Martineztown, New Mexico
(April 24, 2016)— Martineztown is one of the most unsuspecting areas of Albuquerque (ABQ); a stone’s throw from the 1970’s time warped downtown area. It’s hidden beneath and between busy freeway on and off ramps, essentially all but forgotten by preservationists that tend to the likes of Old Town, Nob Hill and Downtown Albuquerque. Nonetheless, Martineztown, although not as old as Old Town (founded in 1706) or Barelas Barrio (established in 1662) is one of the top three oldest towns in ABQ; with a history dating as far back as 1820 (which during this time was known as The Commons).
Today, Martineztown is a residential Southwestern-American village and it sure has been through hell and back (plagued by drugs, gangs, and severe poverty), but it’s survived incredibly despite all of the odds against it. Furthermore, the historical foundation of Martineztown is one shadowed by difficulty and controversy anyway, as if cursed by a vengeful Curandera. There isn’t much about the town aside from a few books written by highly specialized and dedicated historians whom have interpreted its origin and history from a handful of remaining texts in which the town is mentioned in mere paragraphs. Thus, much of what I know about Martineztown, the town in which my paternal side comes from, is that which has been passed to me through spellbinding lore.
Originally a wetland, The Commons (a.k.a. Martineztown) was a pastureland where colonial folk from Old Town would herd their livestock for grazing in the summertime; mind you, back in 1820, this was a bit of a trek (about two miles).
1848 marked a period of great change for the area, as it was the end of New Spain’s Viceroyalty; the collapse of Spanish government, the breakup of the Spanish monarchy, the start of a series of events that would cause a turn of empirical landownership from Spanish to Indian, from Indian to Mexican, and from Mexican to American (NM became a US state in 1912; as a timeline reference). Most importantly, that is, for the destiny of Martineztown and its first settlers, this was a period (1848) of documented land grant acquisition & settlement, which followed the dint of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo just after the war with Mexico. Soon, the boom of railroad engineering would forever alter the land, causing large farms located in the valley to gradually disappear, and further encouraging continued development, changing Old Town into the “old town” and Martineztown into the “new town”. Go figure. Also worth mentioning is Martineztown was self sustained with various stores, a bakery, and even was visited annually by a traveling carnival.
But let’s back up a bit: Martineztown was named after Manuel Antoñio Martin, an early Hispanic settler who was son to Maria Antoñio Augustina; born in Old Town and baptized in San Felipe in 1823 (baptism records were the record of someone’s existence in this era). Having grown up in Old Town, Martin lived a typical Hispanic settler lifestyle- he married, he herded his livestock, farmed, and also had about nine kids; one of which was my two times great grandmother Aniseta Martin. That makes Martin (senior) my three times great grandfather. In 1850, Martin moved his large family from Old Town to The Commons where he settled and built Martineztown (in other words: “Town of Martin”). Being among the first descendants that came with Don Oñate (founder of NM & first governor anointed by the Queen of Spain in 1598), Martin was able to acquire land rights for new settlement.
In 1918, Martin would sell three properties to Ambrosio Baca (my two times great grandfather); which connects this story to my second bloodline- the Baca family. Today, in 2016, all three properties remain in the family. Each property was and is approximately 12.5 yards x 51 yards; really narrow and pretty long from east to west.
Many years later, the death of Martin and his wife would leave property inheritances to my two times great grandmother, Aniseta Martin. With a land grant under her belt, ownership became a big controversy, as those not listed on the land grant would ultimately not benefit from its potential riches. Naturally, Aniseta kept documents of her inheritance in her home, which was eventually burned away in a tragic fire, speculated to have been started by jealous and vindictive townsfolk.
As a result, my family is not part of the documented land grant of Martineztown today; a town in which we still reside. Despite its complex history, I still feel an uncanny closeness to this area which I have strangely enough never truly gotten to know on a more palpable level. Still, there is a sincere beauty to Martineztown. Although a bit rough around her edges, you can see the town’s beauty in characteristics that are not traditionally considered beautiful, like: it’s abandoned vehicles parked in alleyways, it’s two rather ungilded churches, its barred-off residential windows, and overgrown porches.
If visiting NM and its famed Duke City (aka Albuquerque), be sure to make your way here, to historical Martineztown. Divulge in its perpetual mix of new and old, and ultimately bask in the wonder of its history, both in terms of the people who built it, and the period in which it blossomed.