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New Mexico

New Mexico is a state in the southwestern United States. At one point it was a province of Mexico, and thus New Mexico is the state with the highest percentage of people who claim Hispanic ancestry, many of whom are descended from Spanish colonists. It also contains a sizeable Native American population. As a result, New Mexico has a unique culture with strong Mexican and Native American influences. For a variety of reasons, some people in other parts of the U.S. sometimes mistake it for a part of Mexico. Both English and Spanish are official languages in the state; its Spanish name is Nuevo México.

Native American Pueblos

Prehistoric Native Americans used the land and minerals of New Mexico to build an early Southwestern culture millenia ago. Prehistoric Native American ruins indicate a presence at modern Santa Fe. Caves in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque contain the remains of some of the earliest inhabitants of the New World. The Pueblo people built a flourishing sedentary culture in the 1200s, constructing small towns in the valley of the Rio Grande and pueblos nearby.

The Spanish encountered Pueblo civilization in the 1500s. Word of the pueblos reached Cabeza de Vaca, a Spaniard wandering across south New Mexico in 1528-1536. Fray Marcos de Niza enthusiastically identified the pueblos as the fabulously rich Seven Cities of Cibola, the fabled seven cities of gold. Dispatched from New Spain, conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led a full-scale expedition to find these cities in 1540-1542. Coronado camped near an excavated pueblo today preserved as Coronado State Monument in 1541. His maltreatment of the Pueblo people while exploring the upper Rio Grande valley led to long-standing hostility that impeded the Spanish conquest of New Mexico.


Spanish colonization

Juan de Oñate founded the San Juan colony on the Rio Grande in 1598, the first European settlement in the future state of New Mexico. Oñate pioneered the El Camino Real, "The Royal Road" as a 700 mile (1100 km) lifeline from the rest of New Spain to his remote colony. The Native Americans at Acoma revloted against this Spanish encroachment but faced severe suppression.

Made governor of the "Kingdom and Provinces of New Mexico," Pedro de Peralta established a settlement at the foot of the Sangre de Christo mountains called Santa Fe in 1609. As the seat of government of New Mexico since its founding, it is the oldest capital city in the United States. He built the Palace of Governors in 1610. Although the colony failed to prosper, some missions flourished. Spanish settlers arrived at the site of Albuquerque in the mid-1600s. Missionaries subjugated Native Americans to forced labor on the haciendas and attempted to convert them to Christianity. The Apache revolted violently in 1676, and the Pueblo uprising of 1680 drove the Spanish to abandon New Mexico entirely until the campaign of Diego de Vargas Zapata reestablished Spanish control and returned Spanish colonists in 1692.

While developing Santa Fe as a trade center, the returning setlers founded the old town of Albuquerque in 1706, naming for the viceroy of New Spain, the duke of Alburquerque. They constructed the Church of San Felipe de Nerí (1706). The through development of ranching and some farming in the 1700s laid the foundations for the state′s still-flourishing Hispanic culture.


Mexican province

Napoleon Bonaparte of France sold the vast Louisiana Purchase, which extended into the northeastern corner of New Mexico, to the United States in 1803. As a part of New Spain, the remainder of the province of New Mexico passed to independent Mexico following the 1810-1821 Mexican War of Independence.

Small trapping parties from the United States had previously reached Santa Fe, but the Spanish rulers forbade them to trade. Trader William Becknell returned to the United States in November 1821 with news that independent Mexico welcomed trade through Santa Fe.

Becknell left Independence, Missouri, for Santa Fe early in 1822 with the first party of traders. Wagon caravans thereafter made the 40- to 60-day annual trek along the 780 mile (1,260 km) Santa Fe Trail, usually leaving in early summer and returning after a 4 to 5 week stay in New Mexico. The Trail divided into Mountain and Cimarron Divisions southwest of Dodge City, Kansas. The rugged Mountain Division passed over Raton Pass and rejoined the more direct Cimarron Division near Fort Union, New Mexico. The dry southern Cimmaron route offered poor short grass and little wildlife. The Santa Fe National Historic Trail follows the route of the old trail, with many sites marked or restored.

American frontiersman Kit (Christopher) Carson, apprenticed to a saddler in the Santa Fe Trail outfitting point of Old Franklin, ran away from his job in 1826. He joined a caravan for Santa Fe, and made Taos, his home and headquarters as he made a living as a teamster, cook, guide, and hunter for exploring parties until 1840.

The breakaway Republic of Texas claimed the territory north and east of the Rio Grande when it seceded from Mexico in 1836. New Mexico authorities captured a group of Texans who embarked an expedition to assert their claim to the province in 1841. The United States of America annexed Texas as a State in 1845.


