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New Mexico is a state of the southwest United States on the Mexican border. It was admitted as the 47th state in 1912. Site of prehistoric cultures that long preceded the Pueblo civilization encountered by the Spanish in the 16th century, the region was governed as a province of Mexico after 1821 and ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The original territory (established 1850) included Arizona and part of Colorado and was enlarged by the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. Sante Fe is the capital and Albuquerque the largest city. Population: 1,920,000.
The Clovis-Paleo Indians later discovered the eastern plains of New Mexico, the same expansive romping grounds of the dinosaurs around 10,000 B.C. The river valleys west of their hunting grounds later flooded with refugees from the declining Four Corners Anasazi cultures. Sometime between A.D. 1130 and 1180, the Anasazi drifted from their high-walled towns to evolve into today's Pueblo Indians, so named by early Spanish explorers because they lived in land-based communities much like the villages, or pueblos, of home. Culturally similar American Indians, the Mogollón, lived in today's Gila National Forest.
Less than two generations after Christopher Columbus set foot on the shores of an obscure Caribbean island on October 12, 1492, and claimed this New World for the Spanish kingdoms of Leon and Castille, Spanish conquistadores such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro had conquered the Aztec Empire in Mexico and the Incas of Peru. Subsequent explorers remained on the alert for other lands which might prove as wealthy as ones these men had conquered. It was this search for a “new” Mexico which ultimately led to the expedition which first brought the Spanish to New Mexico in 1540.
Ironically, the first exploration of New Mexico may have come about from an ill-fated Spanish attempt to settle Florida in 1527. A series of storms and shipwrecks stranded four survivors from this expedition near present-day Galveston, Texas. This group, which included Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and an African slave named Estevan (also known as Estevan the Moor and Estevanico), spent more than eight years wandering through southern Texas and northern Mexico. They were the first Europeans to explore, albeit unwittingly, this part of North America.
In 1536, the ragged survivors finally emerged from the wilderness at Culiacan, on the west coast of Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca's report to the Spanish Viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, included a brief mention of stories they had heard which told of large cities in the interior of the continent where valuable minerals were traded. This sparked a renewed interest in the Spanish quest to find the “new” Mexico which had so far eluded them. In 1539, Mendoza authorized Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan priest who had accompanied Pizarro to Peru, to conduct a preliminary exploration. Estevan went along as the expedition's guide.
When the expedition approached what is now southern Arizona, Estevan and several companions went ahead to scout the country. The scouts reported Estevan had learned of a place called Cíbola, and had been told this Cíbola was but one of seven magnificent cities. However, the Friar soon encountered several of Estevan's companions, who reported that their colorful guide had been killed. The Cíbola where Estevan was killed was in reality the ancestral Zuñi pueblo of Hawikah, however the friar's report seemed to confirm the stories which Cabeza de Vaca had heard during his travels.
In January of 1540, Vásquez de Coronado set out from Mexico in search of treasure, and convinced that the adobe pueblos were the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola, Coronado had orders to conquer the Indians and claim their riches. For the next two years, the expedition explored deep into the North American continent, but discovered only that the Seven Cities of Cibola were, after all, nothing but a myth. After Vásquez de Coronado was injured in a riding accident in the winter of 1542, the disheartened adventurers returned to Mexico. Failing to find the fabled gold, however, he and his men returned to New Spain without any newly won wealth. History has shown the expedition to have been a journey of epic proportions. In little more than two years, Vásquez de Coronado and his men explored much of the southwestern United States, ventured deep into the plains of Kansas, descended the walls of the Grand Canyon, and visited all the major Indian villages in the region.
For nearly forty years New Mexico was forgotten. As the sixteenth century progressed, Spanish settlement advanced slowly, but steadily through northern Mexico. During this period, Franciscan missionaries learned that Indians of the region traded regularly with other peoples who lived further north. During the 1580's several expeditions entered New Mexico and explored much of same region traversed four decades earlier by Vásquez de Coronado. One of these, led by Fray Bernardo Beltrán and Antonio de Espejo in 1582, is credited with the first official use of the term, la Nueva Mejico, to describe the region we now call New Mexico.
