Are you interested in the history of Rio Arriba County in New Mexico? We are pleased to announce the addition of the Rio Grande Sun to our archives. Based in the city of Espanola, the Sun is a weekly that began publishing in 1956. The paper competed with the Espanola Valley News until the Sun purchased the Valley News and shut it down. The Sun is known for its fearless old-school journalism and focus on local politics and issues.
The history of Espanola dates back to 1598 when it was founded as the capital of Nuevo Mexico. Some of the valley’s historic buildings remain, including La Iglesia de Santa Cruz de la Canada, a church built in 1733 that is still in use today.
In 1880, after the railroad expanded to northern New Mexico, the town took on the name Espanola. Early settlers described the town as “really wild and wooly, having eighteen saloons…” In 1943, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located about 18 miles from Espanola, was founded as part of the Manhattan Project. The lab remained top-secret during the war and has provided many jobs in Espanola.
When the Sun published its first edition in the 1950s, the population of Espanola was about 3,000. The first issues were printed on an old press that required single sheets of newsprint to be hand-fed into the press one at a time. The population of the valley continued to grow and in 1957, local churches coordinated a door-to-door church census intending to document every resident.
As Espanola grew, some of the city’s historic buildings were torn down. In 1957, the city purchased a home that belonged to one of the valley’s early settlers and turned it into City Hall. Known as the Bond House, the historic home served as the city offices until 1979. After it was vacated, vandals broke in and did extensive damage. The Historical Society started a grassroots preservation effort and encouraged residents to donate $10 for repairs. In March 1982, the home was reopened as the Bond House Museum and celebrates the transition of Espanola from a frontier outpost to a modern city.
If you are researching ancestors that lived in Espanola, columns like Eavesdropping and the