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Early Government
Early Spanish Government

Before the founding of Albuquerque in 1706, Spanish settlers were already growing crops and raising livestock in the area. On the future site of Albuquerque lived Francisco Trujillo, and the area was known as the Bosque de Doña Luisa, named for his wife.

There were about 20 estancias here by the 1660s. They attended church at the pueblo missions and traveled to Santa Fe on occasion. Even though they had no formal community, there was an alcalde mayor who measured boundaries of land grants awarded by the governor and presided over minor judicial cases.

After 1660 the governor divided New Mexico into two administrative units – the Rio Arriba, or Upper River, and the Rio Abajo, or Lower River. The lieutenant governor was responsible for the Rio Abajo.

The Spanish king or his representatives conveyed land to individuals, groups and towns through a system of land grants, or mercedes, in order to promote settlement on the frontier. The oldest land grants are in New Mexico.

There were two kinds of grants – the private grant given to an individual, who was required to live on the land and improve it for four years before receiving title, and the grant to settlers for a new town. Members of the community grant could own a small piece of farmland along an irrigation ditch, but most of the land was held in common for grazing, wood cutting or other uses.

Spain also issued land grants to several Indian Pueblo groups who had occupied the areas long before Spanish settlers arrived. In the Albuquerque area the Spanish governor awarded grants to the Pueblo de Sandia and the Pueblo de Isleta. The Spanish also enforced the Four Square League law, which required that the land surrounding an Indian pueblo be allotted to that pueblo for one league in each direction from the pueblo. 

Individual land grants were made in the name of specific individuals. Again, the governor could also make this type of grant.


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