Origin of the name Albuquerque, New Mexico • I am New Mexico

Origin of the name Albuquerque, New Mexico

(January 5, 2016)—Albuquerque, New Mexico—If you’ve ever wanted to know how Albuquerque got it’s name, i’m sure you’ve heard a few stories here and there. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ve discovered a more accurate description.

For those of you that don’t know too much about New Mexico’s history and how it became a state, here is a little bit of information on how Albuquerque got it’s name.

One of these guys must have been carrying some Green Chile!


duke of albuquerque

Statue of Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, in Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In early 1706, Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, 28th colonial governor of Nuevo Mejico, sent Juan Ulibarri to the area of what is now Albuquerque to determine its suitability for a settlement. Ulibarri reported that it was “a very good place for a new villa”. The locality at the time was known as Bosque Grande de Do\~na Luisa, Estancia de Do\~na Luisa de Trujillo, San Francisco Xavier del Bosque Grande, and more commonly, simply Bosque Grande (big forest or thicket).

Governor Valdes wrote to King Philip V of Spain and the Viceroy of New Spain then resident in Mexico City, that he had established a villa “on the banks and in the valley of the Rio del Norte, in a good place as regards land, water, pasture, and firewood”, which he named San Francisco de Alburquerque in honor of the viceroy. This was a blatant attempt to curry favor, which did not do Governor Valdes much good as three months later, the king appointed the wealthy noble, Joseph Chacon, to be the new governor of New Mexico. Alburquerque was thus the third villa (after Santa Fe and Santa Cruz) to be established in New Mexico.

Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva Enriquez, Duque de Alburquerque, the 34th Viceroy of New Spain, was the second duke titled Alburquerque to serve as viceroy, and was the 10th in succession from the first Duke of Alburquerque, Don Beltran de la Cueva, who received the dukedom in 1464 from King Enrique IV of Castille. The Iberian town of Alburquerque was once encompassed by Portugal, but it now lies within the Spanish province of Badajoz, 10 miles east of the Portuguese border.

In 1166, Fernando II of Leon ceded the region of Alburquerque to the Military Order of Santiago according to a pact made between them and the metropolitan church of Leon. This area was taken by the Moors in 1184 and retaken a few years later by Alfonso IX of Leon. Alfonso’s son Fernando III ceded the domain to Alonso Tellez de Menese, son-in-law of King Sancho of Portugal. In 1373, Don Sancho, brother of Enrique II of Castille, received the town under the title of Conde (count) of Alburquerque.


Alfonso de Albuquerque (1453–1515)

The first records of the Albuquerque family date from around the 12th–13th centuries (note that the Portuguese spelling has only one r). The most famous member of this family was A(l)fonso de Albuquerque (1453–1515), a noted naval general, who was conquerer of Goa and the first Portuguese viceroy of India.

The Albu(r)querque region of Iberia likely derived its name from the Arabic (the area was occupied by the Moors for centuries) Abu al-Qurq (land of the cork oak; Spanish: pais del alcornoque), which in turn may have been derived from the Latin `albus quercus’ (white oak) as the trunk of the cork oak is white after the outer layer has been exposed. Note that the seal of the Spanish city of Alburquerque bears the design of an oak. (The other main theory is that the name derives from al-burquq, the plum.)

The United States annexed the New Mexico territory in 1846 after declaring war on Mexico, which itself had declared its independence from Spain in 1821. Under the U.S. influence, the first r in Alburquerque slowly was lost as the name Albuquerque was easier for the new settlers to pronounce. Nowadays, the city is also known by its airport code ABQ.

Albuquerque is the county seat of Bernalillo County, one of the original nine counties created by the territorial legislature in 1852. The town of Bernalillo (named after the Bernal family — Pascuala Bernal

Pascuala Bernal: Born: 1583, Valle de Méjico, Nueva España Marriage: Juan Griego Died: Bef 1626, Santa Fé, Santa Fé, Nuevo Méjico, Nueva España

Pascuala Bernal: Born: 1583, Valle de Méjico, Nueva España
Marriage: Juan Griego
Died: Bef 1626, Santa Fé, Santa Fé, Nuevo Méjico, Nueva España

had accompanied her husband, Juan Griego, on the O\~nate expedition of 1598 and some of her children chose to retain the Bernal name) is actually the county seat of Sandoval County, at least since 1903. (Before that time, the two towns competed to be the county seat of Bernalillo County.) Bernalillo County, as originally drawn, was a long thin county that extended from the Texas border, through present day Arizona and southern Nevada, to the California border. It gained its present shape in 1903.


Robert Julyan, _The Place Names of New Mexico_, Revised Edition, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1998, 9–11.

Leanne Potts, “The Age of Albuquerque”, _New Mexico Journey_, Volume 9, Number 2, AAA Club Services, Albuquerque, New Mexico, March/April 2005, 16–20.

_Entre La naturaleza … Alburquerque, villa medieval_, brochure, Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Alburquerque and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya.

Jerry L. Williams and Paul E. McAllister, “County Boundaries”, _New Mexico in Maps_, Second Edition, Jerry L. Williams, editor, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1986, 364–366.

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