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is in north-central New Mexico, in Rio Arriba County.
is located in Rio Arriba County just north of Santa Fe
between Los Alamos and Taos along US Highway 84 on the banks
of the Rio Grande River near Santa Cruz Lake.
- Located twenty five (25) miles
north of Santa Fe, 45 miles south of Taos
and 25 miles east of Los Alamos.
The area provides many recreation opportunities, including
hiking, horseback riding, biking, whitewater rafting and
- In Winter you can ski and
snowboard at nearby Taos, Angel Fire, Santa Fe, and other
ski areas. Cross-country skiing is also excellent.
- The area has a rich Indian
heritage and many historical sites.
Nearby sites include Anasazi sites at Bandelier National
Monument and Puye Cliff Dwellings. A few hours away you will
find Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park.
- The region celebrates
traditional Hispanic and Pueblo Indian cultures with fiestas
held throughout the year.
- Elevation 5,595'
- Climate: Located in the
Rio Grande Valley between two ranges of mountains surrounded
by mesas, the area enjoys four distinct seasons with low
humidity all year round. Average annual rainfall is 10 in;
average annual snowfall is 14in. Average Temp - Jan: 40 -
- Mayor is
Office (505) 753-4500
About Espanola, New Mexico
Community spirit is growing by leaps and bounds. With
that growth, a vigorous new era may be just ahead for the
When people think of Northern New Mexico, it's Santa Fe
that often comes to mind. But if you want to experience the
true essence of traditional norteno culture, you'll find a
much better sampling in
Twenty miles north of Santa Fe on Hwy. 285, Espanola has
for a century been the heart of New Mexico's northern
mountain and pueblo communities, a place where indigenous
people red and brown, along with a few descendants of early
Anglo settlers, have done their business. In comparison,
modern-day Santa Fe, at least on the surface, is a sort of
fantasy - an out-of-control invention of some clever public
relations whiz, with its carefully-packaged mud look and
smooth, marketable charm.
In rough and ready Espanola (long the source of a
somewhat racism-tinged institution known as the "Espanola
joke"), you'll find no historic-adobe building code.
Trailers sit squarely beside adobes, which rest alongside
tract and even luxury housing. Low riders still jam up
traffic on the main avenue, rumbling alongside old pickups
stacked high with firewood. Abuelas y abuelos hunch on
storefront sidewalks, pausing to talk about old times and
new changes, of deaths and births, family triumphs and
tragedies. Just as they've done in the area for nearly four
These days, those old folks often talk about change.
Profound changes are coming to this town of 10,000, which
serves as the business and cultural hub for numerous
mountain villages as distant as the Colorado border. Close
to 60,000 people rely on Espanola to satisfy their basic and
other needs. Lately, more and more business owners have
taken note of that expansive market; many are investigating
the possibility of starting up or relocating here. New
residents are coming too, as evidenced by five new housing
developments that have sprung up in the past few years.
With Santa Fe and even Taos grown too expensive to
justify the overhead, many tourism-oriented and other
entrepreneurs are considering a move to Espanola. That
impulse has been aided recently by a decline in tourism in
the state, which makes the two main tourist centers less
attractive as high-rent commercial sites. Indeed, according
to Espanola Chamber of Commerce manager Liddy Martinez, the
Santa Fe Plaza will soon be short a few tenants. They're
already packing their bags, escaping rents that now exceed
$75 per square foot in favor of Espanola's more blood
pressure-friendly rates. Those moves may well be the start
of a trend.
Martinez reports a swelling of business interest in
Espanola: "People are coming in, and I have a big stack of
letters from potential businesses. These are follow-up
letters. They've been doing their homework." An
Arizona-based arts and crafts company will likely build a
store in town soon; a major health food grocer is also
expressing interest in building an Espanola store. Computer
and communications firms are moving in, some planning new
buildings, others starting-up in home offices. Both the city
and Santa Clara Pueblo were courting Wal-Mart. Many here
believe Espanola residents make trips to Santa Fe
specifically to visit the discount department store, leaving
food, gas and other money in the capital city instead of in
their own community.
