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What appears to outsiders as Espanola actually is an agglomeration of communities-Quartelez, Sombrillo, Santa Cruz, San Pedro, Santo Nino, Riverside, Fairview, and perhaps others. As one native put it, "No one\'s really from from Espanola." Espanola was not listed in Escudero\'s Noticias of 1849, and to this day Tewas know Espanola by a name meaning "new town." An 1882 business directory of NM listed Espanola\'s population as 150 persons, and as late as the 1950s Espanola was officially only the small part of the present community that was on the W side of the Rio Grande, while Riverside and the other communities were seperate settlements on the E side. Now all have come within the city limits of Espanola.
The site originally was known as La Vega de los Vigiles, "the Vigils\' meadow." The present name has been thought to mean "Spanish woman," and local tradition is that it was given by RR workers for a woman who worked in a restaurant here. The name also has been linked to Hispaniola, "New Spain." But in fact, the name is a shortened from of the original Plaza Espanola, "Spanish town." And furthur, Plaza Espanola might have reflected a distinction between Spaniards and the Indians that the conquistadores of NM made three centuries earlier with the term San Gabriel de los Espanoles, "St. Gabriel of the Spaniards," a name given in 1598 to Onate\'s colony located nearby.
Place Names of New Mexico
by Robert Julyan