New Mexico History

One of the many goals of the Office of the State Historian is to provide support, resources, and inspiration for those who desire to learn more about New Mexico’s rich historical past and present. For students, this means providing meaningful and engaging primary sources, in both English and Spanish. Educators will have at their fingertips timelines, articles, and primary sources that explain New Mexico’s most fascinating and provocative events from our cultural patrimony. Communities and individuals are invited to participate in making New Mexico history come alive through lecture presentations, classes, workshops, and research.

WHY study History?

  1. Helps to develop reading, writing, and thinking skills.
  2. Helps to understand the society they live in.
  3. Helps to understand other human beings and cultures, and therefore better understand themselves.
  4. Helps to understand people who are culturally, ethnically and racially different.
  5. Helps to see things from different perspectives and see the “bigger picture.”
  6. Helps give us a “reason for being,” it gives meaning to our lives.
  7. Helps inspire us in many ways.
  8. Helps to have a sense of “connection” both to the past and to other peoples.
  9. History is fun!
  10. Helps us dream and wonder, about our lives and a better future.



Ancestral Puebloan – 15,000 years ago - 1500

Spanish Colonial - 1598 – 1821

Mexican – 1821 – 1848

U.S. Territory – 1850 – 1912

Statehood – 1912 – present




RESEARCH THE FOLLOWING: What did New Mexico look like politically in 1600? 1700? 1800? 1900? 2000?

WHY did it look the way it did at those times?




  1. What do historians do and why? Important historical terms.
  2. A chronology for New Mexico. The name. Land of Enchantment? Charles F. Lummis: sun, silence, and adobe.
  3. Physical setting: Spain’s claim to the north. The 47th state. Topography. Rivers.
  4. New Mexico’s first residents. Paleo Indians. Archaic period. Prehistory: Ancestral Puebloan and Pueblo. Bandelier and Kidder. Non-sedentary peoples: Athapascans and Shoshoneans. The horse and its impact on native cultures.
  5. Spain and the Reconquista. Moors and Sephardic Jews. Institutions: encomienda, repartimiento, fueros, cabildo, the Inquisition, merced, hidalgo, alcalde mayor. 1492: Granada, Edict of Expulsion, Columbus.
  6. Mexico: Hernando Cortés and Cuba. Montezuma, La Malinche, Tlaxcala, Tenochtitlan, Noche Triste, Guadalupe, Nuño de Guzman, and Cristobal de Oñate.
  7. Coronado’s quest. Motivation. The Spanish Reconquista transferred to the Americas. Approaches to the north. Opening of the “contact” period.
  8. Onate and Spanish colonization. New Spain’s northward-moving frontier. Onate’s venture. Disenchantment. From propriety to royal colony.
  9.  Mainly missions, 1610 – 1680. Gov. Peralta and Santa Fe, 1608 – 1610. Governors vs friars. The mission as a static institution. The Holy Office of the Inquisition. Some 17th century notables.
  10. The Pueblo-Spanish War: Act One (the outbreak, 1680). A long tradition of resentment. Pope and a plan devastatingly executed.
  11. The Pueblo-Spanish War: Act Two (the stand-off, 1681 – 1691) and Act Three (the Reconquest, 1692 – 1696). Vargas and a new colonization. The “bloodless reconquest.” The recolonizing Mexico City expedition of 1693. Gov. Pedro Rodríguez Cubero (1697 – 1703). Vargas’ return. A tradition of accommodation. Diego de Vargas, his life and accomplishments.
  12. Life in 18th century New Mexico. (Villa de Alburquerque DVD). Hispanos and Pueblos. Stock raising, farming, and trading. Mainly defense. The French threat. Anza and the Comanche peace of 1786. New Mexico’s four-class society.
  13. Fray Juan José Toledo and the Devil in Spanish New Mexico: sorcery and witch beliefs in Abiquiu, New Mexico, 1760s, a story of cultural conflict.
  14. Responses to the Anglo-American threat. The Provincias Internas, 1776. Domínguez and Escalante in the Great Basin, 1776. Routes across the Plains. Pike in Santa Fe, 1807. A class war in New Spain, 1810. Mexican Independence, 1821.
  15. Mexico’s quarter-century, 1821 – 1846. Breakdown of Spanish institutions. The Santa Fe Trail: an international, commercial highway. The Santa Fe trade and economic reorientation. Governor Armijo and Padre Martínez. The rebellion of 1837. The Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 1841.
  16. La invasion norteamericana (The Mexican American War) to the compromise of 1850. The Texas question. Kearny and the Army of the West. The Taos “rebellion,” 1847.
  17. The Territory of New Mexico, 1850s – 1860s. Delayed statehood. Territorial government. The U.S. Civil War in New Mexico. The Bosque Redondo experiment.
  18. Exploitation of the post – Civil War Territory: Catron and the Santa Fe “Ring.” The Lincoln County “War” 1878 – 1879. The coming of the railroad (AT&SF), 1879. Statehood, 1912. New Mexico and the nation’s 20th century wars.
  19. New Mexico and the great Influenza Epidemic, and the Great Depression.
  20. New Mexico and the Atomic Bomb: The Manhattan Project. Causes and effects, reasons and consequences locally and worldwide.
  21. The Land Grant question in New Mexico. Tierra Amarilla Courthouse Raid, 1967. Reies Lopez Tijerina. La Alianza.
  22. Multicultural society in New Mexico.


