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Española, New Mexico

Skyline view from the city's Industrial Park
Skyline view from the city's Industrial Park
Official seal of Española
Motto: The heart of northern New Mexico…where cultures unite.
Location of Española, New Mexico
Location of Española, New Mexico
Española is located in USA
Location in the United States
Country United States
State New Mexico
County Rio Arriba, Santa Fe
Founded 1880
Incorporated 1925
Named for See history section
 • Type Mayor-council government
 • Mayor Alice Alarid–Lucero
 • City Council
 • State House
 • State Senate
 • U.S. House
 • Total 8.5 sq mi (21.9 km2)
 • Land 8.4 sq mi (21.7 km2)
 • Water 0.08 sq mi (0.2 km2)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 10,495
 • Density 1,140/sq mi (440.0/km2)
ZIP codes 87532, 87533
Area code(s) 505
FIPS code 35-25170
GNIS feature ID 928729
Website Official website

Española is a city primarily in [2] At the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 10,495.[1] Española is within the Albuquerque – Santa Fe – Las Vegas combined statistical area.


  • History 1
    • Etymology 1.1
    • Early settlers 1.2
    • Railroad Era 1.3
    • Post-railroad 1.4
    • Recent history 1.5
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
      • Air quality 2.1.1
  • Demographics 3
    • 2000 census 3.1
    • 2010 census 3.2
  • Economy 4
  • Arts and culture 5
    • Immigrant culture 5.1
  • Plaza De Española 6
  • Telecommunications 7
    • Activities 7.1
  • Parks and recreation 8
    • Aquatic centers 8.1
    • Major community parks 8.2
    • Golf courses 8.3
  • Government 9
    • Elected officials 9.1
      • List of mayors 9.1.1
        • Four year terms
  • Education 10
    • Public schools 10.1
      • High schools 10.1.1
      • Middle schools 10.1.2
      • Elementary schools 10.1.3
      • Kindergartens 10.1.4
    • Charter schools 10.2
    • Private schools 10.3
    • Colleges 10.4
    • Library 10.5
  • Notable people 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13



Española was referred to as La Vega de los Vigiles (Vigil's Meadow) before the presence of railroads.[3] It is believed that the town that began as Española was named by railroad workers. At the time of railroad construction, a small restaurant in the area was nicknamed "La Española". This was because of the large presence of Spanish women in the area. The name became official by 1900 and Española became a small railroad town. Before the railroads, this is where Spanish and Native American people had settled for hundreds of years, making a living from farming along the Rio Grande.[4]

Early settlers

The Española area (known as the "San Juan Valley" to the early Spaniards) is also known as the first European-founded capital of the "New World." The region was explored In 1598 by Don Juan de Oñate. He declared the area a capital for Spain, the area of Don Diego de Vargas' new villa at Santa Cruz.[5] Oñate arrived in the Española area on July 11, 1598, at the confluence of the Chama River and the Rio Grande, where he established a camp at a place then called Yunque-Yunque. He created a Spanish settlement in an area already inhabited by the indigenous descendants of the Anasazi.[6]

Railroad Era

Downtown Española, 1885
The Española train depot, 1920
Townspeople gather at the depot, 1930

Prior to the arrival of the narrow gauge Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (Chili Line) in 1880, the hamlet on the west-side of the Rio Grande was known as La Vega de los Vigiles in reference to the Vigil family who initially settled that area. The earliest document found indicates that La Vegas de los Vigiles had been populated ay 1751, over 100 years before the Chili Line's arrival. With the coming of the railroad the name of the hamlet was changed to Española. The Chili Line ran predominantly through the Canadian emigrants would later arrive in the city, together they established the state's largest mercantile and a multi–million dollar wool empire, with them came economic growth and prominence. Española was the headquarters for all the Bond family interests which included over 12 businesses across New Mexico.[8][9]

Many residents of the nearby town of Santa Fe were not happy with the decision and failure of connection of the railroad, prompting protest. The Española station however, included an engine facility station along with a roundhouse and turntable so it could service the locomotives. The facilities were built but torn down or no longer in use after six years; plans for the town had changed.[10] The railroad would later reach Santa Fe to connect with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in late 1887.

