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Building pride in our local neighborhoods

The Duran grocery store at the corner of 12th and Bellamah NW was one of the first businesses in the Wells Park neighborhood to service sawmill workers. (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexicans are known to endure challenges and that resiliency extends to neighborhoods, as well.

Take, for instance, Wells Park, which in the early 1900s, was home to one of the biggest employment hubs in Albuquerque.

That community is the subject of a new documentary, part of One Albuquerque Media’s series “Neighborhoods at a Crossroads.”

The documentary will air at 6 p.m. Friday, April 3, on Comcast channel 16 and on YouTube by searching One Albuquerque Media GOV-TV.

According to the Wells Park Neighborhood Association, the area is located south of Interstate 40 until Mountain Road, and then east and west from First until Twelfth.

Anthony DellaFlora is the series producer.

He said this is the fifth film in the series and a world premiere is usually held at a location in the neighborhood being highlighted. However, due to social distancing measures, this one will be broadcast on TV and stream online.

“Wells Park has a long history of overcoming challenges, so this is just another one,” DellaFlora said. “We hope to host a neighborhood event, but in the meantime, we’re excited to be able to present this documentary to a wide audience and still keep everyone safe.”

DellaFlora and his crew began working on the documentary last spring.

Along the way, he found out interesting facts about the area.

The sawmills in and adjacent to what is now Wells Park were one of the citys biggest employers in the early 20th century. (Courtesy of the Center for SouthWest Research)

“The railroad was one of the biggest employers in town since 1880 when it came through,” he said. “The other huge employers in the area were the lumber yards located in the Sawmill area. There’s a lot of history here. People don’t know the history of the area and how big of an employment center it was.”

Of course, there are some downsides.

Because of the lumber mills and industrial uses, Wells Park residents suffered from environmental pollution – which was a big issue for decades.

“They had water, air and land pollution,” DellaFlora said. “It took a very big effort to finally get some of the industry shut down, and money to come in and clean up the stuff. It’s a remarkable example of a neighborhood being active to take a stand.”

Over the course of months of research and interviews, DellaFlora learned something new.

“I was surprised to find out that the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, or Federal Land Grant Alliance led by famed land grant activist Reies Lopez Tijerina, of Tierra Amarilla Courthouse Raid fame, was headquartered in Wells Park at Third and Mountain,” he said. “There’s a section on it in the film.”

Other neighborhoods featured in the series include Barelas, Martineztown, Alamosa and Thomas Village. All are available for viewing online on the One Albuquerque Media YouTube channel.

“These neighborhood profiles have become an important way to preserve our local history, expose viewers to the diversity within our community and build pride in the featured neighborhoods,” DellaFlora said.

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