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Vincente Jr., Joe

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Vincente family arrival in New Mexico from the Basque area of Spain, cattle and sheep raising, and the founding of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

Interviewee Joe Vincente Jr., male, born in 1953
Date Range 1900-1996
Date & Location April 24, 1996, Vincente ranch, Vaughn, New Mexico
Project Founders
Region Central New Mexico
Number of Tapes 2
Transcribed November 13, 1996
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Tape 1, Side A

Vincente Jr. was born in Albuquerque, N.M. Both his maternal and paternal grandparents came from the Basque region of Spain in the early 1900s. They came to the Vaughn area of New Mexico as sheepherders. There were other French and Spanish Basques already established there—the Garde, Nalda, and Perez families among others. Sheepherders worked with ranchers on the "partida" system—"like a loan, but it wasn't cash, it was in livestock. Then every year he had to pay the owner, or the man that gave him the sheep ... ten percent of his lamb [and wool] crop," Vicente says. This sum was equivalent to the principal plus interest and within five years or so, the entire sum was paid back. La partida in Spanish means "halfers" or partners.

Some of the Basque families homesteaded, built a central camp, and used the surrounding area for pasture. Eventually they started buying up other homesteaders, and had acquired State and BLM leases by the early 1960s.

Lambing was very labor intensive, today lambing takes place in the pasture; similar to how calving is done. Ultimately, the Vincente family diversified into raising cattle, in part due to labor and predator problems involved in raising sheep.

Vincente attended New Mexico Military Institute for high school and junior college, and graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. Education was important in his family.

Tape 1, Side B

Recalling his Basque heritage, Vincente says that as many as sixty-five people out of a little Spanish village of perhaps a thousand would immigrate to the U.S. to make money sheepherding or in other ways, and then return to Spain. Others chose to make their homes in the United States.

Vincente belongs to an Alumni Association, Cattle Growers, Wool Growers, and a bank board.

He comments that New Mexico is a major wool producing state. He discusses his Rambouillet sheep, and the fact that climate is a major factor in raising sheep. He describes the wool bailing process and says that a bag of wool that is now packed by machine sometimes weighs 400 pounds. He says that central New Mexican wool is relatively dirtier than wool produced in the rockier Picacho/Hondo area. Raising cattle is less labor intensive.

Tape 2, Side A

Vicente became a member of the Farm and Ranch Museum Foundation Board in the early 1990s. He mentions early conflicts that occurred shortly before and after Dr. Stephens passed away and the Museum was transferred to the Office of Cultural Affairs. He recalls there was a question of where in Las Cruces the Museum would be built, and its association with New Mexico State University. He feels that education should perhaps be the Museum's major purpose.

He agrees that agriculture is in a major transitional period in the late 20th century. Too much good agricultural land is being sold for housing and commerce, he says.