Frank Bond
First "popular" mayor, 1907
F.R. Frankenburger
First "elected" mayor, 1923

Frank R. Frankenburger, a business man born in Fort Scott, Kansas, was the first "elected" mayor; he was elected in 1923. The first mayor who was chosen in "popularity" was Frank Bond, in 1907. In 1925 Española was incorporated as a city.[11] As the population rose, there was a high demand for public education in the city. Española High School was established; it would be the largest school in the area for decades. The first high school in the area, however, was Santa Cruz High School. Two miles away from downtown Española, it opened in 1906 in the historic Santa Cruz area. Both high schools are no longer in existence after a merger of school districts in 1975.[12]

The existence of the railroad began to dissipate as minimal passenger traffic and low shipments forced the railroad to close in the early 1940s. Many locals would become unemployed and would follow the railroad to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and central Colorado for jobs. Española's population would fall dramatically and many homes in the downtown became abandoned. Most of the locals who remained would turn to farming as a way of life. Many people saw Española as another failed railroad town.[13] The city removed the railroad tracks and the train depot in the 1960s, and the railroads completely vanished.

Businesses in Española vigorously opposed the abandonment of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad's narrow gauge during the early 1940s. Their calls for continued rail service were at odds with the grim realities of the marketplace, which had for years rendered the "Chili Line" woefully unprofitable. Although Española was an integral part of the saga of railroad construction in the West, it was destined to become one of the region's first notable communities bereft of its trains.

When the Railroad Leaves Town, –Joseph P. Schwieterman[14]
American communities in the age of the rail line abandonment


In the 1980s, many historical buildings and homes of historical significance were torn down for urban renewal. Española followed many other New Mexico cities in this trend, but in Española, it failed. More modern business began to move into town, but the growth of Española had now expanded east across the Rio Grande. Although several buildings of historical significance remain in downtown Española, many are unused or abandoned. Strip malls became visible in Española, the first being the 'Big Rock shopping center', founded by oil tycoon Roy Honstein. With the beginnings of Manhattan Project in nearby Los Alamos, many locals would find jobs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which would later employ nearly 9% of Española's population.

In the 1990s, a controversial plan to build a "plaza" and mission church where many historic buildings once stood was up for consideration. The city agreed to the plan, and locals supported the plaza. Although a plaza never existed in Española before the railroads, it was built to pay tribute to the Spanish culture in the area.[15]

Recent history

Española Plaza, Replica convento

In 1998, Española celebrated the 400th anniversary of the colonization by the Spanish and the founding of the first permanent European colony in North America. The event was celebratory for some and controversial for others.

On September 18, 2008 then Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, visited Española for a rally at the city's New Plaza in the Main Street district. Nearly 10,000 people packed the Plaza.[16][17]


Española is located at (36.001884, -106.064587).[18]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.9 square kilometers (8.5 sq mi), with 21.7 square kilometers (8.4 sq mi) land and 0.2 square kilometers (0.077 sq mi) water, for a total of 0.83%.

Española lies at an elevation of around 5,595 feet (1,705 m) with much variance. It is in a valley nestled between the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges, and the meeting point of three rivers, the Rio Grande, the Rio Chama, and the Rio Santa Cruz.


July is the warmest month in Española, with an average high of 91 °F (33 °C). The highest recorded temperature was 107 °F (42 °C) in 2003. The average coolest month is January at 45 °F (7 °C). The lowest recorded temperature was −38 °F (−39 °C) in 1971. The maximum average precipitation occurs in August with an average of 1.90 inches (48 mm).

