The 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Albuquerque Answered

Carrie Murphy
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Chances are, you know a good bit about New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco—regardless of whether you live there or have ever visited. These cities have a big national profile.

Albuquerque? Not so much.

While you may have a vague idea that Albuquerque is the biggest city in New Mexico, you probably don’t know much else about it. So we’re answering the most frequently asked questions about Albuquerque for you. Here goes!

1. Why is Albuquerque called Duke City?

Quite simply, because it was named after a duke. The Duke of Alburquerque was a 17th-century Spanish nobleman who gave his name to the New Mexican city.

Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva y Enriquez de Cabrera, 8th Duke of Alburquerque, granted land to several families in New Spain (the area that is now Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, including New Mexico). His son named the settlement for him. The extra letter ‘r’ in the name was dropped sometime in the 1800s, giving us the spelling we use today.

2. Why is Albuquerque so bad?

Because of Breaking Bad, of course! The wildly popular AMC show about a down-on-his-luck high school chemistry teacher who turns to the drug trade is one of the most recognizable things about Albuquerque. We proudly rep Walter White and his story, despite some of the more unsavory details.

Television aside, the city does have a few problems, including widespread crime and less-than-stellar schools. It’s still a developing city, one finding its footing on the national stage.  Albuquerque is not “bad” per se, but it may not offer the same level of safety or cultural amenities that you’re used to—so it’s certainly good to be aware of the truth about the municipality.

3. Why is Albuquerque so cold?

Although many people think of any city in the desert southwest as a scorching sun-baked landscape a la Phoenix, that’s actually far from the truth. Central New Mexico, where Albuquerque is located, has a range of seasons, including hot summers and cold winters.

The city itself is at an elevation of 5,312 ft, just a bit higher than Denver—and of course, with high elevation comes colder temps. For example, the average low temperature in Albuquerque in January is 22 degrees. It even snows in Albuquerque occasionally—although it usually melts within a few hours due to the persistent sun.

4. Why is Albuquerque airport called Sun Port?

Albuquerque is lucky enough to experience about 280 days of sun per year, hence the airport’s  name! Although it was originally dubbed the Albuquerque International Airport, the name changed to the Albuquerque International Sunport in 1994.

If you ever visit the Sunport, you’ll no doubt enjoy the distinctly New Mexican vibe, including traditional architectural touches and art.

5. Why is Albuquerque hazy today?

Although most days in Albuquerque are bright and sunny, the city does experience the occasional hazy day. This is more common during wildfire season, when the smoke and debris from fires burning in the mountains or elsewhere in the state can drift over the city.

If you’re ever wondering about air quality in Albuquerque, the city maintains a website with updated daily air quality reports. You can also follow their Twitter account for regular updates.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 8, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Carrie Murphy

Carrie Murphy is a freelance writer and birth doula in Albuquerque, NM.
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