In the 1800’s the early Spanish population named the town Monte Alto, which, I am told meant ‘High Holy Place.’ In 1903, the town was renamed Mountainair by the Anglos who were settling in the area to raise pinto beans and people who were here to develop the Santa Fe Railroad. Perfect for both factions, prolific bean harvests and a railroad to ship, Mountainair soon became the “pinto bean capital of the world”.
Drought and war sent this thriving town into a tailspin in the 40’s and 50’s. I arrived about nine years ago to find this sleepy little town was waking up and beginning a rennaisance. The arts and artists moving here were changing were changing the face of the place. Four groups make up the current population, the locals, the Spanish community, the newcomers, and the ranchers, who carry on the tradition of the Spanish Rancheros of old.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument headquarters is here in town with information on the ruins of 17th century basilicas built by the Indians under the guidence of the Spanish padres. A visitor center at Quarai houses a small museum. Archeologists study these sights carefully. Much can be discerned about the life and times of these ancient peoples even from a short visit to the sights.
We have an antique Pueblo Deco Hotel, some nine art galleries featuring everything you can imagine, a real soda fountain at the drug store, a ‘museum’ hardware store (big game trophies hanging from its walls), a library, a modern health clinic, a Mexican import store and much more.
July 1st – the Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual Jubilee with a parade, food, games and festivities.
July 9th – Art Show “Faces and Places of Mountainair” running through July 21. Catch an amusing exhibit of portraits of local characters by 12 artists. Also the same day a Chautauqua presentation at the same location, 2 o’clock – Tohu Bohu Studios and Gallery (old school house) on hwy 55 just north of the blinking light (there is only one.)
Another Chautauqua program in August at Tohu Bohu and The Sun Flower Arts Festival, August 26 & 27, a celebration of the arts. Music, Poets and Writers Picnic with open mike, outdoor art shows, special gallery openings.
Don’t miss the now famous public art venue, The Art Alley Project, which has been written up in the New Mexican Magazine, May 2000, issue. Check out the web site.
Trail rides available close by. To find us take highway 55 south from I-40 at Tijeras. We are about an hour south of Albuquerque. It is an easy scenic drive through old Spanish land grants and pine trees.
Mountainair is friendly, quiet and will remind you of an old movie set. For information call the Chamber Office (505) 847-2795 or Tohu Bohu (505) 847-2825