Climate data for Española, New Mexico
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67
Average high °F (°C) 45
Average low °F (°C) 14
Record low °F (°C) −38
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.40

Air quality

According to an annual report by the American Lung Association, the Santa Fe-Espanola CSA (metropolitan area) has the cleanest ozone layer in the country (ranked #1), cleanest area in the country for 24-hour particle pollution (ranked #1) and cleanest area in the country for annual particle pollution (ranked #2).[20]


2000 census

At the census[23] of 2000, there were 9,688 people, 5,751 households, and 4,569 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,155.4 people per square mile (446.4/km²). There were 5,107 housing units at an average density of 189.2/square kilometer (489.8/square mile). The racial makeup of the city was 67.55% White, 0.58% African American, 2.86% Native American, 0.14% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 25.56% from other races, and 3.25% from two or more races. 84.38% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 5,751 households, of which 35.6% had children under the age of eighteen living with them, 42.5% were married couples living together, 18.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.5% were non-families. 26.2% of all households were made up of single individuals, and 9.7% had someone living alone who was sixty-five years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city the population was spread out, with 27.8% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was thirty-four years. For every 100 females there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females aged eighteen and over, there were 94.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,144, and the median income for a family was $32,255. Males had a median income of $25,558 versus $23,177 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,303. 21.6% of the population and 16.5% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 28.4% of those under the age of eighteen and 15.1% of those sixty-five and older were living below the poverty line.

2010 census

As of the census[23] of 2010, there were 10,495 people, 5,897 households, and 4,690 families residing in the city.

The racial makeup of the city was:[24]


The newly expanded Presbyterian Hospital, additions added over 43 new beds
Largest Employers in Española
1 Los Alamos National Laboratory
2 Española Public Schools
4 Presbyterian Health Services
3 Akal Securities Inc.
5 Northern New Mexico College
6 Northern Pueblos Gaming
9 Walmart
10 Lowe's Companies, Inc.
7 Española City Government
8 Rio Arriba County

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos is the largest employer in Española, it accounts for over 12% employment of residents. The education sector is the second largest employer, the Española Public Schools is the 16th largest school district in New Mexico. Recently, Northern New Mexico College has expanded its degree programs and made massive improvements to its campus, adding a new library and a new School of Education. Larger local businesses include Akal Securities Inc, a security company that employees over 500 people.[26]

Española has seen much commercial development on Riverside Drive, the city's secondary main road. Retail and eatery chains such as Lowe's, Chili's and GameStop, are anchors of a massive shopping square located next to Wal-Mart which came into the city in 1999. Many other stores such as CVS/Pharmacy and Petsense have recently added locations in Española.[27]

Arts and culture

Immigrant culture

There has been a steady influx of undocumented immigration to the Valley for the last decade, which has significantly increased their visibility and influence in the area. Española (especially the neighboring community of Sombrillo) is also home to the largest community of ethnically diverse Sikhs in the world. While most Sikhs descend from the Punjab region of India, the Sikhs in Española come from all over the world.[28]

Plaza De Española

  • The fountain at Plaza de Espanola was designed as a replica of the Alhambra, celebrating our Moorish roots from Spain.


Satview Broadband, headquartered in Reno, is the local cable television company.


Española's restaurants and convenience stores are popular with travelers between Santa Fe and northern communities, as well as with local people. The local fiestas are held in the summer and include live New Mexican-style Spanish or country music, vendors, and many locals.

There are many locations near Española to do almost any outdoor activity such as hiking, biking, and river sports like rafting and kayaking. Nearby winter sports include skiing (downhill and cross-country) and snowboarding.

Parks and recreation

Aquatic centers

  • Penny Roybal Garcia Aquatic Center
  • Richard L. Lucero Center

Major community parks

  • Plaza de Española Park
  • Veterans Memorial park
  • Ranchitos Park
  • Valdez Memorial Park

Golf courses

  • Black Mesa Golf course


Government Complex

The city of Española is run by a mayor–council government system under Strong-mayor form. The mayor and eight-member city councilors from their respected districts are elected to a four-year term, elections are constant every two years, with no term limits. The mayor appoints a city manager who supervises department heads, prepares the budget, and coordinates departments.

