History of Bernalillo

Welcome to the
Town of Bernalillo,
the ‘City of Coronado’


About Bernalillo
The Town of Bernalillo is set at the northwest slope of the Sandia Mountains and hugs the banks of the state's major river, the Rio Grande. This community boasts being the historical center of the State of New Mexico with occupation reaching back almost a thousand years. Bernalillo progressed from a string of haciendas along the river in the 1600's to a commercial center of trade among the pueblos and the Mexican settlers in the 1800's. Founded by Don Diego de Vargas in 1695, the Town of Bernalillo remains a retail trade and service center for this part of the Rio Grande basin.

The colonial heart of this nearly 5 square mile Municipal Corporation, the county seat of Sandoval County was called Las Cocinitas: the little kitchens. As during those times, the town is a place to visit and relax, as in the family kitchen, talk about the events of the day and gain strength for the travels ahead. The main street, Camino del Pueblo, is synonymous with three other historical attributes: U.S. Route 66, El Camino Real, and Old State Highway 85. Running through the center of town, this roadway is rich in history, and was the major link with the outside world for several hundred years as it connected Santa Fe to Mexico City. It remains one of the oldest historical trails in the United States.

This community has much to offer in recreation, commerce, and social amenities. It has the advantages of larger cities and access to large-city services without the strain of urban living. The Town of Bernalillo is 15 miles from Albuquerque, the largest city in the state, and borders the state's fastest growing metropolitan area, Rio Rancho. The Rio Grande splits the town from north to south and it is not unusual to watch enterprising folks rafting in the slow-motion waters.

Bernalillo's location provides direct access to the Jemez Mountains to the north-west and the Sandia Mountain range to the south-east, guarantees opportunities for unique and plentiful outdoor activities. Numerous city parks, ball fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas including historical, social, and cultural events are mainstays of community life.

Consistent with the commitment to provide the best in quality of life and family value opportunities, this community of friendly, warm and caring people has seen a steady rise in population growth over the past few years. Since the town is located between two Pueblos, Sandia Pueblo on the south and Santa Ana Pueblo on the north, little opportunity exists for expansion beyond the current municipal boundary. These facts put a premium on planning that is conscious of the unique heritage and culture of the town. All growth is predicted upon an awareness of and appreciation for the present inhabitants and the historical fabric each is responsible to maintain.

The religious influence of the Spanish settlers alongside the Native American religious practices has produced a unique cultural and emotional recipe for harmonious living in this valley. Several early pueblo sites and Spanish Colonial sites are found here. Seven pueblos are in the neighboring area of the town and each pueblo has a different and exciting history. At different times of the year each pueblo has a feast day that honors the traditions of the Native American and Spanish religious influences. The public is encouraged to observe these activities and participate in some activities.

Los Matachines

One of the Town's oldest traditional celebrations and dating over 330 years, Las Fiestas de San Lorenzo is held annually on August 9, 10 and 11. In that drama and recognition of historical religious influence, dance performers of Los Matachines progress through the Town of Bernalillo in a spectacular event which dates to the 1600's. Many European festivals can be seen as direct lineage to Bernalillo's celebration. Several generations of performers participate side-by-side, each year. Town government and many businesses recognize the importance of the Fiesta by taking a holiday during the event.

Bernalillo has been a growing commercial area, in recent years. The major highway that runs through the town, U.S. 550, carries an average of nearly 30,000 vehicles each weekday. In 2000 employment in the town was approximately 2,300 with about 1/3 of the jobs in county government and Bernalillo Public Schools. Smaller employers find a willing and trained workforce eager to remain in their living community or lured to the area to escape the problems of the larger, neighboring communities. In addition, there are three Indian Casinos within a ten-mile radius of Bernalillo: Sandia, Santa Ana, and San Felipe. Both Sandia Pueblo and Santa ana Pueblo have opened resort properties within the past few years, as well.