The history of the culture and society, in what is now New Mexico, dates back to the Clovis culture, Folsom tradition, Indigenous peoples of the Great Basin, including the Mogollon culture, Ancient Puebloans, and Hohokam from 15,000 BC until the Year of the Lord, 0 AD. Ancient structures in New Mexico are related to these peoples, including those at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

During the years 0 to 1000 AD, the main cultures were continuations of Ancient Pueblo peoples, and the Modified Basketmaker cultures up until the 500 AD. Most of the ancient Puebloans abandoned their original settlements in 1000AD. The Pojoaque first did this in 500AD, with the many others following well into the 1200AD, including the past, present, and future Pueblos; the Acoma, Cochiti, Jemez, Pot Creek’s Taos and Picuris Pueblo, San Ildefonso, Sandia, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo/Kewa, Tesuque, and the Zia Pueblos. The Nambé were the last of the pueblos to do this prior to the Spanish arrival. And, several of these Pueblos, which are still around today, make up some of the oldest continually inhabited places within the United States.From that point on, the Pueblo cultures took the majority hold from the developmental period through to the Great Pueblo era. The Zuni are related to both Mogollon and the Ancient Puebloans, and have inhabited their land since 1000BC. The Athabaskan people, that form the modern Navajo and Apache, became very prevalent during the time of the Great Pueblo era, and they comprised of many groups, such as the Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache, as well as the Navajo. Each of these distinct nomadic groups of Athabaskan peoples had different alignments and feelings towards the Europeans.

The Pueblos in “New Mexico”

The first half of the first millennium, is referred to as the Pueblo II Era. This continued until the Rio Grande Classic Period from 1325 AD onward. The first major European group, the Spanish colonists of New Mexico, became moderate allies with the Pueblo and some Athabaskan tribes. The Pueblo trade network was so successful during this area, that the Aztec Empire (Mexico) had mythologies of a New Mexico (Yancuic Mexico, literally meaning “a new Mexico” or “another Mexico”) that had untold riches to the north of the Aztec Empire. The term “Yancuic Mexico” was recorded in the Crónica Mexicáyotl during the mid 1500s, where it led the earliest forms of New Mexican literary works. Danna Alexandra Levin-Rojo covered this at length in the PhD thesis in Social Anthropology for the University of London, Way back to Aztlan: Sixteenth century Hispanic-Nahuatl transculturation and the construction of the new Mexico. These “New Mexico” myths later became the stories of the Seven Cities of Gold, which fueled expeditions by the legendary Estevanico and Marcos de Niza.

The rumors and gossip over the death of Estevanico in the New Mexico region, ultimately led to ever growing expeditionary forces. Including the oversized expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado which ultimately led to the Tiguex War.

This already complicated relationship was further complicated by Spanish intervention by the greater Spanish Empire, often Spanish colonists had a hard time explaining their relationship with the natives to the empire. The Empire instituted heavy-handed laws, and aggressive attempts at instituting Spanish customs, laws, and taxation.

Excerpt from the Albuquerque Tricentennial Teachers Resource Guide

Captain Hernándo de Alvarado described 12 pueblos in present-day Albuquerque: “The houses are made of mud, two stories high. The people seem good, more given to farming than to war. They have provisions of maize, beans, melons and fowl in great abundance. They dress in cotton, (buffalo) skins, and coats made with the feathers…”

Another soldier in 1580 described the people of the Albuquerque area: “They make tortillas and corn flour gruel (atole), have buffalo meat and turkeys – they have large numbers of the latter.” Every family had a pen with at least 100 turkeys in it. The people wore cotton blankets and tended large fields of cotton. They kept many small, shaggy dogs, which they kept in underground pens.

New Mexico was formally founded as Real de Nuevo México by Juan de Oñate in 1598 at San Juan de los Caballeros near modern day Española and the pueblos of Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara. The capital was later moved to nearby San Gabriel de Yunque-Ouinge in 1599. But its current longstanding capital at Santa Fe was established 12 years later in 1610, making it the oldest capital in the contiguous United States.

King Philip III of Spain ordered an investigation into Juan de Oñate’s mishandling of the New Mexico region. In 1613, he faced accusations including excessive force and murder. Resulting in a conviction for cruelty to New Mexican peoples, indigenous and Spanish alike. Oñate was exiled, fined, stripped of titles, and banned from New Mexico permanently. Even though he was later able to exonerate some of his wrongdoings, due to the crown’s complacency with violence against indigenous people and colonists. However, he was never allowed back in New Mexico.

