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Colonial Government
Spanish Colonial Government, 1706-1821

Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, governor of New Mexico, had to observe many regulations in founding the Villa of Alburquerque. He needed at least 30 families to form the villa. And the government required that the site have good water, arable land and some timber. And each villa should have a plaza, a church and government buildings. Local governance was through a cabildo, an elected council. The governor then served as both the civil and political leader and, in settling disputes, was in effect the chief justice.

The site Cuervo chose for the villa was called Bosque Grande de San Francisco Xavier. He wrote the viceroy that he had founded a villa in a good place with regard to land, water, pasture, and timber. Counting families that came from Bernalillo in addition to those that already lived along the bosque (from Alameda to Atrisco), he claimed 35 families.  He also claimed that the church and government buildings had been built and a plaza laid out.  He indicated that settlers had built their homes, corrals, and irrigation ditches and that the boundaries of the town had been identified and streets and lots measured.

Cuervo appointed Captain Martín Hurtado to serve as the first alcalde, or mayor, instead of having a cabildo. Hurtado assigned the families their land and conducted the founding ceremony.  It was recorded some time later that the settlers had sworn an oath when they took possession of their lands.

In 1712, an investigation revealed that the villa may have lacked the required 30 families. And settlers apparently reoccupied homes that were abandoned during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. There was a small church but no government buildings. However, on the frontier, it was not easy to meet all the requirements for founding a villa, and the Spanish government must have been largely satisfied with the new town or it would have been abolished. Later on, one of the founders, Juan Candelaria, dictated a list of 23 founders – 12 families, 10 soldiers and their families and one priest. The Founding Families of Albuquerque project has recently identifieid 28 additional families as possible founders.

In 1808 the French prevailed in the Napoleonic Wars, and the King of Spain was captured. The new egalitarian influence in France expressed itself as a new constitution and an order that all towns, including Spanish colonies, elect municipal councils, called ayuntamientos to provide representative government. Albuquerque held its first election in 1814 and installed a council. When Napoleon was defeated and King Ferdinand VII returned to the throne a year later, he ordered the councils dissolved and restored the alcalde mayor.

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