A chronology for New Mexico. The name. A Land of Enchantment?

  1. A New Mexico timeline.
  2. How did we get our name? Nuevo México = Otro México. Coronado and Nueva Granada. In the 1580s, name and place came together by default.
  3. Land of Enchantment, promise of something better and unusual? 1550, 1650, 1750, 1850 – still a disenchantment, a rude frontier. By the 1880s, NM’s liabilities seen by some as assets. 1950 – tourism and an economic stake in enchantment.


Mexica (Nahuas, Nahuatl)

Patria chica


Charles F. Lummis (Land of Poco Tiempo)


Physical setting

  1. Spain’s vast claim to the north (the Kingdom and Provinces of New Mexico) and the small area of effective occupation.
  2. New Mexico today (present artificial boundaries since 1860s): 5th largest state in area.
  3. Topography: Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Colorado Plateau, Basin and Range. Five “major” rivers: Rio Grande, Pecos, Canadian, San Juan, and Gila.
Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon (Sierra de Mogollon) Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Sierra del Valle (Jemez Mts.), Valle Grande (caldera) Llano Estacado
Pajarito Plateau (potreros) Cabezon
Sandias and Manzanos Salinas
Jornada del Muerto (parajes) and Tularosa Basin Aquifers (ojos)
Rio Arriba; Rio Abajo (La Bajada)  


New Mexico’s first residents

  1. Paleo-Indians (ca. 10,000 – 6,000 B.C.): Clovis, Folsom
  2. Archaic Period (ca. 8,000 – 500 B.C.)
  3. Prehistoric Period (ca. 1000 – 1500s A.D.): Ancestral Puebloan or Anasazi
    1. Basketmaker (ca. 100 – 700 A.D.)
    2. Pueblo (ca. 700 A.D. – Present)
  4. The Athapascans: Western Apaches (Gila Apaches), Navajos (Apaches de Navajo), Jicarillas, Chiricahuas, Mescaleros
  5. The Shoshoneans: Utes and Comanches. The horse.
George McJunkin (Folsom man) Adolph F. Bandelier (The Delight Makers)
Alfred V. Kidder Hogan
Chaco Culture (Pueblo Bonito)
Kiva pemmican
Atlatl travois
Richard MacNeish (Pendejo Cave) indios barbaros

Eastern or Rio Grande Pueblos (according to linguistic affiliation):

Tiwa:   Southern: Sandia & Isleta       Northern: Taos & Picuris

Tewa:  Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, San Juan

Keres: San Felipe, Santa Ana, Zia, Santo Domingo, Cochiti, Acoma (west), Laguna (west)

Towa: Jemez (Pecos)


Western Pueblos:

Zuni     (today one main pueblo with several farming communities)

