--New Mexico Magazine Vacation Guide

New Mexico is a timeless land of ancient cultural traditions and striking environmental diversity. For thousands of years, man has traveled through this Land of Enchantment leaving footprints to a rich and colorful past. Some of the earliest known inhabitants included the folsom Paleo-Indians who wandered into the area hunting animals that have been extinct for more than 10000 years.

Indians farmed the fertile land along the Rio Grande, producing corn, beans and squash. By the end of the 13th century, the Anasazi had completely abandoned their high-walled cities in northwestern New Mexico and the rest of the Four Corners area and drifted south where, along with the farmers from the Rio Grande, they developed the sophisticated Pueblo communities.

Shortly before the arrival of the Spanish, the Athapascan tribes entered the Southwest. Divided into two related groups, the Apache and the Navajo, the Athapascans established permanent villages only in the last 200 years.

Explorer Vasquez de Coronado trekked through New Mexico in 1540. 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. Failing to find the fabled gold, however, he and his men returned to New Spain without any newly won wealth.

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.

Santa Fe was founded as the capital in 1609 by New Mexico's third governor, Don Pedro de Peralta. For the next 70 years the Spanish pushed on with sword and cross, building missions and converting Indians to Catholism.

The first church in North America was 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. These churches, which predate the great missions along the coast of California by a century and a half, are beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial architecture and provide a glimpse of the earliest history of American culture.

Some Indians accepted Christianity, others found it oppressive. 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 rose up and drove the Spanish out of Santa Fe in the great Pueblo Revolt. By 1692, however, the Spanish had returned. 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.

New Mexico remained under Spanish rule for another 125 years until 1821 when Mexico won its independence from Spain. Soon after, another passage in New Mexico history was born, the Santa Fe Trail. Running from Missouri to Santa Fe, the trail opened trade with the U.S. and brought new lifestyles, money and settlers to New Mexico.

The United States declared war on Mexico in 1846. Shortly thereafter, U.S. General Stephen Watts Kearny maneuvered his troops down the Santa Fe Trail and declared New Mexico an American territory

During the U.S. Civil War, federal troops, aided by the New Mexico Volunteers, foiled a Confederate invasion at Apache Pass near present-day Glorieta.

In the late 1880s, railroad companies laid their tracks across New Mexico,bringing with them improved commerce and access to new markets. The beef industry boomed, and cattle barons like John Chisum trailed longhorns in from Texas, creating vast cattle kingdoms on the southeastern plains.

Chisum was also associated with events leading to the Lincoln County War, a bloody merchant conflict that sparked the brief outlaw career of Billy the Kid and involved even territorial Gov. Lew Wallace, author of the novel Ben Hur.

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. Since that time, New Mexico has experienced a whirlwind of growth and change.

Two regiments from New Mexico endured the Bataan Death March during World War II, while Navajo "code talkers" used their native language to send military messages that were incomprehensible to the Japanese. On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site near Alamogordo, a dramatic opening to the nuclear age.

In the decades between 1940 and 1980, New Mexico's population tripled. The state now boasts more than a million and a half inhabitants, a third of whom live in Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city.

Centuries-old agricultural and ranching traditions exist alongside a rapidly developing electronics industry. Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque are leaders in the defense industry, taking giant steps forward in energy-related and high-tech computer research.

Today, New Mexico continues to lurepeople with its clear skies and abundance of sunshine. The limitless landscapes encourage people both to retrace the paths of New Mexico's rich heritage and to leave their own footprints on the pages of the state's rich history.


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