Village of Corrales

Corrales warning signCorrales is a tiny, agricultural community tucked between the Rio Grande’s western bank and Rio Rancho, just north of Albuquerque. The village is an oasis of fields, cottonwoods and the beauty of the bosque tucked between the urban and suburban sprawl of two of New Mexico’s largest cities. Two main roads run north to south, Corrales Road and Loma Larga, with short roads connecting the two. It is like a ladder, with a lot of broken rungs, aka dead ends. A sign at both ends of the village warns motorists: “Drive slow, see our village. Drive fast, see our judge.” They aren’t kidding, but it is New Mexico’s shortest scenic byway so there is ample reason to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Furthermore, there is cause for concern about traffic, because the two main thoroughfares are shared with bicyclists, tractors, residents walking, running, and riding horses.

Critter Friendly

Coyote in CorralesThere is an abundance of wildlife, including porcupines, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, roadrunners, quail, and a copious quantity of coyotes. Most people have pets of every sort, with a disproportionate number of alpacas, llamas, and bee farms for such a small community.

It is safe to say most people in Corrales love critters. Of course, there may be exceptions, but I don’t know them. I have seen traffic on the main road come to a stop, because there’s an animal in the road. The local dog catcher knows most of the dog’s names and usually takes them back where they belong rather than taking them to the pound. The town elects a pet mayor every fall, with goats, chickens, horses, dogs and other critters vying for the dubious honor. The local convenience store has a shaded hitching post and water trough for the horses.

Agriculture

Corrales feels like being in the country, though the largest mall in the state is about 10-minutes away. There are bike trails, launch sites on the river for paddle boarding and floating, ample dirt lanes for walking or running, and fields that readily grow crops.

If it sounds idyllic, that’s because it is, though I admit bias. I live in Corrales. The community is quirky in all the best ways; a blend of art, agriculture and a deliberately slower pace of life. The agricultural tradition began with Puebloans cultivating the flood plains of the Rio Grande.

Horse grazing in CorralesWater has always been a priority in Corrales, a precious commodity for crops and a destructive force when the river floods. The severe flooding of the Rio Grande has been an issue many times over the years, with major floods recorded in 1864, 1868, 1879 and 1904. There are no buildings over 150 years old in Corrales due to repeated flooding. The old Corrales acequia, or irrigation ditch, was dug in the early 18th century to divert irrigation water from the north end of the valley through the village for irrigation.

The narrow, green space attracts gardeners and farmers. It is the type of community where a neighbor brings you fresh eggs and another gives you fresh honey. If you need alpaca wool, that is readily available. It is a friendly, down to earth community, where everyone waves. There are a lot of folks on horseback and many of the businesses provide hitching posts, with a few offering discount to customers who arrive on horse vs. a car.

Wagner Farms and Rio Grande Valley Chile

Wagner Farms, and the Wagner family, are a part of Corrales’ agricultural legacy. Four generations have tilled the soil in Corrales (since 1910). Whereas Hatch’s green chile is well known and well regarded beyond New Mexico’s boundaries, other communities also provoke autumnal green chile treks. Wagner Farms is one of those. The line next to the roasters in the fall is daunting on the weekends in late fall. The smell is overwhelming, inducing an immediate Pavlovian response. The farm stand sells a variety of produce based on what is being harvested. The restaurant is open throughout the summer and early fall. In mid to late September Wagner Farmland Experience creates a corn maze north of the produce market, with a pumpkin patch and hay rides for families.

For those unfamiliar with our ways in New Mexico: it is a fall ritual to buy bushels of chile. We roast them and freeze them for use in everything throughout the winter. Running out of chile before the following year’s harvest is a crisis that most residents would prefer to avoid.

Krysteen WaszakArt

There are galleries throughout Corrales, with the community hosting gallery tours and Art in the Park from spring through fall. There are inexpensive, or free, concerts held regularly at historic San Ysidro church. Corrales Main Street hosts a garden tour in Corrales every June.  Corrales hosts a Bike & Wine tour twice a year, in April and August, because there are four vineyards in a tiny town.

The Grower’s Market is every Sunday from early spring through late fall, 9 am to Noon. They host live local music and provide a great selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables, with many Corrales growers participating.

Ambience

Corrales is sandwiched between two of the largest cities in the state, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. The community has every urban amenity within a stone’s throw from the farm.

The main drag, Corrales Road, passes by several dining options, from the culinary excellence and well rounded wine menu of Indigo Crow to the comfort food at Hannah & Nate’s and Perea’s (fantastic chile cheese burger). Additionally, all of the above have great patios with shade.

Corrales Bistro Brewery provides excellent the tap options. You can park your horse out back in the designated horse parking. Village Pizza is the ‘go-to’ pizza joint. They deliver in the village of Corrales and provide equestrian drive-thru.

Parades are very popular, because they provide a good excuse to pull out all the tractors, trot out the horses and dress up the goats (and a variety of other pets) in comical costumes. The 4th of July festivities and Harvest Festival in late September are two of the larger events, but those certainly aren’t the only parades.

