el camino real preservation bill

This sign marks a stretch of ElCamino Real de Tierra Adentrothat runs through Santa Fe. A house bill, proposed by Rep. G. Andres Romero, D-Albuquerque, seeks to bring more attention and resources to the trail.

A house bill in the New Mexico Legislature is seeking to garner recognition for El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.

Sponsored by Rep. G. Andres Romero, D-Albuquerque, the bill proposes the appropriation of $5 million from the state General Fund for the development of New Mexico’s section of the trail as an international destination site and requests the formation of a commission to oversee that development.

Parts of the trail, which runs from Ohkay Owingeh to Mexico City, were likely established over 1,000 years ago, when indigenous people organized trade routes through the Rio Grande Basin.

Half a millennium later, Spanish colonizers and explorers ventured northward from Mexico City on the trail, often with the guidance of indigenous people, creating a continuous path from shorter trade routes, until Don Juan de Oñate reached Ohkay Owingeh and founded the capital of Nuevo México.

“The history of human settlement and development of cultures in the American southwest does not receive the attention that it deserves as part of the national American heritage,” the bill states.

Romero, presenting the bill to the committee, said New Mexico could work with the Texas and Mexico governments to promote the trail. Officials in both of those places have been preserving and developing the sections of the trail that run through their respective areas with help from federal agencies, said Steve Burns Chavez, a retired landscape architect who worked for the National Trails Office and testified as an expert on behalf of the bill.

“I think by being able to bolster our efforts here in the state, linking it with Texas and Mexico, we have a tremendous opportunity for cultural tourism in the state and for people to learn about our rich cultural history here within New Mexico,” Romero said.

Both the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service administer the trail, Burns Chavez said. A 870-mile stretch of the trail in Mexico, from Mexico City to Valle de Allende, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The commission the bill seeks to establish would “facilitate public and private participation in the creation of a strategic plan for the preservation, interpretation, physical development and public awareness of the Camino Real,” according to the bill.

It would be composed of the New Mexico secretary of cultural affairs or the secretary’s designee, the secretary of economic development or designee, the secretary of tourism or designee, the state historian, a member of a Native nation, tribe or pueblo appointed by the secretary of Indian affairs, three members of the public appointed by the secretary of cultural affairs and Camino Real administrators from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The commission would come up with plans for involving local communities along the trail, communicating information about the trail to the public and collaborating with the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The bill passed the Local Government, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs committee Jan. 30, after several audience members, including Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker and Town of Tomé Land Grant President Andrea Padilla, supported it.

It must now pass the House Appropriations and Finance Committee before progressing to the House Floor.

“I think it is a diamond in the rough that we have in this state, and I think we all need to work together to make this a reality,” Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, said.

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