’s got a lot of history.” In 1983, Los Luceros was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the House Memorial, Los Luceros has been known by many names over the centuries. Ancient people lived and farmed the land near what is now Alcalde and two pueblo communities were built nearby. It was at the center of the Spanish land grant establish by General Don Diego de Vargas in 1705. It became a working farm and ranch and after New Mexico achieved statehood it was purchased by Mary Cabot Wheelwright, who later gifted it to Maria Chabot, a friend of Georgia O’Keeffe.
The property, which includes a 5,700 square foot hacienda on the Rio Grande and a visitors center, was purchased for $2.5 million by the state of New Mexico in 2008 — a move that was somewhat controversial given no definite plans for its use. Suggestions over the years included a film institute and agricultural education or crop studies. According to the fiscal impact report, the property has never received adequate funding due to the economic downturn.
Rep. Trujillo said he has asked for $100,000 in capital outlay for maintenance during the current legislative session.
The Journal reported in November that Los Luceros is currently operating with temporary funding. The Department of Cultural Affairs had recently hired an on-site property manager, who said a farm employee was been tending to the site’s agricultural land. Tours were being conducted by appointment and parties can rent the facilities for weddings, retreats or special events.
Los Luceros also hosts an annual Harvest Festival, during which visitors can pick apples from a 1,000-tree orchard, watch sheep-shearing demonstrations using the Los Luceros flock, and wool-spinning demos.