Every year, one council member is elected by majority in the council to mayor pro–tempore, usually a member from the party that is in control of the council. The mayor can approve or veto any decision made by the council. However, the council can override the mayor's veto with a five out of eight member vote.[29]

Elected officials

Name Position Party reg. Took office Up for
Alice Alarid–Lucero Mayor Democrat 2010 2018
Pedro Valdez District 1, pro–tem Republican 2010 2018
Dennis Tim Salazar District 1 Democrat 2004 2016
Michelle Martinez District 2 Democrat 2014 2018
Peggy Sue Martinez District 2 Democrat 2012 2016
John Hernandez District 3 Independent 2013 2018
Tania Sanchez District 3 Democrat 2015 2016
Adrianna Ortiz District 4 Independent 2014 2018
Cory J. Lewis District 4 Democrat 2010 2016
Stephen Salazar Municipal Judge Democrat 2002 2016

List of mayors

Four year terms
  • Following the 1974 Municipal Election, all city officials were elected to a four-year term with a continued no restriction on terms. Prior office holders were elected to two-year terms with no term limits.
  • Since the term of Diego Salazar as Mayor from 1932-1948 (16 years), no mayor has served more than eight consecutive years in office.


Public schools

The City of Espanola is a part of the Espanola Public Schools district, with 6 of its 14 schools being located within the city.

High schools

Middle schools

Elementary schools

  • Eutimio Tim Salazar III "Fairview" Elementary
  • James H. Rodriguez "Española" Elementary
  • Tony E. Quintana "Sombrillo" Elementary


  • Los Niños Kindergarten Center

Charter schools

Private schools

  • Holy Cross Catholic School
  • Victory Faith Christian Academy



Espanola Public Library is located inside the Richard Lucero Center at 313 North Paseo De Oñate. Its collection is about 50,000 items.[31]

Notable people


  1. ^ a b [3] Archived March 23, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "City of Española Home Page". City of Española. Retrieved 2010-12-16. 
  3. ^ La Vega de Los Vigiles was a small farming community, today Espanola Archived September 27, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ [4] Archived September 27, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Simmons, Marc, ‘’The Last Conquistador: Juan de Oñate and the Settling of the Far Southwest’’, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1991 p. 108-108
  6. ^ "History of Spanish settlers". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  7. ^ Rio Grande Sun, Historical Issue on City of Española, 1961–62
  8. ^ """Full text of "New Mexico historical review. Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  9. ^ "RMOA - Document". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  10. ^ "Espanola, New Mexico". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  11. ^ Rio Grande Sun, Historical Issue on City of Española, 1975
  12. ^ Brief History of EVHS. Española Public School District. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.
  13. ^ Denver Rio Grande Rail Road Closes, Santa Fe New Mexican, 1998
  14. ^ Schwieterman, Joseph P. (2004). When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Western United States. Kirksville, MO:  
  15. ^ Espanola officials plan to revitalize downtown, Santa Fe New Mexican, 1997
  16. ^ "Obama Visits Espanola". KOAT 7 News. September 18, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Obama Rally In Espanola". Santa Fe New Mexican. September 18, 2008. 
  18. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  19. ^ "Monthly Averages for Española, NM". Retrieved August 20, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Santa Fe-Espanola, NM: State of the Air 2011 - American Lung Association". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  21. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  24. ^ "Albuquerque (city), New Mexico". State & County QuickFacts. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b "American FactFinder". October 5, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "American Sikhs Run Billion-Dollar Security Firm". NPR. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
  29. ^ "Española Government". COE. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  30. ^ "Highlands @ Española - New Mexico Highlands University". Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  31. ^ "Welcome to the Española Public Library". City of Española. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  32. ^ "Debbie Rodella's Biography - The Voter's Self Defense System - Vote Smart". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  33. ^ "Scott Tipton's Biography - The Voter's Self Defense System - Vote Smart". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 

External links

  • City website
  • Community website
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • McCurdy School
  • Rio Grande Sun - Local Newspaper
  • Española travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • More images of Obama's 2008 visit, at Flickr
  • Photos of the crowd at Obama's 2008 visit, at Flickr
  • Española featured on NPR's State of the Re:Union
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