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Rio Rancho at a Glance

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

New Mexico is one of those states that many non-residents may take for granted, given its apparent lack of trendy cities, beaches and its ability to stay out of the news for being a party hotspot for the rich and famous. However, what most people don't realize is that it's one of the loveliest, most attractive states in the nation. Cities such as Rio Rancho, with its relatively warm year-round temperatures and proximity to the Albuquerque Basin and several Indian reservations makes it worth a visit, whether as a tourist or location scouting for a potential move to the "Land of Enchantment."

Rio Rancho History

In 1710, Rio Rancho did not exist as it does today. It was then a part of the Spanish's Alameda Grant. For centuries the land sat relatively untouched without given much thought. It wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century when parts of the grant that are now known as Rio Rancho were broken off and sold to investors. In 1961, Amrep Corp purchased nearly 55,000 acres of the grant and decided to create the first stages of Rio Rancho. They called it Rio Rancho Estates. It was a housing development that catered mainly to New Yorkers as the advertisements for the estates were kept mostly to the New York area.

The area remained relatively unplanned though it began to grow rapidly. In the 70s and 80s the population grew nearly 10 times the size it was when the estates were originally built and the city became incorporated officially in 1981. The turning point for Rio Rancho was the grand opening of Intel's large plant in 1981. The company brought in thousands of jobs and therefore thousands of new residents to the area. In the years since, Rio Rancho has taken on an identity of its own separate from neighboring Albuquerque, creating planned neighborhoods, shopping, entertainment, and school districts.

Rio Rancho Culture

The culture in Rio Rancho is fairly diverse, largely because the city is so new in comparison with many others in the state. Most of the households in Rio Rancho are married couples and the vast majority of those have children in the home. While it's not necessarily an upscale community, it is one that is comfortable thanks in large part to the numerous corporations, such as Intel, that provide jobs to residents. Much of the city is new but that doesn't stop new establishments from coming in all the time. In Rio Rancho you will find a good mixture of Native American history, southwestern culture, Mexican influence and influence from many other areas of the world.

Being a city that really didn't exist until the 1960s and one that's only been incorporated for just over 30 years, Rio Rancho isn't big on landmarks at the moment. However, the area is located close to Albuquerque, which means that visiting Rio Rancho allows you to take trips into the larger city to experience some of the cultural landmarks that exist thanks to centuries of rich history.

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