Hopi     (several pueblos)


Extinct Linguistic Groups:

Piro                  (formerly in the Socorro area)

Tompiro          (Salinas pueblos east of Manzano Mountains)

Tano                (Galisteo Basin; linguistically Tano survives at Hano)


The Quest of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, 1540 – 1542

  1. Motivation: “Things never before seen…”; honor and earthly fame and fortune, religious zeal, union of Church and state.
  2. A Medieval outfit. The Reconquista (of Spain from the Moors) transferred to the Americas. The watershed year of 1492.
  3. Approaches to the north from the Caribbean. Hernan Cortes and the Conquest of Mexico, 1519 – 1521.
  4. Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza (1535 – 1550). Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca learns of northern cities, and Fray Marcos de Niza catches a glimpse.
  5. Estebanico, first representative of Spain to New Mexico.
  6. Coronado and his explorers open the “contact period” from Yuma to Kansas. Quivira. The obsessed Fray Juan de Padilla.


Francisco Vásquez de Coronado

Caballero                                            Nueva Galicia

Juan Ponce de León                            Estebanico

Nuño de Guzman                                Cíbola (Nueva Granada)

Seven Cities of Antilla (legend)          Hernando de Alvarado (Tiguex, Pecos)


Don Juan de Oñate and the Spanish colonization of New Mexico

  1. Permanent northward expansion: silver, stock, and slaves. The Chichimeca War and frontier lessons. The “rediscovery” of New Mexico.
  2. Juan de Oñate negotiates a contract with the viceroy. Oñate’s disenchantment: possession (1598), the battle at Acoma (1599), desertion of the colonists (1601), to the South Sea (1604 – 05), resignation (1607). From proprietary to royal colony.
Mixton War Vicente de Zaldívar
Cristobal de Oñate Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá (Historia)
Zacatécas Doña Eufemia de Sosa
Presidio San Juan de los Caballeros
Adelantado Zutacapan
Encomienda San Gabriel
Hidalgo El Morro: Paso por aquí
Juan de Zaldívar  


Mainly missions, 1610 – 1680

  1. Gov. Pedro de Peralta replaces Oñate (1609). Founding la Villa de Santa Fe, 1609 – 1610.
  2. Governors vs. friars: competition for Pueblo lands, labor, and loyalty. Unclear division and allocation of authority.
  3. The mission as static institution: religious, economic, and political modification of Pueblo culture.
  4. The Holy Office of the Inquisition comes to New Mexico (1626). The sad case of Diego Romero.
  5. Three notable people of the 17th century colony: Fray Alonso de Benavides , missionary propagandist; Gov. Luis de Rosas (1637 – 1641)  rowdy; Gov. Diego de Peñalosa (1661 – 1664), consummate rogue.


Bernardo López de Menizábal cacíque
Casas reales, cabildo, vecino Memorial of 1630, 1634
France V. Scholes Maria de Jesus de Agreda
Fray Isidro Ordoñez  


The Pueblo-Spanish War, aka the Pueblo Revolt: Act One (the outbreak, 1680)

  1. Background: Apaches, epidemics, droughts, and hunger, kiva raids, and a long tradition of resentment. The plot of Esteban Clemente, ca. 1670.
  2. Crisis years: late 1660s and 1670s.
  3. Popé and a plan devastatingly executed.


Pueblo Revolt of 1680

Indio ladino

Fray Francisco de Ayeta


Gov. Antonio de Otermín



The Pueblo-Spanish War: Act Two (the standoff, 1681 – 1691) and Act Three (the Reconquest, 1692 – 1696). Diego de Vargas and “a new and distinct colonization” of New Mexico

