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Atrisco Heritage Academy Background

A Brief History of the Atrisco Land Grant

by Peter A. Sanchez


The original settlers of Atrisco arrived with Don Juan de Oñate, a Spanish explorer and colonial governor of the New Spain (present-day Mexico) in 1598, nine years before the English settled Jamestown. They, mostly Spaniards, farmed and raised livestock on the land located on the western bank of the Rio Grande and west of what would become “La Villa de Albuquerque.”

From the early 1600s, the colonists defended their land from raids, but were finally driven out by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. However, in 1692, the defiant people of Atrisco returned to central New Mexico. The Atrisco Land Grant, 67,000 acres extending west from the Rio Grande to the Rio Puerco Rivers, was formally petitioned and granted by Spain.

Nevertheless, the Atrisco Land Grant did not end the colonists’ continuous need to safeguard their land for centuries to come against challenges from invaders, land grabbers, and governments. In spite of numerous obstacles, however, the Atrisco Land Grant managed to survive and become one of only a few New Mexico land grants that succeeded into the 21st Century.

Who were these tenacious Atrisqueños? A 1790 census reveals that the Atrisco community consisted of 12 ranchers, seven farmers, four weavers, one spinner, and several Atrisqueños who prepared wool for processing. The community also had two shoemakers, several carpenters and day laborers, and even a musician. By 1804, a recorded 224 Atrisqueños occupied Atrisco, mainly grouped around four principal plazas named for the dominant family in each location.

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The people of Atrisco were still farming and ranching around the turn of the century, but grazing and agriculture began to decline in the early 1900s as a result of depleted grasslands in the Middle Rio Grande, homesteading, and government land management. This period was the beginning of Atrisco Land Grantees confrontation with new goals and challenges associated with the growth of the City of Albuquerque, which were typically commercial in nature. These pressures were constant in subsequent years and ultimately, the land was sold to a commercial developer in 2006.

In 2008, with the opening of Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, the culture and legacy of Atrisqueños continues to live on in spirit and in name. For future years to come, Atrisco Heritage Academy shall proudly carry forward a name that is deeply rooted in our land, history and culture.
Today, there are approximately 50,000 Atrisco Land Grant heirs linked to the earliest settlers of this region. Together, as Atrisqueños, a commitment exists to preserve the rich history and sense of pride that began with their forefathers centuries earlier.



Peter A. Sanchez
Executive Director of Atrisco Heritage Foundation