Zocalo Plaza-Bernalillo NM
Zocalo Plaza: Bernalillo NM (Courtesy: Sandoval County, NM


The New Mexico Tourism Dept. launched the Destination Forward program this year, and has identified 10 tourism-related infrastructure projects to enhance the tourism industry throughout the state. El Zócalo Complex in Bernalillo was awarded $50,000 as part of the program. It was the only project chosen in Sandoval County.

Preserving History

The historic complex was built in 1874, and literally translates to “a meeting space of a city or town.” These days, Sandoval County manages the facility sustains itself with revenue generated from events and also serves as a small-business incubator. Several companies that started in the center have outgrown their spaces and moved to other locations, making room for new startups. Its meeting space can hold up to 175 people and is more than 2,400 square feet.

El Zócalo was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and the state historical registry in 1980, and initially received Economic Development Association grant funding in 2006.

According to the center’s website, more than 135 years ago, the Sisters of Loretto Nuns walked the halls of El Zócalo (the meeting place) when it was first constructed in 1874. The convent was a gathering place where people in Bernalillo came to meet, learn, and exchange ideas. It also served as the old Our Lady of Sorrows school.

Maintaining Our Heritage

Each project selected by NMTD in this round of funding will be supported by a grant that covers up to $500,000 in expenses. The Destination Forward grants support the renovation, modernization, planning, design and construction of new or existing tourism projects.

“Our research shows us that demand for travel to New Mexico has never been higher. This program will help New Mexico communities better meet that demand so we can continue to deliver high-quality visitor experiences for folks who visit the Land of Enchantment,” said Acting Tourism Secretary Lancing Adams.

In FY23, NMTD introduced the Tourism Event Growth & Sustainability Program which provides specialized support to tourism-related events in the form of sponsorship, cooperative advertising, optimization audits and more. After awarding $177,000 in grant funding to 16 tourism-related events in FY23, NMTD more than doubled its investment in this program for FY24.

To see the full list of awardees, visit newmexico.org/industry/work-

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