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          Front Page




Theories Abound on When Alburquerque Became Albuquerque

By Isabel Sanchez
Journal Staff Writer
    Tricentennial trivia question: How did Albuquerque lose its second marshal?
    Answer: Robert McGuire was shot in 1886 while chasing bad guys.
    How did Albuquerque lose its second "r"?
    Answer: No one knows. Which is probably why that little mystery is not included in the Tricentennial Trivia questions that can be found on Albuquerque300.org.
    That slippery, now-you-see-it, now-you-don't "r"— was it the Anglos, who couldn't pronounce "Alburquerque"?
    Was it some government contractor who couldn't spell it? Or was it a meaningless goof, occurring now and then and here and there over time?
    Founded in 1706, the city was named after Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva Enriquez, el Duque de Alburquerque.
    Some historians say the Alburquerque spelling stayed in the original riverside villa location while the current one headed east— much like how Montaño becomes Montgomery once it's out of the valley.
    Another theory, very nearly codified by Rudolfo Anaya in his novel "Alburquerque," has the "r" dropped when the Santa Fe railroad arrived in 1880 and someone had to paint the town's name on a sign.
    History professor Howard N. Rabinowitz, during a public discourse about the "r" 10 years ago— in which Anaya, a fiction writer, was accused of making things up— wrote that it was dropped after the Americanization of Alburquerque after 1846.
    Historian Marc Simmons agrees: "Spanish and Mexican documents continued to use the traditional spelling as late as the 1840s," he writes. "But then, with the coming of the Anglo-Americans, whose tongues tripped over the long and unfamiliar word, the first r fell away ..."
    "My theory is that the second 'r' was dropped by various people through time," says Deb Slaney, curator of history at the Albuquerque Museum, "not only in Albuquerque, New Mexico but in Alburquerque, Spain. We actually have an engraving of Albuquerque, Spain dated 1696, in which the second 'r' is absent. While many people have felt the second 'r' got dropped after Anglo occupation, my feeling is that it was more personal than that. Sometimes it was absent and sometimes it was present."
    It's still sometimes present. The "r" gets dusted off for Founders' Day events in April.
    Mayor Martin Chávez so liked its traditional correctness that in addition to putting it on city trolleys in the mid-1990s, he thanked the voters of Alburquerque on campaign billboards when elected to office again in 2001.
    He still has the "r" given to him by the mayor of the Spanish Alburquerque, framed and hanging on his office wall.
    And there's your answer.

E-MAIL Journal Staff Writer Isabel Sanchez