Don Juan de Oñate made the first successful exploration of Mexico del Norte's wilderness. In 1598 he marched up the Rio Grande claiming land for Spain, accompanied by troops, colonists and cattle arrived at Caypa, one of two Pueblo villages at the confluence of the Río Chama and the Río Grande, north of present-day Española. He soon moved across the river to Yungueingge (Tewa for mockingbird place), a now-ruined pueblo he renamed San Gabriel del Yunque, the first Spanish capital of New Mexico.
The first church in North America was also constructed in 1598 at San Juan Pueblo, 30 miles north of Santa Fe. Within the first quarter of the 17th century, 50 churches had been built in New Mexico.
Santa Fe was founded as the capital in 1609 by New Mexico's third governor, Don Pedro de Peralta. The fortified villa real (royal village) occupied the site of an early Tanoan Indian Pueblo and a more recent Spanish settlement. Spanish priests begin converting Indians, and settlers pouring into the remote colony. But some of the priests became overzealous, and the economic tribute system enslaved the Indians. By the middle of the 17th century, there was growing discontent among the Pueblo people. On Aug. 10, 1680, after years of careful planning, the tribes led by Taos Pueblo, revolted, killing many of the 3,500 settlers strung out from Santa Cruz de la Cañada (near Española) to Socorro and driving the rest south to El Paso del Norte (El Paso).
By 1692, however, the Spanish had returned. New settlers led by Don Diego DeVargas, the newly appointed governor and captain-general of New Mexico, began to reconquer the northern pueblos, a task that took four years.
Throughout the next century the Spanish were more tolerant of the Pueblo culture. Because of the area's isolation and neglect from both Spain and Mexico, the Spanish colonists persevered with limited resources and vital help from their Pueblo neighbors. The two cultures adopted traits from each other and the result is a distinct cultural commingling that succinctly identifies much of New Mexico's charm today.
New Mexico remained under Spanish rule until 1821 when Mexico won its independence from Spain. Running from Missouri to Santa Fe, the trail opened trade with the U.S. and brought new lifestyles, money and settlers to New Mexico. In 1824, New Mexico briefly became a Mexican territory, but in 1846 U.S. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny's troops followed Anglo merchants down the Santa Fe Trail to occupy New Mexico, which became an American territory. An 1847 revolt by Mexican loyalists precipitated battles at Santa Cruz and massacres at Mora and Taos, but eventually armed resistance ceased.
The war with Mexico ended when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848. Two years later, on September 9, 1850, the United States Congress passed an Organic Act which created the Territory of New Mexico and authorized the establishment of a new civil government.
During the U.S. Civil War, New Mexico Volunteers were among the troops proving their Union loyalties by helping cut the supply lines of invading Confederates at Apache Pass, near today's Glorieta.
The U.S. army forced the Navajo and Apache Indians onto a reservation on the Pecos River in 1886, and in the late 1880s, the railroads steamed in, forever changing New Mexico. Commerce improved, but under the imported U.S. legal system, dishonest Anglo lawyers defrauded many natives of land they had held for centuries.
And, cattle barons such as John Chisum started rounding up longhorns along the southeastern plains, often battling native landholders. Chisum also was involved in the bloody Lincoln County Wars, a conflict between two mercantile houses that involved such notables as Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid, and Gov. Lew Wallace, who wrote the novel Ben Hur.
Despite injustices, New Mexicans remained patriotically American. In 1898, Teddy Roosevelt recruited his "Rough Riders" from New Mexico, many from Las Vegas. Although New Mexico was colonized nearly 25 years before the Pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock, it did not achieve statehood until Jan. 6, 1912, when it was admitted to the Union as the 47th state.
The Great Depression, 1930-43, almost eliminated the isolated villages--heart of the Hispano homeland. But New Deal programs helped villagers survive.