At Espanola Industrial Park, Nambe Mills (relocated from
Santa Fe in what will be a multi-phase move of their entire
silver working operation) is in the forefront of an
industrial expansion that may soon see a host of businesses
taking advantage of the city's relatively low-cost
Ironically, the tourism side of business growth in
Espanola may actually precede the development of tourist
destinations in town. Despite its status as a way station
for tourists visiting pueblos, ruins, natural areas and
other attractions in the region, Espanola has never offered
more than a smattering of tourist attractions within its own
history-rich borders. That will soon change.
Espanola's history is long and colorful. It was founded
as a railroad town along with construction of the Santa Fe
Railroad, which operated in the area from 1889 to 1941.
Legend has it that a Spanish woman sold food from a tent on
the present town site. When a worker was hungry, he was
advised to "go to La Espanola." The name stuck and the city
But history in this region runs back well before railroad
days. Native Americans have inhabited the region for over a
thousand years, and maybe for ten times that long. Nearby
Bandelier National Monument is just one of numerous
prehistoric ruins in the area.
New Mexico's first Spanish community was established by
Don Juan de Onate in 1598, just north of city limits on San
Juan Pueblo land. That settlement was short-lived as Santa
Fe took over as the focal point of conquering Spaniards. But
the village of Santa Cruz, now a sort of Espanola suburb,
has been an active norteno community for over two centuries,
its ancient church a landmark in the area.
Moving the Economy
If optimism is a measure of potential change, Espanola is
in for a groundswell of new activity. "Local pride is at an
all-time high," says Espanola Chamber of Commerce manager
Liddy Martinez. The reason for - and the result of - that
pride is a series of efforts to reinvigorate the town's
image and attractiveness as a business and tourism center.
New blood is stirring up fresh opportunities. Many
younger people, tired of having to leave their beloved homes
and families to seek out opportunities, are striving to
create new ones here. Education rates are rising, and with
them the size of people's dreams.
To give the "new Espanola" an initial facelift, Espanola
Main Street, Inc. is playing a big role in refurbishment of
the city's historic downtown area. Through a proposed
$850,000 grant for ISTEA (state transportation) funding, an
historic five block stretch between Espanola Plaza and the
Rio Grande Bridge may soon see widened sidewalks,
railroad-era lighting and small gathering areas, along a
boulevard leading to a newly-developing park and plaza.
Main Street director Steve Justrich says support from the
community is widespread and growing. Sunwest Bank, for one,
offers low-cost loans for downtown property renovation.
The upgrading of Espanola's historic downtown has already
begun to draw new business to the area. Half a dozen
entrepreneurs have opened shops on the street within the
past year. Building owners are encouraged both by main
Street (which provides architectural support) and the city
to improve at least the exteriors of unoccupied structures.
Cleaning up the area is part of an overall effort to
re-invent a downtown that had been allowed to run down and
Mission Convento, a centerpiece of plaza tourism
development, will be a replica (as close as historians can
determine) of the original church built in 1598 at the San
Gabriel settlement founded nearby during Onate's reign. That
$1 million-plus museum will be flanked by other museums
chronicling Indian and Spanish culture in the area, along
with shops and a cafe. Santa Clara Pueblo is also
considering moving the annual Northern Pueblos arts and
crafts fair to the area.
Games People Play
Espanola's proximity to the northern pueblos enhances its
cultural richness. But that proximity also fosters what may
be clouds on the city's bright horizon. Indian gambling is a
dominant influence on the city, though the verdict is still
out on its ultimate impact. On both ends of town, large
casinos have sprung up from humble bingo operations. Cities
of Gold Casino in Pojoaque, seven miles south of Espanola,
and San Juan's Ohkay Casino at Espanola's northern border,
draw nightly crowds that jam the parking lots. (A third
casino at Tesuque Pueblo is also in operation.) Many of the
patrons are local.
