SPANISH SETTLEMENT OF THE SACRAMENTOS from the Museum
The story of the settlement of the Sacramento Mountains would not be complete without giving account of the role played by the people of Mexican heritage who arrived here in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many were brought from Mexico as laborers for the construction of the famous "Cloud Climbing Railroad," an eastern spur of the El Paso and Northeastern Railway Company, originally built to haul lumber out of the mountains to mills in Alamogordo. Some of those later remained with the railroad as section hands or "gandydancers," as they were called. With their families, they lived in permanent encampments such as Slabtown and Wooten along the railway between La Luz and Cloudcroft.
Other Spanish-speaking immigrants were employed as loggers in the burgeoning lumber industry. Logging settlements at Marcia and Russia at the turn of the century included many Spanish-surnamed residents. The descendants of many of these early inhabitants who supplied so much manpower to the settlement of the mountains may be found living today in Alamogordo, La Luz, and Tularosa.
Still others of Mexican descent settled even earlier in the Sacramento Mountains. Some were employed as "hands" on Anglo ranches and orchards, for example, on the Circle Cross Ranch where Timberon is now located. Others squatted or homesteaded and developed their own farms in Fresnal, La Luz, and Laborcita canyons where they raised fruit and vegetables and cared for herds of goats. In some cases, lacking citizenship, they were able to obtain patents on their farms by buying them back from Anglos who took out the original homesteading papers on them after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
Perhaps the best preserved example of settlement by a Spanish-speaking family is the story of the Burundas, who moved to these mountains in the 1850s from the village of Isleta Sur near El Paso. Ladislado Burunda, his wife Leandra Calderon de Borunda, and their children Jesus, Francisco, Marcos, Porfiria, and maria, arrived by wagon and settled in Upper Laborcita Canyon, an area that was still roamed by a clan of Mescalero Apaches headed by a man named Domingo. Numerous run-ins occurred between the Borundas and these Apaches, who are reported to have gotten into the cornfields and even, on one occasion, to have stolen sopaipillas from the house! Threats to kill one another between Marcos Borunda and Domingo apparently came to nothing.
The family prospered on the good mountain soil. They grew their own fruit, vegetables, and wheat and raised cows and pigs for meat, supplemented by an occasional deer from the plentiful herds in the canyon. Occasionally they hauled vegetables to market for the cash, but they were otherwise quite self-sufficient. They made their own soap and candles, did their own blacksmithing, and the women were proficient at knitting and crocheting. As the children married and increased their numbers, much of the work was done communally. Two of the children reflect the importance placed upon education in the Borunda home - Maria became a teacher in the Garcia School, and Jesus, who had an extensive library in his home, was Justice of the Peace in La Luz from 1900 to 1905.
The Borundas obtained patents on their land in the 1880s. Some of the sons went to work as loggers higher in the Sacramentos, but the family remained together for the most part on their homestead until 1954. Many descendants of Ladislado and Leandro are still residents of the local area.
This transcript was provided by the Sacramento Mountain Historical Museum. The author is not known.