During World War II, two New Mexico regiments endured the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. Navajo and other Indian "code talkers" used their native languages to help confuse the Japanese.
Things heated up again in the politically tumultuous 1960s, when activists led by Reies Lopez Tijerina attempted to reclaim Spanish land grants. After several confrontations, including an armed raid on the Tierra Amarilla courthouse, the movement quieted.
New Mexico has now become a research center and testing ground for government studies. In Los Alamos, they are studying ways to use nuclear energy. In Albuquerque, they are developing uses for military inventions during times of peace. In White Sands, they test weapons.
In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) increased trade with Mexico.
In 1998, New Mexico reached a milestone in its long and colorful history. It is the year the state observed the Cuatro Centennial, or 400th anniversary of the founding of the Spanish colony at the Tewa village of Ohkay in 1598.
- Santa Fe is the highest capital city in the United States at 7,000 feet above sea level.
- The province that was once Spanish New Mexico included all of present day New Mexico, most of Colorado and Arizona, and slices of Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming. The Original American Territory of New Mexico that congress created in 1850 included all of New Mexico and Arizona plus parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. The boundaries of present day New Mexico were drawn by congress in 1863 but New Mexico didn't become a state until 1912.
- Each October Albuquerque hosts the world's largest international hot air balloon fiesta.
- Las Cruces makes the world's largest enchilada the first weekend in October at the "Whole Enchilada Fiesta".
- Lakes and Rivers make up only .002% of the state's total surface area. The lowest water-to-land ratio of all 50 states. Most of New Mexico's lakes are man-made reservoirs. A dam on the Rio Grande formed the Elephant Butte Reservoir the state's largest lake.
- The Rio Grande is New Mexico's longest river and runs the entire length of New Mexico.
- The world's first Atomic Bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945 on the White Sands Testing Range near Alamogordo. North of the impact point a small placard marks the area known as Trinity Site. The bomb was designed and manufactured in Los Alamos.
- White Sands National Monument is a desert, not of sand, but of gleaming white gypsum crystals.
- Hatch is known as the "Green Chile capital of the world".
- New Mexico is home of Philmont Scout Ranch located in Cimarron.
- Grants was at one time known as the "Carrot capital of the country" until the process of cellophane wrapping began and California took over title. More recently Grants has been known as the "Uranium capital of the world" and produced the bulk of the nation's uranium supply during the post-World War II and Cold War era.
- New Mexico is one of the four corner states. Bordering at the same point with Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
- The Palace of Governors in Santa Fe, built in 1610, is one of the oldest public buildings in America.
- More than 25,000 Anasazi sites have been identified in New Mexico by archeologists. The Anasazi, an amazing civilization who were the ancestors of the Pueblo, where around for 1300 years. Their great classical period lasted from 1100-1300 AD.
- The state of New Mexico shares an international border with the country of Mexico.
- The leaves of the Yucca, New Mexico's state flower, can be used to make rope, baskets and sandals.
- 1/4 of New Mexico is forested, and the state has 7 National Forests including the Nation's largest, the 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest which includes the Gila Wilderness.
- The largest fire in the state's history was ignited on May 4, 2000 in the National Park Service's Bandelier National Monument, when a controlled burn meant to clear away dry brush and prevent future wild fires leaped out of control due to high winds. 25,000 people, including all the residents of Los Alamos, were forced to evacuate their homes.
- In 1950 the little cub that was to become the National Fire Safety symbol Smokey the Bear was found trapped in a tree when his home in Lincoln National Forest was destroyed by fire. In 1963, in Smokey's honor, the New Mexican legislature chose the black bear to be the official state animal.
- The word "Pueblo" is used to describe a group of people, a town, or an architectural style. There are 19 Pueblo groups that speak 4 distinct languages. The Pueblo people of the southwest have lived in the same location longer than any other culture in the Nation.
- The Navajo, the Nation's largest Native American Group, have a reservation that covers 14 million Acres.
- To a certain degree New Mexico's Indian Reservations function as states within a state where tribal law may supersede state law.