First Security Bank's Espanola branch manager, Rudy
Roybal, reports that local banks have seen a rise in bad
checks, savings and casino ATM withdrawals, a trend he and
other bankers trace directly to gambling. That money, which
once went into retail tills throughout the city, has helped
fuel a variety of economic and social benefits for the
tribes. At the same time, some city businesses have felt the
sting of lessened revenues. And the city itself receives no
direct share of gambling proceeds in the form of gross
On the pro side of the issue, hundreds of Native American
and other workers have found well-paying jobs at the
gambling halls, adding their incomes to the local economic
base. Pojoaque alone, with its casino and other aggressive
commercial ventures (including a new 75-staff sports bar),
employs around 700 workers, some from Espanola. San Juan's
casino employment runs at over 200. Some local car dealers
have reported that sales to casino employees are up (though
others report a severe sales decline over the past year).
Also, gamblers may be arriving from outside the community,
shopping and eating in town with what money they manage to
hang onto after visiting Pojoaque or San Juan. That money
benefits the entire city.
Gross receipts in Espanola are up nearly $500,000 from
last year, growth that seems to parallel nearby gambling
expansions. Espanola mayor Ross Chavez isn't sure yet how to
interpret the recent rise in tax revenues. Non-gambling
businesses have also entered the area in recent years,
including two motels, several restaurants and a variety of
other small ventures. "We need a little more time for this
all to shake down," he says. "Then we'll get a better
reflection of the impact of gambling on this community."
Chavez doesn't favor gambling in the community, he says,
"but if it's going to be here, I only hope the pueblos will
contribute to the city and its people.' He points out that
local Pueblans benefit from city services. "And after all,"
he adds, "if it wasn't for Espanola, there would be no
casinos." He would like to see local tribes arrange
"mini-compacts" with Espanola, guaranteeing a slice of the
take to support city operations.
Likewise, city officials are concerned that Santa Clara
Pueblo has recently purchased Big Rock Shopping Center, the
largest commercial center in town. Again the dominant
concern is gross receipts. For the city, the question of
whether a tribal operation within city limits is taxable
The Los Alamos Influence
Recent Los Alamos layoffs represent another potential
cloud over the community. But thus far, says Chavez, there
hasn't been any noticeable downturn in the economy due to
those job losses. The estimated impact of some 67 Rio Arriba
workers laid off from the Lab has resulted in an economic
impact of $2.3 million. But many of those people have likely
found other employment, some launching new businesses that
may ultimately improve Espanola's economic picture.
Under recent public pressure, the Department of Energy
has increased its role as an economic development source,
with a recent grant of $5 million to the Espanola Valley
(which includes Los Alamos).
Close to $300,000 of Espanola's share of that money is
already earmarked for construction of a "business incubator"
at the Espanola Industrial Park. Unlike many such
"incubators," this one offers a slight twist. Like those in
Taos and Santa Fe, it will help local small-scale
entrepreneurs find low-cost space and shared administrative
support. But the Espanola Trade Resource Center will focus
its benefits as much on recruiting large and small firms
from out of town as it does on incubating local startups.
The first tenant will likely be a fledgling HD-ROM
manufacturing operation headed by a Santa Fe entrepreneur.
The relocation of part of Nambe Mills' silver tableware
operation to the park, says mayor Chavez, was clearly a
force in attracting additional interest in the Espanola
site. Their move from Santa Fe represents what may be one of
Espanola's greatest business assets: inflation of land and
other costs in Santa Fe (and Taos). By allowing land and tax
inflation to run rampant, the capital city may have begun to
squeeze itself out of the business recruitment business.
Santa Fe's loss will likely be Espanola's gain.
Northern New Mexico Community College is also responding
the accelerating high tech presence in Espanola, helping
create a pool of techies who will likely find jobs in town
and in other parts of the state. With support from Intel
Corp., based in Rio Rancho, NNMCC has recently launched an
effort to upgrade the high technology course offerings
available there. The effort is part of Intel's course
sponsorship at all five New Mexico community colleges.
Response has been strong at NNMCC, with a doubling of
high tech students this year (up to 58 from 1995) attending
intel-sponsored classes in microelectronics, robotics,
semi-conductor manufacturing and other technological skills.
Course instructor Juergen Przyllas reports more than 100
phone inquiries regarding his electronics courses within a
recent four-month period.
