Albuquerque has been called by many names, to include Querque, the Q, and probably most recently and popularly, Burque. But whether you consider yourself an inhabitant of Burque or the Q, no name has held on over the years as much as the term "Duke City." It is synonymous with Albuquerque in most residents' minds. Finding out how it got that name requires a look at some local history.
The Albuquerque region has been populated by Native Americans for centuries. The Puebloan Indians settled in the area and grew corn, beans, and squash (the three sisters), and built adobe settlements. In the 1500s, the first Spanish explorers arrived and brought settlers with them. In 1540, the conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to the Pueblos to find the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. He never found gold, but Spanish settlers continued to arrive in search of the gold.
In 1680, the Pueblo Revolt stemmed the flow of settlers. Then in the early 1700s, King Philip of Spain granted a group of Spanish colonists permission to start a new city along the banks of the Rio Grande. The colony's governor, Francisco Cuervo y Valdez wrote a letter to the Duke of Alburquerque in Spain, reporting the new settlement and its name: the Villa de Alburquerque.
The middle "r" was dropped from the city's spelling over the years, but the nomenclature remained. The city of Albuquerque is colloquially called the "Duke City" to this day.
Through the 18th and 19th centuries, Albuquerque was a stop along the El Camino Real, a well-known and well-traveled trade route between Mexico and Santa Fe. The city was concentrated in an area that is now known as Old Town.
In 1915, Albuquerque formed a minor league baseball team, the Albuquerque Dukes. The team played that year but Albuquerque didn't have another professional team again until 1932 and played for one season. The team was called the Albuquerque Dons. In 1937 baseball returned to Albuquerque as the Cardinals team, an affiliate of the major league team of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals played through 1941. The Dukes returned in 1942, and from 1943-45, the team didn't play because of World War II.
In 1956, the Dukes returned until 1958. In 1961, the team returned, and in 1963, the team was purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1969 they moved from their home field of Tingley Park to the current location. The team mascot for the Dukes was a smiling cartoon version of the Spanish conquistador known simply as "The Duke." The Dukes were a team off and on until 2000. In 2003, the baseball team was resurrected and renamed the Albuquerque Isotopes. Since then, fans of the team known as the Albuquerque Dukes have continued to wear gear that includes hats, t-shirts, pants, and souvenirs.
Going to the Dukes games, fans would see the Duke on the field as the mascot, whereas today we have Orbit the goofy orange alien who looks a bit like a dog.
Albuquerque is a big baseball town, and those who remember the Albuquerque Dukes continue to enjoy the baseball club. The official Albuquerque Dukes fan site features gear with the Duke's smiling face. Dukes pride can be seen on t-shirts, hoodies, baseball caps and more. You can even get a Dukes baseball or skateboard. There are also Duke city teams, such as the Duke City Aquatics, a swimming team.
There are a good number of businesses in Albuquerque that give the nod to the Duke City. They include:
- Duke City Crossfit
- Duke City BMX
- Duke City Pedaler
Other Duke City nods include the Duke City Marathon, the Duke City Tattoo Fiesta, the Duke City Repertory Theatre, and the Duke City Roller Derby.