- New Mexico's State Constitution officially states that New Mexico is a bilingual State, and 1 out of 3 families in New Mexico speak Spanish at home.
- In some isolated villages, such as Truchas, Chimayo', and Coyote in north-central New Mexico, some descendants of Spanish conquistadors still speak a form of 16th century Spanish used no where else in the world today.
- The Palace of Governors in Santa Fe is the oldest Government Building in the United States.
- At Lake Valley, miners discovered silver in veins so pure that the metal could be sawn off in blocks, instead of having to be dug out by traditional methods.
- The father of modern rocketry Massachusetts scientist Robert Goddard whom some called a crackpot, came to New Mexico in 1930 to test rocket-ship models. From those humble beginnings the aerospace industry became one of New Mexico's leading industries.
- To test the latest rockets White Sands Missile Range was created on the same land where the first atom bomb had been exploded.
- After WWII Los Alamos and Albuquerque had many new laboratories. Hundreds of highly educated Scientists and Engineers moved in the state. New Mexico soon had a higher percentage of people with Ph.D.s than any other state.
- 1 out of 4 workers in New Mexico work directly for the Federal Government. State and local governments are also major employers.
- Public education was almost non-existent in New Mexico until the end of the 19th century. As late as 1888 there was not a single public college or high school in the entire territory.
- Two important aspects of New Mexico's economy are scientific research such as the nuclear energy research carried out at Sandia National Laboratories and mining of natural resources such as oil, natural gas, uranium, potash, copper, coal, zinc, gold and silver.
- New Mexico has far more sheep and cattle than people. There are only about 12 people per square mile.
- Since New Mexico's climate is so dry 3/4 of the roads are left unpaved. The roads don't wash away.
- During the height of the so-called lawless era of the late 1800' when Lew Wallace served as territorial Governor, he wrote the popular historical novel Ben-Hur. First published in 1880, it was made into a movie in 1959 starring Charleton Heston.
- Saint Paul's United Methodist church in Las Cruces has 7 bell choirs.
- The world famous Santa Fe Opera has an open-air (outdoor) theater situated dramatically outside of the capital city in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains.
- The town of Deming is known for its annual duck races.
- Cimarron was once known as the "Cowboy capital of the world". Some of the old west's most famous names, such as Kit Carson and "Buffalo Bill" Cody lived there. A quote from the Las Vegas Gazette illustrates how lawless Cimarron was. "Everything is quiet in Cimarron. Nobody has been killed in 3 days."
- Roswell the states 4th largest city was founded in 1869 when a professional gambler established a lone store on the cattle trail.
- Moon Rocks can be found at the International Space hall of fame that is located in Alamogordo.
- Tens of thousands of bats live in the Carlsbad Caverns. The largest chamber of Carlsbad Caverns is more than 10 football fields long and about 22 stories high.
- Taos Pueblo is located 2 miles north of the city of Taos. It is one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in the United States. People still live in some of its 900 year old buildings.
- New Mexico's largest city Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as a Spanish farming community. It was named after a province in Spain.
- New Mexico's capital city Santa Fe is the ending point of the 800 mile Santa Fe Trail.
- The City of Truth or Consequences was once called Hot Springs. In 1950 the town changed its name to the title of a popular radio quiz program.
- The town of Gallup calls itself the "Indian Capital of the World" and serves as a trading center for more than 20 different Indian groups. Every August it is the site of the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial
- New Mexico was named by 16th century Spanish explorers who hoped to find gold and wealth equal to Mexico's Aztec treasures.
- Native Americans have been living in New Mexico for some twenty thousand years. The Pueblo, Apache, Comanche, Navajo, and Ute peoples were in the New Mexico region when Spanish settlers arrived in the 1600s.
- On the same desert grounds where today's space age missiles are tested, ten-thousand-year-old arrowheads have been found. New Mexican history has ranged from arrows to atoms and has embraced Indian, Spanish and Anglo cultures. Few states can claim such a distinctive past.
- New Mexico.gov - Official website.