Dances and concerts will be part of the celebration.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A yearlong celebration featuring art from Spain, dance from Mexico, Indian culture and a reenactment of a cattle drive will take place here as the city marks its 300th birthday.
"There is something for everybody coming up over the next year or so," Mayor Martin Chavez told residents at a news conference where he was flanked by mariachis and costumed volunteers. "You are going to be so proud to be an Albuquerquean."
The celebration kicked off April 16 at Balloon Fiesta Park with a half-marathon, a hot-air balloon launch and a parade.
The 300th anniversary of the city's founding will take place on April 23, 2006, and in the year leading up to the tricentennial, the city will host art shows, concerts, dance performances and lectures.
Between 400 and 500 volunteers are helping the city prepare for the celebration, said Jerry Geist, who heads the tricentennial committee.
Many events are free and include programs at libraries, theaters and other institutions across town.
While the mayor emphatically encouraged Albuquerque residents to attend the events, the city also hopes to use what Chavez called "300 years of marvelous history" to promote itself as a tourism destination.
"This is going to be special," said Richard Unger, whose mariachi band performed during the kickoff festivities.
Roman Catholic missionaries built churches among pueblo Indian communities in what is now Albuquerque in the early 1600s. As disease diminished Indian numbers, Spanish settlers moved into the Rio Grande Valley until a revolt drove them south in 1680. Spanish troops recaptured the area 12 years later.
On April 23, 1706, Spanish Gov. Francisco Cuervo y Valdes founded a new villa consisting of 35 families and named it Albuquerque in honor of the viceroy for New Spain, who was also the Duke of Alburquerque, a town in a rugged southwestern province of Spain. The extra "r" in the original name was eventually dropped in the spelling of the American town.
The Spanish town was named "Abu-al-Qurq" -- which means town of the Christians and Jews -- by Moors. Conquistadors from the region later joined in the exploration of the New World.
The tricentennial will focus on five eras in Albuquerque's history: native control of the area; Spanish rule; Mexican rule, which began in 1821; territorial administration, when the area was claimed by the U.S. government, beginning in 1846; and statehood, in 1912, when New Mexico became the 47th state.
A different theme will be highlighted each month as the celebration unfolds. May focuses on visual arts, and an important exhibit has just opened at the Albuquerque Museum. "El Alma de Espana," which means "the soul of Spain," showcases nearly 100 paintings and sculptures by Spanish masters like El Greco, Velasquez and Goya.
Two more shows will follow at the museum, "Prelude to Spanish Modernism: Fortuny to Picasso," from Aug. 21 to Nov. 27, and "Picasso to Plensa: A Century of Art from Spain," Dec. 18 through April 16, 2006. The three exhibits include works of art on loan from museums around the world.
Dance is the theme for June. Events include performances of tribal dances on June 4 at the Civic Plaza, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; a black-tie gala on June 3 at the KiMo Theatre with performances by local dance groups; free dance performances for children every Sunday evening in June at the Albuquerque Museum, and a Festival Folklorico, with daily workshops June 22 to 26 and evening performances at Civic Plaza and the KiMo Theatre.
Other monthly themes include music, architecture, sports, science and literature.
A six-month colloquium series, "All Roads Lead To Albuquerque," will offer lectures presented by authorities on Albuquerque history, one talk per month beginning in May.
A reenactment of a cattle drive is scheduled as part of the actual birthday celebration next April 23, and the king and queen of Spain have been invited to attend.
Hotels will be offering special deals themed to go with the celebration. The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & amp; Spa, located on an Indian pueblo 17 miles north of Albuquerque, has a tricentennial package that includes accommodations, breakfast for two, admission to the Spanish art exhibit at the museum -- and a jar of New Mexican-style salsa made from red or green chiles.
Geist estimated that among city, state and other sources, between $3 million and $4 million will flow into advertising for the tricentennial.
"It's a hook for us," said Dale Lockett, president of the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The bureau already has spent $500,000 on ads for tricentennial events in regional publications like Southern Living, he said.
Albuquerque's many other attractions include the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world's largest aerial tram, which climbs nearly 3 miles to the peak of the Sandia Mountains; and the annual International Balloon Fiesta, the largest balloon event in the world, held each October.
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