Teacher, agriculturalist, farmer, orchardist, and conservationist in flood control and surface water protection, she devoted her life to the betterment of the Corrales community, agriculture, schools, youth groups, church historical and civic programs, flood control, and politics.
Dulcelina Salce Curtis was a hard-working visionary who spent her time in wise pursuits—teacher, agriculturalist, farmer, orchardist, and conservationist in flood control and surface water protection. Dulcelina, a lifelong resident of Corrales, gave generously of herself by providing the support and influence necessary for development of organized flood control for Corrales. She organized the Corrales P.T.A. to encourage many facets of community progress in schools, including youth programs and mentoring; the Extension Club to promote advanced methods of agricultural, animal, and dairy use and preservation; raised most of the money to build a church; organized the 4-H Club in Corrales; and was instrumental in the incorporation of Corrales in 1971, serving on the Village Council for seven years. She and her husband, Vincent, assembled and owned the first fire truck in Corrales. She started the Corrales Senior Center in the 1970s and was on the board for more than twenty years.
She helped organize the Sandoval Elementary School system in the early 1950s into the Albuquerque Public Schools. In 1961, the Village of Sandoval and the school were renamed the Village of Corrales and Corrales Elementary School.
In her own words, “I’ve worked all my life, hopefully, for the betterment of the Corrales community, agriculture, schools, youth groups, church historical and civic programs, flood control, and politics.”
The daughter of Italian immigrant parents, her family’s newly built home was washed away in a flood in 1904 when she was a month old. One of six children, her mail-order bride mother died during the 1918 flu pandemic when Dulcelina was fourteen years old. She went beyond grammar boarding school with the Sisters of Loretto in Bernalillo to the Normal school in Las Vegas, New Mexico, from age 14 to age 17. She became a teacher at 17 and taught for one year in Corrales and six years in Placitas. She bought the first Model T Ford in Corrales and shoes for her surviving four siblings on her salary of $80 per month.
She met Vincent Curtis in 1928 and, after a short three-month courtship, married him. During the 1929 depression, Corraleños were fortunate enough to grow their own food. As a community, they hand-shoveled the Acequia Madre in proportion to the number of acres the water serviced each landowner.
In these conditions, by necessity the young couple had to learn to develop ways to build their livelihood and survival. Soil and water conservation were always foremost in their minds and lives. This concern was the beginning of a lifetime’s work in flood control and soil conservation for which Dulce Curtis received the National Endowment for Soil Conservation Award for New Mexico in 1988.
Her husband Vincent became a lumberman, working the mills of Bernalillo in the 30s. With his income and Dulcelina’s management, they cleared and leveled, then built and later cemented irrigation ditches to save water. They also built their home out of terrones, constructed a large barn, bought land to supplement their inherited portion, bought machinery, 2500 apple trees, and an apple sorter. Vincent Curtis and Johnnie Losack built an apple press in the early ‘50s and started an apple co-op in Albuquerque for the surrounding area, which eventually became the Apple Council of New Mexico.
Vincent died in 1962 leaving Dulcelina alone to manage the farm and orchards of apple crops. Their daughters, Dorothy and Evelyn, were teachers in other states after following their husbands’ employment opportunities.
Floods came regularly, mostly from the Los Montoyas Arroyo. In 1971, Corrales was flooded from five poorly built Amrep dams, a wake-up call for Corraleños. Harvey Jones, a bridge builder who was well acquainted with the force of run-off water, became the “know how” backbone forming the Corrales Watershed board. Funds were imperative to plan and execute protective measures: After many political hurdles, SSCAFCA was formed in 1988 under the leadership of Johnnie Losack as its first chairperson.
The Village of Corrales was incorporated in 1971, and Dulcelina Curtis served for seven years as a councilor. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, floods continued to take their toll on the area, causing deep erosion as well as sand deposits. This continued flooding led to the necessity of building protective flood control measures that are ongoing today.
Dulce Curtis died in 1995 and is buried beside her husband. For their tireless efforts and contributions to the area, their gravestones are engraved with the words, “Here lie the souls of Corrales.”
Recollections of Daughter, Evelyn Losack of Corrales.
Recollections of Granddaughter, Joneve Bender
Mayfield, Phyllis. “Corrales Farms Harvest Apples in City’s Shadow.” Albuquerque Journal, October 11, 1984.
Obituary: “Dulcelina Salce Curtis Dies: Corrales Matriarch Epitomized Determination to Keep Farming Tradition Alive Here.” Corrales Comment, April 22, 1995.
Radford, Jeff. “Village Govt. Celebrates 33rd Anniversary This Month.” Corrales Comment, September 24, 2004.
Radford, Jeff. “How Corrales Came to Have the Finest Small Library in New Mexico.” Corrales Comment, August 13, 2007
Radford, Jeff. “M-Zone Sought for Salce Park.” Corrales Comment, September 8, 2008.
Radford, Jeff. “Monument to Dulce Curtis Dedicated.” Corrales Comment, September 8, 2008.
Radford, Jeff. “Heritage Day May 17 Features Salce Family.” Corrales Comment, May 27, 2008.
Schwingendorf, Wende. “Civic Leader in Corrales Dies at 90.” Metro Plus, April 19, 1995.