Albuquerque’s nickname is The Duke City. Although it is the biggest city in New Mexico, having roughly half of the state’s population, it wasn’t always that way. There were many little Spanish Colonial settlements in the Rio Grande Valley, and Albuquerque was an outpost of one of them, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. (It is still there today, and has a great market on the weekends.)
The Camino Real, or Royal Road, (aka King’s Highway), went right through this region and many of Albuquerque’s modern day roads were built upon this historical route that intertwined through Spain’s colonial lands in the Americas. It was along this New Mexico route that Don Fransisco Fernández de la Cueva, the viceroy of New Spain from August 1653 to September 1660, established the Villa of Alburquerque in February of 1660. Later that year he returned to Spain and held other positions of power including Viceroy of Sicily. He died in March, 1676. Don Fransisco was the 8th Duke of Alburquerque.
Back in the 17th century, Alburquerque, Spain was a hamlet in the mountains of Spain, close to the border with Portugal. Because of its proximity to the border, and depending on the politics at the time, Albuquerque sometimes found itself to be in Portugal, which spelled its name with 50% less “r”, just like the modern day spelling of my dear Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. In Spain they would say this is a misspelling.
Alburquerque seems to have earned its name from the cork trees that grew in this region. The Moors occupied Spain as early as 711AD and the Arabic words “Abu al-qurq” means father/land of the cork oak. That sounds like a natural, right? Well, before the Moors where the Romans, and in Latin, “albus quercus” is the name the white oak in this region that that the cork came from. Some claim that this Latin name was just corrupted by the locals and a name was born. Whatever – both stories sound good to me, so take your pick!
The region of Spain where Alburquerque is located is called Extremadura, and the largest city is Badajoz, just south of Alburquerque. Today it’s a land that retains its natural beauty, covered with lush forests, mountains and plains dotted with small towns and remnants of Roman and Moorish occupation, not to mention that you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting a castle in this area. Pictured is the Castillo de la Duques de Alburquerque. This place is definitely on my list of thing to do, now. Unspoiled and definitely the path less traveled.
I know the best things to do in Albuquerque,
but Alburquerque is a whole nutha thang!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!