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Albuquerque Innsights

A local innkeeper knows New Mexico secrets and tells anyone who will listen.

A Park in Old Town – Can you say Tiguex?

I promised to tell all about two more museums and an Old Town Tour, and I aim to make good on that, but before I do I want to tell a bit more about the park I mentioned in Old Town Albuquerque for the Shopping Impaired, Part 1. After posting about it I realized that although we Burque folks know this unusual name, it kind of stymies people who are not from ’round here. Tiguex, (modern pronunciation is “teeg way”), Park gets its name from the people who inhabited this central New Mexico region when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. These people were called Tiwa, and at one time there were as many as 20 Tiwa settlements along the Rio Grande between Bernalillo, the town just north of Albuquerque, and the land just beyond Albuquerque’s South Valley.
This was by far the most heavily populated region of New Mexico prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Two of these Pueblos still exist to this day – Sandia on the northern edge of Albuquerque and Isleta to the South. The picture to the left (circa 1930) is of the reconstruction of one of these settlements – Kuaua, near Bernalillo. It is now called Coronado State Monument. I am left wondering why it was named after the man who found it and was ultimately responsible for its disappearance, instead of their own name which would memorialize the people who lived there in peace for generations.

Speaking of Coronado, it was his expedition in 1540 that first used this name in reference to the “Provinicia de los Tiguex,” which was Coronado’s label for the area around the village of Bernalillo where most of the Tiwa villages were located. Tiguex was then pronounced “Tee-wesh.” The later Spanish spelling became Tigua, and the name has evolved in pronunciation to “Teeg way”. Armed with this knowledge, a visitor to Albuquerque can sound like a local with the utterance of this puzzling word.

A few years ago, to commemorate the 1598 Expedition of the Spanish Explorer Don Juan de Oñate Salazar – 1552 – 1630, (who was also New Spain’s Governor of New Mexico), it was decided to put a statue of this historical figure in Tiguex Park. This started a big controversy with the Acoma Pueblo people, because Oñate was nothing but evil to them. After a few battles with Acoma’s People, victorious Onate murdered many of their men, women and children, and maimed the remaining men by cutting off their right foot. Oñate was even considered ruthless by his contemporaries, and the disdain they had for him would eventually have him sent out from New Mexico. None the less, he is still considered a hero by many Hispanics in New Mexico today, so a new modern battle ensued and the compromising result was to put a bronze statue at the Albuquerque Museum, across the street from the park, and change it be more of a montage with many figures, (including Oñate), depicting the colonization of the area by the Spanish. As a side note – in 1998 a statue of Oñate was erected in northern NM, north of Española in a town called Alcalde. The statue celebrated the Cuatrocentenario, (the 400th Anniversary), of the first Spanish settlement in New Mexico. Soon after, the right foot was hacked off and a note was left saying, “Fair is fair”. $10,000 was spent to reattach the foot and the scar remains on the statue to this day. There was talk of removing Oñate’s name and relabeling the statue as “Unknown Equestrian”.

Next, back to old town. I promise.

Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!

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copyright 2009 :: sarah dolk, adobe nido bed and breakfast, albuquerque nm :: photos by susan see, abq, nm & marianne groszko, mariannephotography.net