NMSU Wants To Take Over Historic Los Luceros
by ROBERT A. NARANJO
Valley Daily Post
LOS LUCEROS – “Lights, Camera, Action!” Apparently words that were not heard often enough at the historic Los Luceros Hacienda that former Governor Bill Richardson placed in a partnership with the NM Office of Cultural Affairs and Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Company. On Monday, Aug. 10 an information meeting was held at Los Luceros to announce the State’s plans to transfer control of the historic property to New Mexico State University (NMSU).
The Los Luceros property includes a courthouse, chapel, orchards, several houses, water rights, and served as the Rio Arriba County Seat in the 1800s. Court was held upstairs in the mansion
images of acequia on Los Luceros property. VDP image
and justice was meted out immediately after an accused was found guilty of a capital offense and was hung outside the Courthouse after being convicted. There was no appeal or legal wrangling as this was New Mexico Territorial justice, swift and final.After the County Seat was moved to Tierra Amarilla, socialite, Mary Wheelwright Cabot who entertained societies elite there with gatherings that included many familiar names, purchased the estate at one point. The high-class society allegedly would dance and enjoy themselves to all hours of the evening. The mansion has a magnificent fireplace, stairs and, of course, the upstairs Courthouse that became a dancing room for guests lucky enough to be invited to the lavish parties Mary Wheelwright Cabot had there.
At the meeting Monday, former Rio Arriba County Commissioner, Alfredo Montoya, representing the La Acequia de Alcalde, told the group gathered there that Los Luceros “had about 10 owners in its 200 year history” and add one more as NMSU is set to become the next owner with the Governor’s backing and blessing and all indications are that it seems to be a fait a compli for NMSU to own Los Luceros.
Attendees at the Monday meeting. VDP image
During former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration, the State of New Mexico purchased the property and placed it under the control of the Department of Cultural Affairs with use by actor Robert Redford and his Sundance film company. The plan was to have Los Luceros become a site for filmmaking, and a school for people looking to enter the film industry.
Ultimately that did not pan out as it simply didn’t happen often enough. Some movies were filmed there but basically Los Luceros was like the old Maytag repairman – lonely.
Enter stage right, a former governor and sitting governor have negotiated an agreement to transfer control of the property.
Former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers, now NMSU’s President and Gov. Susana Martinez, were mentioned by NMSU officials at the Aug. 11 meeting as advancing the idea of New Mexico State University taking control of the Los Luceros property. “It’s now in the hands of two lawyers and they are looking at documents…and they are getting along,” said James Libbin, Interim Dean and chief administrative officer for NMSU.“ Apparently Carruthers is using political muscle he has at his disposal because essentially what the former governor “…wants, he gets,” said Libbin to the group gathered, who for the most part, smiled and chuckled at the comment.
James Libbin (left), NMSU Interim Dean. VDP image
Ironically Carruthers vetoed legislation that would have given ownership of the old Montezuma Castle property, near Las Vegas, NM, to New Mexico Highlands University. Eventually, multibillionaire, Armand Hammer, put the United World College there and NMHU lost that opportunity to own the historic Montezuma Castle, which served as a hotel in the railroad boom days and later up until the late 1960s served as a seminary of Jesuit priests until it closed. It stayed vacant until its sale to Armand Hammer for his World College in the 1980s.
It appears that Carruthers will not suffer the same veto action that he himself exercised as governor because Martinez is pushing for the ownership by NMSU. Short of legal action, nothing will stop Los Luceros Hacienda’s ownership from going to NMSU.
The group that gathered for NMSUs announcement and feedback meeting was attended by more than 20 people of which one-third were linked to NMSU, including Libbin, David C. Thompson Associate Dean and Director, Agriculture Experiment Station and other NMSU staff. Attending also was Lucia Sanchez, of the Northern New Mexico Micro Grape Growers Association (NNMMGGA), Tim Martinez, immediate past president of the same wine growers group, Danny Faraar and Rick Romero of the NM Apple and Fruit Growers Co-op, Alfredo Montoya representing the Acequia de Alcalde, Paul Romero who pushed for organic status for Los Luceros, because it’s NMSU that certifies a farm as organic, a process that takes three years, a Chimayo area rancher and other interested individuals.
A representative from Northern NM College was not in attendance. When asked where Northern fits into this, Libbin said, “I really don’t know, the Northern issue is ‘off the table’ at this point.” When pressed, Libbin softened his stance somewhat and said, “There’s no reason why we can’t include Northern NM College, and area colleges, like in Taos and others.”
Lucia Sanchez said during the meeting that the attendance of so many agricultural groups “demonstrates to NMSU officials that there is a strong farming, ranching, fruit and vegetable growing community that is organized and are seeking to possibly use some of the acreage for test sites, such as the wine grape growers.” Sanchez and Martinez asked NMSU officials to consider. Martinez mentioned and asked NMSU officials to consider a “Wine Center” that nearby states have developed and NM is lacking. “Kansas has a Wine Center – Kansas” Martinez said.
The Daily Valley Post will continue to report as Rio Arriba’s historic hacienda changes hands once again in its two centuries of existence.