Martineztown holds a special place in my heart - not because I have ever lived there but because it is where my mother’s story begins.
According to one source:
Martineztown started when families in the 1800s drove their herds east to the sand hills for summer grazing and camped. The area had a large acequia. Around 1850, Manuel Martín and his wife Anna María decided to settle permanently, and the area came to be known as Los Martínes, and later, Martineztown. Today Martineztown is bounded by Broadway, I-25, Martin Luther King Blvd. and Mountain Road.
In 1929, roughly where Lomas Blvd and High Street meet, my mother was born in an adobe house that had three families – the house had been converted into three separate units. The rent was $5 a month and had outdoor plumbing. Back then there was no Lomas Blvd, no freeway, and no medical buildings. It was all hills. My mother was not quite a year old when her father passed away, leaving her 35 year old mother a widow with six children. My grandmother, who had never had to work, had to support her family by cleaning houses. My mother’s oldest brother at 10 years old told my grandmother, “I am the man of the house now and I will take care of you.” My Uncle kept his promise. When he came back from Korea, he and his brothers built a new house for her on Edith and what is now Lomas Blvd.
My mother was actually the only one of her brothers and sisters born and raised in Albuquerque. Martineztown was her world. Her life revolved around family and church – the Second United Presbyterian Church which is on the corner of Edith and Lomas. It was the only Presbyterian Church that had services in Spanish. What is most important about my mom going to church there is that it was the place where my mother met my dad and fell in love. My mom sang in the choir and my father, who went to Menaul School, caught her attention.
I’ve always loved listening to my mom’s stories about Martineztown and decided I needed to write them down. We spent a recent Sunday together and went to Manuel’s Food Market. Manuel’s opened up in 1924 and is on Edith and Roma. If you’ve never been in there, make a point to stop by. It is a virtual history museum of Albuquerque politics – there are political posters everywhere. Clara, the daughter of Manuel and my mother spent the better part of an hour talking about neighbors, the fiestas and school.
Here is a picture of Longfellow Elementary as it looked when my mother went there. Mr. Linthicum was her principal. She loved him and loved Longfellow. She told me a sweet story about when she was in a school play. She had one line in the play which she remembers to this day – “What an appetite you have!” She became very upset when the audience laughed at the punch line because she thought they were laughing at her. She didn’t know what the word appetite meant and didn’t realize her line was meant to be funny.
My mother should have gone to Lincoln Junior High, but Jefferson Junior High had just been built and my mother’s brother said she should go there instead. Along with a few friends from Longfellow, they registered at Jefferson. They were the only five Hispanics to attend at that time. They walked every day over the hills from Edith up to Jefferson. She said there was no cafeteria at the time so the kids mostly ate in the library. But my mom said that she and her friends would cross the street to eat their lunch because they were embarrassed that the other kids might see them eating their burritos. If only she knew how lucky she was to have such a wonderful lunch.