  1. The Pueblos and a decade without Spaniards. The Spaniards and a miserable exile in El Paso. Gov. Domingo Jironza and the sack of Zia, 1689.
  2. The “bloodless reconquest,” 1692: the Pueblos restored and absolved by symbolic act. At Vargas’s expense? The Mercurio volarte of Carlos de Siguenza y Góngora and a lasting misconception. The Santa Fe Fiesta.
  3. The recolonizing expedition of 1693. The battle of Santa Fe and continued bloody Pueblo resistence. Zacatecas colonists and Santa Cruz de la Canada, 1695. The last Pueblo outbreak and the end of the Pueblo-Spanish War, 1696.
  4. Gov. Pedro Rodriguez Cubero (1697 – 1703) and the Santa Fe cabildo vs. Vargas. Confinement. Acquittal by the viceroy, the Duque de Alburquerque. Return to New Mexico and death.
  5. “Bronze heroes don’t dance: the search for a vital Diego de Vargas.”
  6. The era of Vargas as a watershed: New Mexico different BEFORE VARGAS and AFTER VARGAS. A tradition of accommodation.


Bartolomé de Ojeda

Diego de Vargas: Márques de la Nava de Barcinas

Reconquest of New Mexico

Jean l’Archeveque (Juan Archibeque)

Jacques Grolet (Santiago Gurulé)


New Mexico in the 18th century

  1. Steady growth of the Hispanic population. Gov. Francisco Cuervo y Valdes and the founding of the Villa de Alburquerque , 1706. Maintenance of the Pueblo population. Bishop Pedro Tamaron y Romeral and an extraordinary happening at Pecos, 1760.
  2. Stock raising, farming, and trading.
  3. Mainly defense: presidial soldiers, Pueblo auxiliaries, and militia. The French threat.
  4. Juan Bautista de Anza and the Comanche Peace of 1786.
  5. New Mexico’s four-class society: ricos, pobres (free farmers and debt peons), Pueblo Indians and genízaros.
  6. Fray Juan José Toledo and the Devil at Abiquiu.


Partido system (churros) conducta
From estancia to rancho Pedro de Villasur 21328
Acequia madre Paul and Pierre Mallet
Placita Cuerno Verde
Merced Bernardo Miera y Pacheco 21321
Hechizería Brujería
Tomás Vélez Cachupín 409  


Responses to the Anglo-American threat

  1. General Command of the Provincias Internas, 1776.
  2. Domínguez and Escalante in the Great Basin, 1776. Pedro Vial and the routes across the plains, 1780s and 1790s.
  3. Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike escorted to Santa Fe, 1807.
  4. A class war in New Spain, 1810; a constitution in Spain, 1812; and Mexican Independence, 1821.


Fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante

Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez (The Missions of New Mexico, 1776)

Old Spanish Trail

Spanish Cortes of 1811

Pedro Bautista Pino – “Don Pedro Pino fue, don Pedro Pino vino.”


Mexico’s quarter-century, 1821 – 1846

  1. New interest in the Mexican period. Breakdown of Spanish institutions.
  2. The Santa Fe trail: an international, commercial highway.
  3. The Santa Fe trade and economic reorientation of New Mexico. Fur trappers. Bent, St. Vrain & Co.
  4. Don Manuel Armijo. Padre Antonio Jose Martinez of Taos. The rebellion of 1837. The Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 1841, and Armijo reviled by Anglos.


William Becknell Gertrudes Barcelo (Doña Tules)
Cimarron Cutoff and Mountain Branch comancheros
Josiah Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies Albino Pérez
Ceran St. Vrain Jose Gonzales
William and Carles Bent George Wilkins Kendall
(Bent, St. Vrain & Co.)  
Plan de Iguala - Ciudadano Mexicano  


La Invasion Norteamericano (The Mexican-American War) to the compromise of 1850

  1. The Texas question. “President Polk’s War.” Stephen Watts Kearny and the Army of the West. The Kearny Code.
  2. The Taos “rebellion,” 1847. Military government. Santa Fe County, Texas?
  3. The Compromise of 1850: New Mexico as a Territory of the United States of America.
The Mexican Cession (c. 948,000 sq. miles) Donaciano Vigil
Gen. Zachary Taylor Col. Sterling Price
Gen. Winfield Scott Diego Archuleta
James W. “Don Santiago” Magoffin Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
Gov. Charles Bent Robert S. Neighbors


The Territory of New Mexico, 1850 – 1860s; everything between the great states of Texas and California

  1. Delayed statehood: the sectional conflict, the wrong kind of population.
  2. Territorial government. Anglo political appointees (governor, secretary, chief & 2 assoc. judges, U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal) and Hispano legislature (& local government). The Gadsden strip and the Mesilla-Tucson axis.
  3. The U.S. Civil War in New Mexico: the Confederate invasion. Battles at Valverde and Glorieta Pass. James H. Carleton and the California Column.
  4. Carleton’s solution to the Indian “problem:” the Bosque Redondo experiment. Col. Kit Carson and the Navajo roundup.