Corrales horse parking

History

The village of Corrales is named based on the Spanish word for corrals. The area was used for grazing by Spaniards who settled here in the early 1700s. Prior to their arrival in 1540, Tiguex Indians farmed the Rio Grande river plain from Algodones to Albuquerque for centuries. Pit house sites on the sandy hills rising to the mesa date to about 500 AD. Eventually these pit houses evolved into permanent settlements, with multiple above-ground structures closer to the river. The early inhabitants also took advantage of the rich, sandy loam soil, supplementing access to wild game with cultivated corns, beans and squash (“The three sisters”).

After the Spanish Conquistador Coronado and his troops attacked Zuni at Hawikuh in 1540, his army rapidly consumed the Zuni’s food supply. With two thousand troops in tow, you can imagine how quickly it took a toll on the village’s resources. The Zuni told the conquistadors about the farmers in the river valley to the east.

Though there seems to be confusion about Coronado’s objectives on the banks of the Rio Grande, with many believing that he was looking for gold, that was not the case. He was looking for food and he found it. The Rio Grande flood plain is a fertile area in an otherwise harsh, arid region. The dense Cottonwood Bosque lining the river banks, currently the largest Cottonwood forest in the world, provided plentiful hunting grounds for the original inhabitants. There were buffalo and elk in the Sandias further east. The land that is now Corrales was one of many agricultural communities in the river valley. Two unexcavated pueblo ruins exist in the village. Residents have discovered numerous pithouses and artifacts in their fields and backyards.

Alameda Land Grant

In 1710, the Alameda Land Grant was given to Corporal Francisco Montes Vigil, a soldier in the Spanish army. The Spanish introduced new crops, including wheat, barley, onions, lettuce, radishes and cabbage. 17th century missionaries brought fruit trees and grape vines. Due to the distance from the main trading route, little was recorded about Corrales during the first 150 years of Spanish occupation. The census recorded 687 residents in 1870. Most were farmers, ranchers or laborers.

The trading markets expanded after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 and, again, when New Mexico became a U.S. territory in 1848. The American takeover opened New Mexico to new settlers, with European farmers from Italy and France moving to the fertile valley in the 1860s. Among the Italian families were the Palladinis, Targhettas and Salces. French families included the Alarys, Imberts, Leplats, and Lermusiaux.

The Alary family purchased land toward the north end of Corrales in 1879. They were growing several varieties of grapes by the 1880s. Corrales was known for its vineyards and wine by 1900, with most of it produced by the French and Italian settlers. Corrales became known for its vineyards and the making of wine, brandy, and, during Prohibition, whiskey for fifty years. Most of the vineyards were gone, replaced by acres of orchards, pastures and cornfields by the 1930s, though many of those families still farm in Corrales.

Apples

Corrales applesThe first commercial apple orchard was planted in the late 1800s. However, the decline of the vineyards and the reclamation of lands by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in the 1930s spurred the planting of apple orchards. The community planted orchards throughout the village by the 1940s, with more than twelve varieties of apples represented. Many of those trees are still producing fruit today, with orchards being maintained at Alary Farm, the Curtis-Losack Farm, and Wagner Farms.

The first English family to move to Corrales was the Thompson family. They lived at the far north end of the Corrales valley. The Thompson brothers purchased 55,000 acres of the common grazing land on the mesa where Rio Rancho is now located in 1923 and opened the Alameda Cattle Company. They had 3,000 to 5,000 head of Herefords and about 150 thoroughbred horses. When the ranch sold in the 1950s, it paved the way for the development of Rio Rancho, which rapidly grew into the third largest city in the state.

Autumn cottonwoods in Corrales

Country Living Across from New Mexico’s Largest City

With the construction of the bridge after World War II, Corrales became easier to access, attracting some of the newcomers pouring into Albuquerque’s population at that time. It became a haven for artists and other free spirits. The newcomers created a volunteer fire department, opened art galleries, and founded a municipal library. The community incorporated in 1971. After incorporation Corrales experienced another population boom, growing from an estimated 3,000 to approximately 10,000 today.

Source: Corrales Historical Society

The Corrales Growers Market

Fresh fruits, vegetables, honey and flowers grown locally. The regular season begins in late April with the weekly Growers Market held every Sunday through November from 9AM-12PM. The Wednesday Market runs from July-October from 3PM-6PM.

The Winter Market runs from December-April on the first Sunday of every month from 11AM-1PM. Calendar

Growers market

Art Tours

Arts in the Park
Held on the fields next to the Growers Market once a month from June-October, with a holiday art festival culminating the season. Many visitors may be surprised by the variety and quality of art found in the village. There are a lot of talented artists in the community. Indeed, the community’s creativity is on full display during studio tours and at the local galleries, from contemporary to whimsical, painting to sculpture and crafts.

Studio Tours
The Corrales Society of Artists organizes studio tours throughout the summer to promote local artists. Check for details about upcoming tours and other events.

Music Series

The Corrales Cultural Arts Council
What was started by a few dedicated people, who recognized the importance of music to people’s lives, has grown into an organization that brings exceptional musicians to the Historic Old San Ysidro Church. Furthermore, their audience is no longer just neighbors. People from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho have discovered the small, intimate performances.

Casa San Ysidro
Casa San Ysidro: The Gutierrez/Minge House

Romero Road in Corrales

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