(Bernalillo Mayor takes stock in his community’s history)
By Stephen Montoya
BERNALILLO – It’s nearly been eleven years since town of Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres was elected into office.
In that time, Torres said he has seen his fair share of change take place throughout a town he has called home since he was a child.
“Growing up here I would call the town stable, others would call it stagnant,” he said. “Nobody moved in and nobody moved out.”
According to Torres, if you did something at 6 p.m. by the time you got home at 7 p.m., your parents already knew about it.
After leaving Bernalillo for six years, Torres said he moved back ready to open a new business.
“I was in retail for 26 years at TNT Super Mart primarily,” he said. “Then in 2010 I was elected as Mayor for my first term.”
Torres said he is nearing the end of his third term, which has allowed him to see how things work from an economic standpoint.
“The town’s life blood, is in a lot of ways, are the businesses along (U.S.) 550,” he said. “I mean that’s OK, but there are very few people that will make a reasonable living working at a fast food restaurant.”
Torres said, he has worked hard over the years to try and support other businesses outside of this realm.
For example, Torres said he has worked hard to support many of the businesses that reside in the industrial park on the south side of Bernalillo.
“We’ve seen some incredible growth from these businesses,” he said. “One of the things that amazes me is that we got steel manufacturers that send their work out all over the country.”
Torres said this type of business is one of the best kept secrets the town of Bernalillo has.
“This is great because of where the products end up and what it means as far as jobs for local residents,” he said. “It’s not just important to have jobs but to have jobs that pay a living wage.”
Another point Torres made was how much the town of Bernalillo has in terms of historical significance and how much many people outside of the town are unaware of it.
Torres said he was at the National Historical Cultural Center 15 years ago to attend an Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration and all but one of the acts at this event were from Bernalillo or a surrounding Pueblo.
“We have so much here in terms of history and nobody is telling that story,” He said.
One of the main things, Torres said he was working on before the pandemic hit was trying to get a local community museum open that would highlight some of Bernalillo’s unique history.
“We want to be able to tell the cultural story we have like that of the Matachines,” he said. “This dance drama has been around 300 plus years, and has never missed a year. Even during the pandemic last August, it persevered.”
Torres said he didn’t want to be remembered as the mayor who broke the 326 year string of tradition. So in light of social distancing, the purveyors of the feast held the dance virtually.
Another point Torres made was that Bernalillo was a population center prior to Albuquerque being the central hub it is now.
“We’ve really been the birth place of many of the communities that surround us like Rio Rancho and Albuquerque,” he said. “When you’ve been around for 300 plus years you’ll see a lot of spin offs from a hub like our town.”
Torres said Bernalillo owes its existence to the old lumber mill that was once where Rotary Park is now.
“A lot of the Anglo families that moved into Bernalillo came here because of their connection to the mill,” he said. “Most of the families I grew up with came her because of their association to the mill.”
From a tourism standpoint, Torres said he would like to tap into the tourist dollars that may come as a result of people heading to Jemez Springs to hike.
“There is a real opportunity there for us and also the planning of a river walk near the Bosque Brewery,” Torres said. “There is also a possibility for a kayak launch site underneath the bridge on (U.S.) 550.”
Torres said there are plenty of opportunities for Bernalillo to leverage that could benefit the town as a whole.
“It’s not so much that we would have folks coming here as a destination but more of a stopping off point for those going up to Jemez or other sites around the county in particular,” he said.
Coronado State Monument: a great local treasure, be able to see some of NM’s true history without even leaving the city.
A rundown of the town of Bernalillo:
Click on link here Bosque Brewery
Click on link here Bad Ass Coffee
Click on link here Discover the Camino Real and some of the original stretch of Route 66
Click on link here Camino Real Antiques