Cuba was originally name Laguna. The earliest settlers were attracted to a profusion of small lakes and swamps that once covered what is now downtown Cuba. The Rio Puerco River and other little streams came down out of the Nacimiento Mountains to the east and fed into the lakes and ponds. The land was as close to lush as you can get in this dry part of New Mexico.
The lakes eventually were drained by early Spanish settlers who arrived here in about 1766. The settlers were given a tract of land from the King of Spain known as the San Joaquin del Nacimiento Grant. Many little communities sprang up all along the Rio Puerco. Most of them are no longer in existence. Present day Cuba, in this location, dates from about 1879.
The mountains you see to the east of Cuba are called the Nacimientos and refers, probably, to the mountains as the birth place of all the water in the area.
Cuba has a rich, multi-cultural history! It was the home of Anasazi and Gallina Indian cultures. There is today a large Navajo population living to the west, Apaches to the north, and Zia and Jemez Pueblo Indians to the south.
The history of Cuba is closely tied to the land. Sheep, goats and cattle are raised here. Gold, silver, copper, coal and fertilizer have been mined in the area. Wheat, hay, fruits and pinon are harvested.
Cuba was and is today a source of goods, services, school and health care for the surrounding communities.
While downtown Albuquerque slowly grew and prospered, the north valley remained predominantly rural and agricultural, and it wasn’t until after WWII people began to eye this quiet area as a place to build homes and move away from the hustle and bustle of the “City.”
Albuquerque’s North Valley may be the most verdant and lush part of the whole Rio Grande Valley. Driving up 2nd, 4th and Rio Grande blvd, you’re in a world of tall cottonwood trees, green pastureland and old, old and quaint adobe structures.
The area of the north valley was established in the early 1700’s by Juan Griego, a descendant of early Spanish Explorers who arrived here in the late 1500’s.
The information below is quoted from the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce website:
In 1706, a group of colonists were granted permission by King Philip of Spain to establish a new villa (city) on the banks of the Rio Grande (which means big or great river). The colonists chose a spot at the foot of the mountains where the river made a wide curve, providing good irrigation for crops and a source of wood from the bosque (cottonwoods, willows and olive trees). The site also provided protection from, and trade with, the Indians in the area. The colony’s Governor, Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, penned a letter to the Duke of Alburquerque back in Spain to report their newly founded villa, named La Villa de Alburquerque in honor of the Duke. Over the centuries the first “r” was dropped, leaving Albuquerque spelled as it is today. The first building erected was a small adobe chapel where today’s San Felipe de Neri Church still stands in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Its plaza was surrounded by adobe homes, clustered close together for mutual protection. The chapel collapsed after the particularly rainy summer of 1792, but was rebuilt a year later. While the San Felipe de Neri Church has been enlarged and remodeled several times since the 1700s, its original thick adobe walls remain intact. The church is the anchor of Old Town, the historic and sentimental heart of Albuquerque, and the Plaza is host to many cultural events and local celebrations.