While the identities of many individuals who helped found the largest city in New Mexico remain unknown, at least twenty women were fundamental to the successful establishment of the new Village of Albuquerque. Without the founding women of Albuquerque, the community could not have survived.
Official documents indicate that in February 1706, as many as thirty-five families participated in the founding of Albuquerque. While many of the names have been lost, within those families were at least twenty women who should rightfully be honored as the founding mothers of La Villa San Felipe de Albuquerque. The fortitude and determination of these brave and courageous wives, mothers, aunts, sisters, madrinas, and grandmothers were instrumental in helping the settlement grow and thrive against insurmountable odds in a hostile frontier environment.
The site of the future metropolis of Albuquerque, located in the central Rio Grande Valley, was considered a dangerous area susceptible to Indian attack. The village of Atrisco, located on the river’s west bank, faced the site of the future villa of Albuquerque. While Atrisco was recognized as a community, in reality it was a collection of separated farms, while the surrounding area was strewn with dwellings and properties abandoned during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.
Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, recognizing that vulnerability to Indian attack was limiting expansion into the area, announced in 1706 that he would permanently station ten soldiers there to encourage settlement. The added protection provided enough incentive for a small group of families to migrate to the area where they were assigned individual land grants. Many of these families reclaimed properties that their immediate ancestors had lost.
While the governor reputedly made exaggerated–perhaps even false–claims, he enabled the designation of a plaza and construction of a church, named the town the Villa of Albuquerque, and established the beginnings of what would become New Mexico’s largest city.
Aside from the women already living in the area, twenty-two courageous and determined women have been identified as “founding women of Albuquerque.” As time marches on, and more research uncovers additional documentary evidence, historians will be able to add names to those that are known.
Whether known or not, these women deserve the accolades of everyone who came after them for their perseverance, fortitude, leadership, and courage. They were fundamental to the successful survival of the new Village of Albuquerque. Living under dangerous circumstances, they were the glue that kept the community together. And while their influence manifested itself in traditional family and community roles, they were not limited to those roles. Some became heads-of-households and most quite literally helped defend the community. Without the founding women of Albuquerque, the community could not have survived.
Founding Women of Albuquerque included:
Isabel Cedillo Rico de Rojas
María de la Encarnación
Francisca de Góngora
Gregoria de Góngora
Juana López del Castillo
Antonia Gregoria Lucero de Godoy
Leonor Luján Domínguez
Clementa de Ortega
María de Ortega
María de Ribera
Bernardina de Salas Orozco y Trujillo
Catalina Varela Jaramillo
Candelaria, Nash. “Albuquerque’s African Roots,” La Herencia, Fall 2001.
Chávez, Fray Angélico. Origins of New Mexico Families in the Spanish Colonial Period. Albuquerque; The University of Albuquerque, 1973.
Sisneros, Francisco. “Ana de Sandoval y Manzanares,” draft article.
Valencia y Váldez, Gloria M., José Antonio Esquibel, Robert D. Martínez, Francisco Cisneros, editors. Aquí se Comienza: A Genealogical History of the Founding of La Villa de San Felipe de Alburquerque. Albuquerque: New Mexico Genealogical Society, 2007.
Armijo, Don Isidoro. “The Information Communicated by Juan Candelaria, Resident of the Villa of San Xavier de Alburquerque, born 1692-age 84.” New Mexico Historical Review, vol. IV, 1929, pp. 294-97.