Intel entered the college recruitment and instructional
scene primarily to bump up the number of qualified workers
for its expanding Rio Rancho facility. There, Intel projects
a need for 500 trained employees in 1996, estimating that
only half that number are now available within the state.
The company's efforts will increase its own employee pool
and some of those workers will likely find employment in the
expanding Espanola job market.
Chamber manager Liddy Martinez points out that despite
the poor reputation Espanola has suffered in the past,
"People who come are pleasantly surprised to find a
community that thrives, and to see that we really do
represent three cultures who can live together peacefully,
with mutual respect."
The community spirit of Espanola is growing by leaps and
bounds. With that growth in pride, a vigorous new era of
economic growth and opportunity may be just ahead for the
And that's no joke.
The New Mexico Business Journal
Used with Permission
Espanola was founded in the
1880s as a stop on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The
railroad has disappeared, but the city has grown and
prospered as the commercial center for the Valley's smaller
A community rich in tradition
and values, the cultural quilt of Espanola encompasses many
centuries of history. From the moment Don Juan de Oņate
established the first new-world capital here some 400 years
ago, Espanola has been defined by diversity and cultural
mobility-everything from extraordinary lowrider automobiles
to world -class dining and sightseeing. Deep Hispanic family
roots coexist easily with contemporary values and practices,
giving Espanola its own unique personality. In July the City
commemorates the Valley's founding in 1598 with the Fiesta
del Valle de Espanola. The farolitos and luminarias lining
the streets give Christmas Eve a special New Mexican
Near the Junction of the Rio
Grande and the Chama river, across the bridge from San Juan
Indian Pueblo, the ruins of San Gabriel de Espaņoles
overlook a broad valley. Here, Captain Juan de Oņate settled
his colony July 11, 1598.
Oņate laid out the first
"acequia", or irrigation system. Tradition gives the present
San Juan acequia as the first one established by the colony
and therefore, the oldest irrigation canal in the United
He brought from Mexico about
three thousand head of sheep for breeding and one thousand
to be slaughtered and eaten or used to feed the group. His
livestock included 1000 goats, 300 black cattle, and 150
mares and colts. The San Juan Indians had welcomed the
Spanish in 1598. In 1680 they took the lead in expelling the
The Indians had been under
Spanish rule for three or four generations. Finally a San
Juan Indian with great administrative ability, succeeded in
organizing many of the natives and planning an uprising.
Tradition gives as the immediate cause of hostilities, the
caving in of a silver mine with great loss of life by the
Because mining had been
carried on by the Colonists, the Natives destroyed all
traces of the mines.
In April of 1695, De Vargas
personally led the settlers from Santa Fe to Santa Cruz. The
resetlement of the valley by DeVargas was named La Villa
Nueva de Santa Cruz de los Espaņoles Mexicanos del rey
nuestro Don Carlos Segundo. It was called Villa Nuevo
because the original Vialla built by Oņate colonists had
been largely destroyed by the Indians qho raided it in 1669.
It was usually referred to as Villa Nueva or La Caņada.
Espanola became a city in 1880 when the Denver and Rio
Grande Western RailRoad, the famous "Chile
Nestled between the Sangre de
Cristos and Jemez mountain ranges, Espanola is made up of
three great civilizations: Indian , Spanish and Anglo. The
Espanola Valley and its surrounding country is a fascinating
spot for those who love color and romance as well as
beautiful valleys and the trails of the high mountain
in the Espanola Valley, Spanish-settled villages and Indian
Pueblos are connected by a continuous thread of history,
rich culture and deeply rooted traditions. More than many
places, theres a visceral feeling of walking in the
footsteps of ancestors, yet standing very much in the
at 710 Bond Street in Espanola is entered in the
National Register of Historic Places. Built between 1887 and
1911 by an early railroad pioneer, Bond House is a fine
example of regional architecture unique to North Central New
Mexico. Information: (505) 747-8535.
Map of Espanola
Events in the Espanola Area
made in Espanola:
|CATCH MY SOUL aka:
Santa Fe Satan
Location: Espanola, Santa Fe
Director: Patrick McGoohan
Cast: Richie Havens, Lance LeGault,
Season Hubley, Susan Tyrrell, Tony Joe White,
Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett.
