Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city, incorporated in 1885 on the Rio Grande River in the center of New Mexico. It's population, as of 2010, is 545,854 and, with its suburbs, it has 887,077 residents, almost half the population of the state. It is the 32nd largest city in the United States. The city has grown from the Rio Grande River eastward up the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
Albuquerque was originally founded as a Spanish colonial outpost by the name of Ranchos de Albuquerque in 1706. The town was built in the style of a traditional Spanish village with a central plaza that was surrounded by buildings including a church and government facilities. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was built through Albuquerque in 1880, bypassing the plaza and locating its depot a couple miles east. This area quickly sprung up as a town which was called New Albuquerque or New Town, while the original settlement became known as Old Town. New Albuquerque was incorporated in 1885, and Old Town was absorbed by it about 1920. Old Town has been preserved for its historical and cultural value.
U.S. Highway 66 passed through Albuquerque, and it brought many travelers and hence, many motels and gas stations to serve their needs. This brought considerable growth to Albuquerque. Route 66 originally took a north-south jog along Fourth Street, but was later rerouted to take the more direct east-west route on Central Avenue. U.S. Highway 85 also passed through Albuquerque, following Fourth Street. Today Route 66 has been decommissioned, and Highway 85 shares its alignment with Interstate 25. Interstates 40 and 25 are the major routes of travel today, with Interstate 40 heading east-west, and Interstate 25 going north-south. Interstate 40 passes through the Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque.
The elevation at Albuquerque ranges from about 4,900 on the Rio Grand to about 6,400 feet in the highest suburbs on the Sandia Mountains. The climate is dry and sunny, and the city boasts an average of 3,420 hours of sunshine a year. Barren deserts surround the city on the east and south.
Two stories have been offered as the source of the name Albuquerque. It is generally accepted that the provincial governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes named the city after the Duke of Albuquerque, whose real name was Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva y Enriquez de Cabrera. It has also been suggested that the name came from the Arabic word 'Al-Barquq', which means "the plum", and referred to apricot trees which were imported by Spanish Settlers.