American territory

Tierra O Muerte – Land or Death

American General Stephen W. Kearny entered Santa Fe without opposition in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, and his forces occupied the city, making New Mexico a United States territory. On meeting Kit Carson, General Kearney commanded Carson to guide his men to California. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, Mexico ceded much of the American Southwest to the United States of America. This new territory included most of the western half of present-day New Mexico. The change of national authority allowed Anglo-American culture to come to New Mexico.

The Compromise of 1850 halted a bid for statehood under an antislavery constitution. Texas transferred eastern New Mexico to the federal government, settling a lengthy boundary dispute. Under the compromise, the American government established the New Mexico Territory on September 9, 1850. The territory, which included Arizona and parts of Colorado, officially established its capital at Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1851. The people of New Mexico would determine whether to permit slavery under a constitution at statehood, but the status of slavery during the territorial period provoked considerable debate. Some (including Stephen Douglas) maintained that the territory could not restrict slavery, as under the earlier Missouri Compromise, while others (including Abraham Lincoln) insisted that older Mexican legal traditions, which forbade slavery, took precedence. Regardless of its status, slavery never took a significant hold.

Native American plundering led Kit Carson to abandon his intent to retire to a sheep ranch near Taos. Carson accepted an 1853 appointment as U.S. Indian agent with a headquarters at Taos, and fought the Indians with notable success.

The United States acquired the southwestern "boot heel" of the state and much of southern Arizona in the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. With this purchase, the United States established its sovereignty over all of the present state of New Mexico.

During the American Civil War, Confederate troops from Texas first occupied New Mexico. Union troops captured the territory in early 1862. Kit Carson helped to organize and command the 1st New Mexican Volunteers to engage in campaigns against the Apache, Navajo, and Comanche in New Mexico and Texas. The Arizona Territory split as a separate entity in 1863. Union troops withdrew after the conclusion of the war.

The Roman Catholic Church established an archbishopric center in Santa Fe in 1875. The Santa Fe Railroad reached Lamy, New Mexico, 16 miles (26 km) from Santa Fe in 1879 and Santa Fe itself in 1880, replacing the storied Santa Fe Trail. The new town of Albuquerque, platted in 1880 as the Santa Fe Railroad extended westward, quickly enveloped the old town.

The railway encouraged the great cattle boom of the 1880s and the development of accompanying cow towns. Cattlemen feuded between each other and with authorities, most notably in the Lincoln County War. Outlaws included Billy the Kid. The cattle kindgom could not keep out sheepherders, and eventually homesteaders and squatters overwhelmed the cattlemen by fencing in and plowing under the "sea of grass" on which the cattle fed. Conflicting land claims led to bitter quarrels among the original Spanish inhabitants, cattle ranchers, and newer homesteaders. Despite destructive overgrazing, ranching survived as a mainstay of the New Mexican economy.

Confict with the Apache and the Navajo plagued the territory until Apache chief Geronimo finally surrendered in 1886.

Albuquerque, on the upper Rio Grande, incorporated in 1889.



Congress admitted New Mexico as the 47th state in the Union on January 6, 1912. The admission of the neighboring State of Arizona on February 14, 1912 completed the contiguous 48 states.

The United States government built the Los Alamos Research Center in 1943 amid the Second World War. Top-secret personnel there developed the atomic bomb, first detonated at Trinity site in the desert on the White Sands Proving Grounds vaguely near Alamogordo on July 16, 1945.

Albuquerque expanded rapidly after the war. High-altitude experiments near Roswell in 1947 reputedly led to persistent claims that the government captured and concealed extraterrestrial corpses and equipment. The state quickly emerged as a leader in nuclear, solar, and geothermal energy research and development. The Sandia National Laboratories, founded in 1949, carried out nuclear research and special weapons development at Kirtland Air Force Base south of Albuquerque.

The controversial Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, deep in salt formations near Carlsbad readied for storage of nuclear wastes during the 1990s.

Miscellaneous information

Official state symbols

The state nickname is "Land of Enchantment;" the state motto is "Crescit Eundo (It Grows as It Goes)."

The state symbols include:

State songs “O Fair New Mexico” 1917
“Asi Es Nuevo Méjico” 1971
“New Mexico—Mi Lindo Nuevo Mexico” 1995
State flower Yucca flower 1927
State tree Two-Needle Piñon pine 1949
State bird Chaparral (Roadrunner) 1949
State fish Cutthroat trout 1955
State animal black bear 1963
State vegetables chile and frijol 1965
State gem turquoise 1967
State grass blue gramma 1973
State fossil coelophysis 1981
State cookie bizcochito 1989
State insect tarantula hawk wasp 1989
State ballad "Land of Enchantment" 1989
State poem A Nuevo México 1991
State question “Red or Green?” 1999

The official State Question refers to a diner′s preference for either red or green chile pepper with their meal.



Santa Fe
Rio Arriba
San Juan
San Miguel
Los Alamos
Dona Ana
De Baca