Martineztown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Albuquerque and is unlike anywhere else in the city. A former farming community that has always been a place of land investment/speculation, the current boundaries now lie between Broadway Blvd & I-25 and Odelia & Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. At one point in time, the parameters of Martineztown ranged from the train tracks to roughly a little east of I-25. Santa Barbara lied just north of Martineztown and I-40 divided the neighborhood the neighborhood when it went in.
People have also been traveling through Martineztown for nearly 400 years. There were multiple routes of ‘The Camino Real‘ and one went right through what turned into Martineztown. The lower route went closer to the river roughly just east of Rio Grande Blvd, but when the river flooded, they took the higher road, which is what is now along the windy road of Edith Blvd, starting around MLK and heading northbound.
For the early part of Martineztown, it was just a common grazing area for the herds of Old Town. The residents would walk their sheep up what is now Mountain Rd. and allow their herds to roam. The Jesuits from Old Town bought some land for Santa Barbara Cemetery because Old Town’s cemetery wasfull, and then bought more land. Around the 1850s, a more permanent settlement took root when Manuel Antoñio Martin established a shelter on the the land. The Martin family grew, different people and families moved in, and a vibrant community began to emerge. It became known as Los Martinez, and later Anglicised to Martineztown.
After the railroad came to the nearby community of Barelas in the late 1880s, the close knit and largely Hispanic community’s makeup and land use started to change significantly. The Jesuits continued land investments and others began to speculate on Martineztown land, mostly because it was close to the new city, nearby the railroad, cheap, and there were fewer barriers of entry. Some larger institutions moved in as well. On Grand Ave, St. Joseph’s Sanitarium was established in 1902 and nextdoor Longfellow Elementary School shortly thereafter. Incidentally, Grand Ave – aka Tijeres Canyon Trail – is now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Religion also played an important role to the people of Martineztown. The local Catholic church La Iglesia de San Ignacio was established in 1916 on what is now Walter Blvd, and the Second Presbyterian Church was built in 1922 on Edith. The residential portion Martineztown was still a small community, full of adobe houses and dirt roads and farm animals. But the industrial and land speculation that begun shortly after New Albuquerque was established still continues to this day.
A good written history of the community by a direct descendent of the founding father of Martineztown
Community Action and Public Art
In the 1950s, ABQ re-zoned Martineztown away from residential to commercial, with the idea that the city would make improvements, such as a new City Hall and Convention Center in the neighborhood. In the 1960s, the city planned to build the Federal Courthouse in the neighborhood. The citizens did not support these ideas and fought back, resulting in the city building those buildings in what is now downtown.
Though these buildings never materialized, the damage was done. When the zoning was never returned to residential, the community stagnated because it had always been a residential neighborhood. But the neighborhood was now zoned commercial. As a result, the people were not able to obtain residential mortgages or other financing. Because of this defacto redlining by retaining the zoning as commercial as it limited what the people could do with their own land. Conversely, even if they wanted to, the residents of Martineztown also could not sell their property.
However, in the mid 1960s, with federal dollars, the people of Martineztown engaged in an urban renewal of their neighborhood. Infrastructure, such as paved roads, sidewalks, parks, and other public utilities were installed. Albuquerque High School was built in the early 1970s, moving from Central Avenue to where it is now, on Indian School and I-25.
The neighborhood became more integrated into the greater Albuquerque community and began to lead. In the 1970s, the city of Albuquerque began its famous public art programs, with its very first purchase of Luis Jiménez’ Southwest Pieta – a sculpture that honored the indigenous roots of the Southwest. This piece was supposed to be placed in Old Town. However, the residents of Old Town objected vehemently. The people of Martineztown, on the other hand, requested and accepted the piece with open arms. It is located on Edith Blvd.
The neighborhood is still changing, and, as all things, change is the only constant. The people are resilient and the sanctity of the community is strong. But, no matter what change comes next, it will forever be Martineztown.
Once these mountains were living people. An Aztec warrior and a woman he loved. But their love was not destined to be. The woman dies. The warrior is overcome with grief. In Southwest Pieta, we see the warrior and the woman at this moment of death and grief and we share their anguish. But the story tells us their love was so strong that in even in death their souls were transformed into the spirits and forms of the volcanoes.
– Rudolfo Anaya