The Ghost of Adele Martinez

The ghost of Adela Martinez haunts the Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. 

The Center ( honors Hispanic culture, offering exhibits of fine art and media arts as well as dance and music performances.  Classes and seminars are part of the foundation’s mission.  

The lofty purpose of the forty-million-dollar complex began as a vision forty years ago when plans were first drawn.   The architecture of the project honors the simple earth tones and soft shapes of the Southwest.       Inside, the tall ceilings, cool without air conditioning, have a cathedral quiet.

Manuel Avenue was a thriving neighborhood when the Martinez family moved there in 1914 with their 4-year-old daughter, Adela.  The street was still vibrant in 1936 when, Adela gave birth to her daughter, Josie. 

As it became encircled by urban growth, Manuel Avenue aged, and by the ’70s was targeted for renewal.  Locals were offered $50,000.00 for their homes.  Those who did not accept were threatened with condemnation of their property.  

Soon the whole street was vacant and bulldozed–save two adjacent houses owned by Adela Martinez and one, a block away owned by an elderly man.  Neither would sell their homes.  Both resisted threats of eviction.    Eventually, the old man moved away, later his house burned down, and at some point, his little parcel was swallowed into the acreage of the large project.

Adela stood alone, her houses in the center of the drawings of the several-acre project. 

In the name of honoring Hispanic culture, it was the movers and shakers, politicians and PR people, lawyers and their lackeys versus Adela Martinez.  The project was pitted against the most basic of the values they wanted to honor: home and family. Again and again Adela beat them in court.  The heavyweights failed to notice Adela’s giant ally, Public Outrage.  

Eventually, a redesigned Hispanic Cultural Center was built and opened.  It serves the community well. 

In the center of the complex (center right in the sit map above), hidden by shrubbery, are two simple, pale green houses with a letterbox in front.  In front of the houses is a large parking lot; behind are the buildings of the Center.  Adela Martinez lived in one house until the day she died on January 29, 2000.   And, I am told, the ghost of Adela Martinez still walks the grounds. 

Inside the other house lives 75-year-old Josie Montoya Martinez.

15 Responses to The Ghost of Adele Martinez

  1. Kristine says:

    Your pictures are absolutely wonderful and really capture the spirit of the NHCC! I also enjoyed the story. I think that Josie Montoya Martinez would love a copy.

    • allevenson says:


      With Josie and Adele I strived for that point of disclosure while respecting them. Josie was annoyed that I took pictures of her house without permission. I agonized over whether I could make the story work without them. In the end I thought I could.


      • Betty says:

        I hope you are going to visit Santa Fe and Taos while you are so close.

      • allevenson says:

        They are both on the list if the heat doesnt send me packing.

      • Crystal says:

        I don’t think people get the point of respect or as to why they wouldn’t sell, it had nothing to do with money or fame, u have no idea what is buried in the grounds of that land and so much more to this story that all of you may never know…….fr Adela’s great granddaughter and josies granddaughter Crystal xoxo

    • jennifer says:

      My grandma Josie WOULD NOT like a copy.

  2. Dave L says:

    I have a special fondness for Taos and should you head up that way, I’ll give you the address of a lady you might want to meet. Yolanda runs a B&B west of town where Karen and I were married. She is an absolute peach of a person with stories to fill up your file.

  3. Colleen Rae says:

    Beautiful photos, Al. The story DID work – you could have even given us even more details. A great story.

  4. Colleen Rae says:

    I understand the smoke is pretty bad out there. Taos should be cooler as it is higher elevation than ABQ.

  5. Pat Bean says:

    Great photos and story. This is an issue I’m familiar with because of being a journalist who met people like Adela. I’m glad she won.

  6. karen wittgraf says:

    Love New Mexico…and for sure, you have to get to Taos and Santa Fe. The culture is so rich and your story had the anticipated happy ending. Keep away from the fire! Enjoyed your pics. If you get to Taos, go to the chapel as you will have amazing pics there.

  7. tanya grove says:

    Good for Adela! I love hearing about people who withstand great pressure from big bureaucrats and win. Great photos too.

  8. jennifer says:

    I think you should do better research and question al the parties involved. My great grandma would NEVER ‘haunt” any place especially the HCC. Yes my great grandma won but got very depressed when they started building the HCC. Thats what took her down. She was overall healthy. The older man that you talk about, Henry, NEVER got his money that was promised to him, so I am glad my great grandma fought and won. This story is untrue. When my great grandma was alive, she said she would NEVER STEP FOOT on the HCC. Why would she do it now? Please respect her, she is at peace in heaven. LEAVE HER ALONE ALREADY.

  9. Valerie says:

    My sister Jennifer is right. Also the HCC was already being haunted before our great grandma passed away. She is in heaven with God, she has no reason to haunt the HCC. The only ghosts that haunt are those poor loss souls who have not found their way to God in heaven, so pray for them. Also the HCC should not have been called the HCC, because they were kicking Hispanics off their land and breaking up a Hispanic neighborhood. There are so many other places to build such buildings instead of in neighborhoods.

  10. Crystal says:

    Amen to my cousins Val and Jen…..My great grandmother Adele and grandmother Josie promised us and themselves that they would never ever step foot in the HCC, EVER and as love and respect for them neither would I or the rest of my family, if the HCC stood for loyalty to Hispanics they would have never THREATENED my grandparents lives and homes……..more like the HCC was AGAINST Hispanics , my great grandmother would never haunt the grounds because she didn’t believe in what the HCC said they stood for, she is too high class to haunt a pathetic FAKE place such as the HCC, I have never seen the inside of the place nor will I or my family or my children or my children’s children! My grandmother was a Godly woman who was a woman of Love and Respect and Honor and Loyalty and spent many many night crying and praying and worried sick that her house would be bulldozed to the ground with her in it and all her clothes and pictures and memories shattered to the floor! she spent time and money and sleepless nights horrified that her and her family would be left homeless…..for those of you who judge a word of advice: Don’t believe everything the papers write, they are only looking for a good story to up their salaries, maybe one day the world will know the TRUTH of my family and the homes that remain in front of the Hispanic culture center and maybe the world may never know but for us the HCC is nothing but a reminder of how the devil never sleeps and hides himself in sheeps clothing!!!!!! IF my grandmother were to wonder around, it would be on her land , in her home, in the home of her daughter Josie Montoya Martinez , to watch over and smile w/a peaceful heart that we are all safe and that she left as a legend, not to spook foolish men in a foolish building. xoxo

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