James S. Calhoun Brig. Gen. Henry H. Sibley
Lt. Col. Edwin V. Sumner Col. E.R.S. Canby


Americanization and exploitation of the post-Civil War Territory

  1. Thomas Benton Catron and the Santa Fe “Ring.”
  2. The Lincoln County War, 1878 – 1881. a “war without heroes.”
  3. The coming of the railroad: the AT & SF, 1879.
  4. The century of Hispano expansion, 1780s – 1880s.
  5. The statehood struggle and, finally, success, 1912.
  6. New Mexico and the nation’s 20th century wars.


Stephen Benton Elkins John H. Tunstall
Maxwell Land Grant Gov. Lew Wallace (Ben Hur)


Dust to dust: The Spanish Missions of New Mexico since 1776

  1. Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and his telling report on the condition of New Mexico, 1776.
  2. The unique and invariable New Mexico mission style.
  3. Neglect: a church with a shortage of clergy. La Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesus, the Penitentes of New Mexico.
  4. Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy (1851 – 1888) 501 and the era of earnest remodeling; the French influence in New Mexico.
  5. Missions as monuments; the era of historic preservation. The “Santa Fe Style.”


Bishop José Antonio de Zubiría, 1833 Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop
Father Camille Seux of San Juan Pueblo Ralph E. Twitchell
Carlos Vierra Edgar Hewett
William George Tight of UNM George Kubler, The Religious Architecture of New Mexico


New Mexico and the Great War, Spanish Flu, Columbus Raid, and the Great Depression

  1. New Mexico and the Great War.
  2. The Spanish Flu: What was it and how did it effect New Mexico?
  3. USA raided at Columbus: Pancho Villas makes his point.
  4. The Great Depression and its effect on New Mexico.
National Guard Pancho Villa raids Columbus, NM
Epidemic influenza
Smallpox Dust Bowl



New Mexico: World War II and Ground Zero for the Creation of the Atomic Bomb

  1. Leading up to World War II. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.
  2. The U.S.A. struggles to control the Pacific theater.
  3. D-Day and the war with Germany.
  4. Arms race to build an atomic bomb.
  5. Japanese internment camps in New Mexico.
  6. Air Force bases and Labs. Sandia, White Sands, Los Alamos.


Los Alamos Ranch School J. Robert Oppenheimer
Manhattan Project Trinity Site – White Sands
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory  
Hiroshima Nagasaki


New Mexico’s rich Hispanic cultural traditions through the centuries

Violin & guitar Franciscans and music
Romancero La Delgadina
Alabados Alabanzas
Inditas corridos
Cautivas polka
Cautiva de Placida Romero santos
Indita de Manuel Maese santeros
Hymno del Pueblo retablo
Chotis bulto


Multicultural society, or not?

  1. Only in New Mexico: a cultural “mosaic.”
  2. Only when the dominant society feels secure. The case of the Navajos. The failure of assimilation. The Pueblos today.
  3. The courthouse raid at Tierra Amarilla, 1967; Reies López Tijerina, and the Land Grant question.
  4. The Church more secure. The Penitentes today.


George Washington Armijo Taos Blue Lake, 1970
Greer Garson and Buddy Fogelson Archbishop Robert F. Sánchez
Msgr. Frederick A. Stadtmueller Fray Angélico Chávez
Sen. Holm O. Bursum (the Bursum Bill) John Collier
Pueblo Lands Board, 1924 Indian Claims Commission, 1946
Reies López Tijerina