THE HISTORIC VILLAGE OF PLACITAS, NEW MEXICO
Lying at the foot of Sandia Peak between pueblos to its north and south, the historic Village of Placitas has maintained its unique character through many decades. Even before its original twenty-one founding families received their land grant from the Spanish crown in 1767, native peoples had inhabited this land. Sandia Cave and the surrounding area contain historic remains from nearly every settlement period of the past ten thousand years. The ruins of San Jose de las Huertas -- the original “las Placitas,” a mile north of today’s Village -- is now an Archaeological Conservancy site and is considered to be the last undisturbed Hispanic colonial site in New Mexico to be well preserved.
Along the sleepy lanes of the Village can be found decades of southwest history in the true adobe houses, the San Antonio de Padua Mission, the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church and the ditches of the Las Acequias de Placitas which snake across the hillsides. Many of today’s villagers, descendants of the grantees, carry on the traditions of their ancestors while adjusting to today’s new influences.
During the 1960s and 1970s the “Counter Culture” (“Hippie”) movement arrived in Placitas and its youthful members established several communes. Tawapa, Lower and Little Farms, Domesa and others introduced a new lifestyle. In 1970, along Las Huertas Creek, San Francisco’s Medicine Ball Caravan rolled into Placitas to kick off its international tour. The quiet roads of the Village were inundated with mile upon mile of vehicles. As Blues legend B.B. King’s helicopter circled the outdoor stage in the valley along the Creek, hundreds of fans cheered wildly.
Over the years the “ZIP Code” known as Placitas has grown. U.S. Army Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur are rumored to have visited. The Thunderbird Bar became a ”go-to” place with entertainers such as Bluesmen Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Mason Williams of “Classical Gas” fame and songwriter Kris Kristofferson performing on its stage. Internationally-known poet Robert Creeley lived in the Village and hosted such literary notables as Allan Ginsberg and cowboy poet Kell Robertson (who also lived in the Village). Artists, poets, authors, sculptors and craftsman had found -- and continue to find--this “magical” place drawn by the beauty of its foothills climbing to Sandia Peak and by the historic pull of mountain village lifestyle.
Placitas continues to surprise and amaze not only those who call it home, but also the many who just happen upon it.
1 February 2019
MORE PLACITAS HISTORY AND SUNFARM
The original Village of the Grant was called San Jose de las Huertas. At the time, things were very dangerous. One could not just wander off from the Village without protection. That's why Ojo de la Casa and las Placitas were not settled until the devuelva (return) in the 1830's.
In the time around 1768 raiding from nomadic Indians was a scourge for the whole alcadera (province). Once the Indians got into the Rio Grande Valley, defensive resources were not able to defend the area. The solution was to prevent them from getting through the passes.
Several grants were founded as garrisons in these passes, Carnuel, Tijeras and the las Humanas settlements, Abo, Quarei, Quivera, and las Humanas. The only one to survive was las Huertas.
San Jose was known to be a wild place. The Alcadera (governor), who liked such racy environments, established his residence there. Professional historians have speculated there were lots of genizeros (captured Indian children) who were sold as indentured servants in the great annual Santa Fe market. They were required by law to be released at the age of 15. Most of the male children became soldiers, just about the only avenue for them.
Some Placitans claim Apache or Navajo blood, which might have come from the genizeros. After the moving to the Valley in 1823, things became much more settled and other settlements were established. Resources at San Jose were, and are, limited, so only a couple families resettled there.
Around 1979 Shell Pipeline started construction on their CO2 line in the pipeline corridor. Sandoval Environmental Action Community (SEAC) received a tip that a 4-turbine pump station was going to be put in directly across from Sunfarm on land Shell had purchased. I was president of SEAC at the time and was constantly running into archaeologists exploring the area. One, Mike Marshall, used to work for PNM, which wanted to put in a power line through this site, but he recommended they move the route elsewhere as this was a rare Spanish Colonial site. PNM did the right thing and realigned the route.
Shell knew this, but was going to put the pump station in anyway, and kept that proposal out of the Environmental Impact Study (EIS), only including it as an addendum after it had been submitted.
SEAC was tipped off about this and called a hearing before the Sandoval County Commission. The State Historical Preservation Officer, the State Archaeologist, the State Historian and many professionals came forward and testified.
Shell then donated the land to the Archaeology Conservancy, a private group that acquires and protects important sites. They proceeded to nominate it to the National Register of Historic Sites and it was accepted, and there have been some very careful excavations since.
SEAC later forced reclamation when the MAPCO oil and gas company put in their second pipeline.
Sunfarm was a hippy settlement and the only one still occupied by a hippy.
4 February 2019