(Note: Last month we discussed the origins of the village of Las Huertas in the area east of the town of Bernalillo. This month we continue an outline of village history.)
The Mexican Revolution against Spain began in 1810, and Spanish troops were moved from the north to fight in Mexico.
At the same time, the Spanish government could no longer provide food and other supplies to the Indians, so the nomads reverted to their old ways, and villages like Las Huertas were once again fair game for raiding.
After Mexican Independence in 1821, the new governor admitted he could not protect the people of Las Huertas and he ordered them to remove themselves.
The village was abandoned by 1823. Most families moved down to Algodones, near the Rio Grande.
The settlers began moving back into the canyon in 1835 in ever-larger numbers. Several new villages were built at places called Tecalote, Ojo de la Casa, Rancho San Francisco, Los Alamos and Placitas. By 1848, it was estimated that Las Huertas was home to about 200 people, and by 1881, 500 lived there.
The canyon seems to have become much more attractive as a place to live after the Navajos were subdued in 1864.
Governments had changed again with the American occupation in 1846, and land ownership was addressed in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The treaty provided that Spanish and Mexican land grants would be honored within existing boundaries.
That became a problem for Las Huertas (and many other land grants). The original boundary reference points, as established nearly 100 years before, included descriptions such as red hills to the east of Bernalillo to a point in the mountains, then to a water hole and so forth.
The first claim for the Las Huertas grant was made to the U.S. Government in 1862, and it was for 130,000 acres. When the final patent was issued 45 years later, in 1907, it included just over 4,700 acres.
Some of the land was lost as a result of boundary interpretations, disputes and the like, but one-third of the grant claimed was acquired by Thomas Catron and Mariano Otero, members of the infamous Santa Fe Ring, who took the land in exchange for assisting residents in securing their patent. What service Catron and Otero provided is open to question, since they lost 125,000 acres of land grant.
The San Antonio de las Huertas land grant is with us today. Most of it is in private hands, but there remains a governing body — called the Land Grant Board — made up of heirs of the original settlers.
The board has authority over common land areas, cemeteries and roads. In the past, it had much more authority and even operated a school system and named the superintendent.
The board’s authority has been eroded by the growth of municipal and county governments, and today it does not have taxing authority or access to any other source of revenue. Land grant roads, those which are also school-bus routes, are maintained through an agreement with Sandoval County.
(Next month: Life in 18th-century Las Huertas.)
(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 Rio Rancho Observer Readers’ Choice contest. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui,” translated as “They Passed by Here,” appears on the third Sunday of the month.)
DON BULLIS’ NEWEST BOOK “NEW MEXICO HISTORICAL CHRONOLOGY”
IS AVAILABLE FROM