◀︎return to newslistB. Ruppe Drugs, Downtown’s oldest pharmacy, left behind an absolutely fascinating archive.

November 5, 2021 – 

We spent a couple hours at the National Hispanic Cultural Center sorting through a century’s worth of papers, photos, and memories from this institution, born in Old Town and raised in Barelas. Here’s what we found.

Just over a year ago, Anna Uremovich, an archivist at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, got a fateful phone call: The remodel crews would arrive at the building formerly home to B. Ruppe Drugs in two days, but before that, would she be interested in carting off the assembled notebooks, cards, thank you notes, photos, clippings, books, magazines, recipes, religious articles, conference badges, legal papers, bank statements, and scraps of poetry that were still lying around on the floors, on tables, or tucked into shoe boxes? 

There was only one possible answer. Uremovich got to work, hauled away something north of 30 boxes, then commenced organizing what is now officially the B. Ruppe Drugs Collection into a rough inventory.

You wouldn’t expect a neighborhood drug store to have such a fascinating history, but there it is in black and white – documents going back at least 110 of its nearly 140 year history.  

Bernard Ruppe showed up in Old Town not long after the railroad arrived in 1880, though despite that technological advance, he arrived on a burro. According to a historical white paper of unknown authorship tucked into collection, the German-American soon found work with a local druggist whom he eventually bought out, opening his very own shop on Old Town Plaza in 1883. He was a prominent Elk and served in the Spanish American War, World War One, and with the expedition that chased Pancho Villa southward in retaliation for his 1916 attack on Columbus. 

Skip ahead to the mid-1980s, and B. Ruppe Drugs had move to 4th in Barelas. It’s proprietors were Tom Sanchez and his sister-in-law, Maclovia Zamora. Their shop was that rare place where western and traditional medicine co-exist (peacefully, so far as we know). You could bring your M.D.’s prescription there and they took insurance, but Zamora was also a curandera and would happily talk through your options for herbal remedies, tinctures, teas, and whatever else customers needed. 

Over the years, Zamora became something of a rock star figure. People visited from all over to ask for advice. She was recognized by the Smithsonian. And she’s now memorialized in a mural on the side of the B. Ruppe building at 4th and Hazledine. Few pharmacists can say the same. 

These days, the building is getting a new lease on life under its new owner, the nonprofit organization Homewise, which is hosting an open house tomorrow evening. And just a few weeks ago, Uremovich finished that inventory and opened the archives up to researchers. DAN, naturally, was first in line. Here’s what we found…