GMS Prods., 1994
Location: Albuquerque, Espanola, Las
Vegas, Santa Fe
Director: Alex Georges
Cast: David Huddleston, Richard
Libertini, Vincent Schiavelli, Josef Somer, Jake
Weber, Dr. Timothy Leary, Mako.
NBC/Screen Gems, 1962
Location: Eaves Movie Ranch,
Espanola, Las Vegas (Storrie Lake), San
Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe
Director: Arthur Hiller, Fred Jackman,
William Russell, Abner Biberman, Bob Gist
Cast: Series regulars: Richard Egan, Anne
Seymour, Terry Moore, Ryan O'Neal, Charles
Bronson, James Gregory, Warren Vanders
|FIVE DAYS FROM HOME
Universal Pictures/Powderhorn Productions, 1978
Location: Albuquerque, Espanola,
Director: George Peppard
Cast: George Peppard, Neville Brand,
Savannah Smith, Robert Donner, Sherry Boucher.
|GOD DRIVES A PONTIAC
Justified Prods., 1992
Location: Espanola, Las Vegas, Santa
Director: Rex "Hoss" Thompson
Cast: Stephanie Jones, Teck Murdoch,
Steve Tiler, Barbra Gibb-Morgan, Mark.
|OVER HER DEAD BODY aka:
Enid is Sleeping
Location: Espanola, Gallup, Santa Fe,
Santo Domingo Pueblo
Director: Maurice Phillips
Cast: Judge Reinhold, Elizabeth Perkins,
Jeffrey Jones, Maureen Mueller, Rhea Perlman,
Michael J. Pollard.
|RIO ARRIBA: TRAGEDY AND
Daylight Prods., 2000
Location: Chimayo, Espanola, Ojo
Caliente, Santa Cruz, Trampas, Truchas
Director: Joe Day and Manuel Machuca
|THE COWBOY WAY
Imagine Entertainment/Universal Pictures, 1994
Location: Espanola, Santa Fe, San
Director: Gregg Champion
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Kiefer Sutherland,
Dylan McDermott, Ernie Hudson, Cara Buono, Marg
Helgenberger, Tomas Milian.
|THE HI-LO COUNTRY
PolyGram/Working Title Films, 1998
The novel The Hi-Lo Country, written by New Mexico
author Max Evans, was originally optioned by director
Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch) in 1961. Peckinpah,
unable to develop the right script or get studio
clearance to proceed, also tried to produce the film in
1973 to no avail. Walon Green, who wrote The Wild Bunch
script, also wrote the screenplay for The Hi-Lo Country.
Stephen Frears, won the Best Director award at the 1999
Berlin film Festival. The Hi-Lo Country also won the
1999 Western Heritage Wrangler award from the National
Cowboy Hall of Fame for the best film about the west.
Location: Bernal, Cerrillos, Cook
Ranch/Silverado Set, Espanola, Galisteo, Las
Vegas, San Jose, Ruby Ranch (near Las Vegas),
Santa Fe, Staly Ranch (near Las Vegas)
Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup,
Patricia Arquette, Sam Elliott, Penelope Cruz,
Willie Nelson (his scenes were cut).
|THE LIGHT THAT FAILED
Paramount Pictures, 1939
Location: Espanola, Ghost Ranch
Director: William Wellman
Cast: Ronald Colman, Ida Lupino,Walter
Huston, James Aubrey, Mueriel Angelus, Dudley
Digges, Francis McDonald, Fay Helm.
Flickering Light Video, 2002
Location: Espanola, Estaca, Santa Fe,
Director: Lyn Owen
Cast: Karahkwaha:wi, Mark Kuechle, Cliff
Russell, Nick Lovato, Nichole Jewell, Diana
Dearen, Chris Roybal, Peter Sykes, Apolonio
Garcia, Lyn Owen, Natalia Ulrich.
Feature Film & TV Credits
in Rio Arriba County
About Espanola, New Mexico
Plaza de Espanola - Located in the heart of
Northern New Mexico, the Plaza de Espaņola offers the
most complete picture of Northern New Mexico's history,
art and culture.
The Chile Line -
railroad that severed Espanola.