The Pueblo Revolt

Whether or not New Mexicans liked it, continuing pressure from the rest of New Spain and Spanish Empire eventually brought the subjugation of the Pueblo and the Athabaskan peoples. Because, whereas, the colonists had been forming friendships and even romantic relationships with the natives, trading ideas, customs, and cultures; the Spanish Empire heavily enforced their laws, including a forced labor system (repartimiento), forced trade (encomienda), and they banned of non-Catholic religious ceremonies. Several of the Pueblos came together under the uniting leader Popé of Ohkay Owingeh, who eventually led to the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. The revolt was the only successful revolt by a Native American group against European conquest. Some 400 Spanish were killed, while nearly 2,000 fled to El Paso, Texas. The Pueblo soldiers escorted the colonists to leave without harassment from New Mexico to El Paso, but the Spanish leaders that had attempted to destroy their ancient culture were executed. Under the rule of Popé, the Pueblos became self-governing, like they had been before Spanish colonization. However, most resisted returning to a pre-Spanish lifestyle, in response Popé prohibited the Spanish language and Christianity; in response the Pueblo, being unkind to any form of despotic rule, eventually peacefully deposed of him as a ruler, and they elected Luis Tupatú of Picuris Pueblo to lead them.

The after-effects of the Revolt were very influential on New Mexican culture. In 1692, the Spanish returned to reestablish the New Mexico, in what was called the Bloodless Reconquest. However, relations between Spanish, Pueblos, and other allied Athabaskan peoples, was far better upon the re-establishment of New Mexico. The dreaded repartimiento and encomienda systems were prohibited in New Mexico, Franciscan priests were not to interfere with Pueblo or Athabaskan religious practices as they were non-violent in nature, and their soldiers and warriors became allies in the fight against common enemies, such as unfriendly Athabaskan tribes, Utes, and the Comanche. The viceroyalty of New Mexico has divided into several provinces which included Apacheria, Tiguex, and Comancheria This is how New Mexico’s became a blend of Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, and Spanish culture at its root. Pueblo and Spanish towns received land grants throughout the 1600s and 1700s, among those towns were Santa Fe, Taos, Jemez, and Albuquerque. Eventually treaties were made with the Navajo and within the Apacheria and Comancheria. These precedents would be increasingly important as New Mexico entered the 1700s as anti-European sentiment swept throughout the New World colonies, and as the dawning of Mexico and America began to take hold.




American Territorial Phase

Prior to being a Mexican state, New Mexico had been a colony of New Spain for nearly 250 years. After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Spanish were only able to return the territory in 1692, and instituted laws allowing for religious tolerance towards Pueblo ceremonies as long as they were “outwardly Christian”, the Spanish also made forced labor and forced trade illegal, and developed a system for appropriate representation from Pueblo and Spanish towns. These laws were maintained as New Mexico became an Mexican territory, the United States at first attempted to annex all land east of the Rio Grande away from New Mexico, Mexican troops aided to stop the siege of land. However the Mexican government had been unable to maintain a peace between the Nomadic Native American tribes, such as the Navajo. In fact several actions by the Mexican government caused the finally peaceful relationship to end between New Mexico, the Apache, and the Navajo. The Mexican-American War began in the backdrop of raids from Apache and Navajo troops. Mexico made several attempts to attack newer American settlements throughout New Mexico, however this left the old Spanish towns and Pueblos open to attack from the Apache and Navajo. Eventually the older Spanish towns and Pueblos sided with the United States under the promise of greater protections from the Athabaskan raids. After the Mexican-American war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, which granted land-grants to the Spanish towns, as well as Mexican and American settlers, alongside recognition of the old Spanish land-grants to the Pueblo.

The American Civil War

The precedence of these prior events became paramount as the United States entered Civil War. The “New Mexico Campaign”, one of the key campaigns during the American Civil War, between the Confederacy and the Union. Texas, under the Confederacy, attempted to again capture New Mexican land; the Confederacy also attempted to bring slavery into the Territory. Since slavery had already been illegal since 1692, in order to avoid conflict over slavery in the newly acquired territories, multiple American Presidents called for the swift expedition of New Mexico’s statehood, including James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, and Abraham Lincoln; they also made plans to divide New Mexico into two states, New Mexico and Arizona. Abraham Lincoln, and other Republicans, had even been pushing for existent New Mexican law to take precedence; especially in regards to slavery, land-rights from prior Spanish and Mexican treaties, . There was stiff opposition to New Mexican statehood from the Confederate states, this, along with the perceived land grab from Confederate Texas’ of New Mexican land, and Confederacy’s disregard for New Mexican customs, lead to the New Mexico territory’s citizens siding with the Union. Many of the native Pueblo and longtime Spanish citizens, along with Mexican-American land-grantees, joined the American Union soldiers in multiple battles including at Valverde, Peralta, Glorieta Pass, and Albuquerque. These Civil War battles, within New Mexico, lead to pro-American sentiment throughout the state, even as so mush as tom naming various locations with Patriotic names, such as renaming the town of Las Placitas del Rio Bonito to Lincoln, New Mexico. After the war, the land of New Mexico was so large that it was eventually divided between multiple states; Eastern Arizona, Southern Colorado, Clark County Nevada, Western Oklahoma, Southeastern Utah, and parts of West Texas. In fact, in those areas, New Mexican culture maintains some level of influence, especially Southern Colorado, Eastern Arizona, and West Texas.