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New Mexico Overview

Generations of travelers from everywhere in the world have been bewitched by New Mexico. Its dramatic landscape, vast skies, distinctive cultures, and rich history create a powerful atmosphere and linger in ones memory long after the visit is over. Those who come once to New Mexico usually return—again and again.
New Mexico OverviewAt 121,599 square miles (195,695 square kilometres), New Mexico is the fifth largest state in America. Though larger geographically than Italy, with 1.9 million residents, it possesses only a fraction of Italy’s population. Although the state is arid, only a small portion in the far south is truly desert. Forested mountain peaks with elevations as high as 13,000 feet span across the center and the west of the state, and are rarely out of view. The terrain features lava flows, underground caverns, extinct volcanoes, and wonderfully sculpted rock formations, including the red cliffs made famous by painter Georgia O'Keeffe.

Nomadic Native Americans roamed New Mexico as early as 10,000 B. C. Eventually, they coalesced into pueblos and established governments, trading routes, decorative arts, and an elaborate ceremonial life. As a Spanish colony, beginning in 1598, New Mexico was very isolated. Far from home, Spanish settlers developed tightly-knit communities and made cultural preservation a priority. Spanish rule collapsed in 1821, and the United States won control of the territory in 1846. European merchants, American cowboys, ranchers, and adventurers of all types poured in, adding yet other cultural layers to the region’s vibrant mix.

Today, New Mexico's cultures remain remarkably intact. It is estimated that one in three families speaks Spanish at home. Especially in rural areas, it is the Spanish of Cervantes, a 16th-century dialect that is barely understood in modern Spain. The state also has the highest percentage of Native Americans in the country. There are 19 Indian pueblos and three reservations, all with sovereign governments. The state even boasts a unique cuisine—part Spanish, part Indian, and altogether delicious.

New Mexico's people are proud of their diversity. They are lovers of art, the outdoors, the offbeat, and above all—the character of the state they call home.

New Mexico Overview

Facts & Figures
Size: 121,599 square miles / 195,695 square kilometers
Wheeler Peak - 13,161 feet / 4,011 meters (High)
Low: Carlsbad - 2,842 feet / 866 meters (Low)
Santa Fe: 7,000 feet / 2,133 meters
Population: 1,903,135
State capital: Santa Fe
Languages: English and Spanish
Noteworthy Animals: Roadrunners and coyotes

Historic Milestones

Following is a concise chronology of historical events that occurred in the American Southwest and around the rest of the world. This comparison provides good illustration of the history and culture found in New Mexico.

~11,000 B.C.   Clovis people survives thanks to hunting big games, including mammoths
~10,000 B.C.   Folsom people lives in the Southwest just before the end of the last Ice Age, proving the existence of glacial men in America
3000 BC   Recurrent flooding and catastrophic volcanic eruptions changed the nature of Planet Earth. Hydraulic communities start in Egypt and Mesopotamia, which then develop into what we know as "monumental civilizations." Myth or science? These two phenomena intermingle, as so often happens in the history of mankind. The Flood recorded in the Bible is the same event written about in the Gilgamesh heroic poem.
~2500 BC   The Egyptian pyramids were built
750 B.C   The foundation of Rome
300-1100 A.D   Mogollon culture, in the southern part of today’s New Mexico and Arizona, develops artistic pottery
300-1300 A.D.   The Anazasi, an agricultural society in the Four Corners area, use solar calendars, build apartment-like pueblos and are skilled in many crafts
900 - 1200   Chaco becomes the center of the ancient Pueblos
1150 - 1400   Pueblo Indians settle in villages along the Rio Grande, in the region that is now New Mexico
1403 - 1424   The Great Wall is built in China
1482   Birth of Martin Luther
1492   Christopher Colombus arrives to America
1495-97   Leonardo da Vinci paints the “Last Supper”
New Mexico Overview
1535-6   Cabeza de Vaca arrives in the Southwest; Spain is interested in a "new" Mexico
16th century   Spain's "Century of Gold". Spain is the most powerful country in the western world.
1539   Friar Marcos de Niza is sent north of New Spain by Viceroy Mendoza in search of gold and wealth, as found in Mexico with the Aztec civilization
1540   Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition to the unknown lands north of Mexico, reported by Friar Marcos, where he sees how Pueblo civilization is well-developed
1598   Juan de Oñate establishes the first Spanish colony in New Mexico
1610   Don Pedro de Peralta establishes La Villa Real de Santa Fe as capital of the Kingdom of New Mexico
1680   The Pueblo Revolt, the only successful “revolution” in the US, forces the Spanish to abandon New Mexico
1692   Diego de Vargas regains the control of New Mexico
18th Century   Despite constant raids by and campaigns against the various tribes, New Mexico governors manage to expand state settlements through a system of land grants which awarded tracts of land to people who agreed to cultivate land along the frontier. The era of Enlightment is developing throughout Europe
1787   W.A.Mozart composes Don Juan
1780   First infiltration of Anglo-Americans into the Southwest
1786   Reservation policies develop in the United States
1821   Independence of Mexico from Spain
1846   Beginning of the Mexican-American war. Col. Stephen Watts Kearny declares New Mexico part of the U.S.
1848   Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo: New Mexico and California are added to the US. The boundaries of the United States essentially reach their present limits. The expansion west is complete.
1850   Territory of New Mexico created by Congress. The next year Santa Fe becomes the capital of the state.
1862   During the Civil War, Confederate troops suffer a defeat at Glorieta Pass, east of Santa Fe.
1863   President Abraham Lincoln declares freedom for American slaves
1864   The “Long Walk”- a forced relocation of 8,000 Navajos of over 300 miles- to Bosque Redondo occurs.
1868   A treaty gives the Navajos a 3.5 million acre reservation in the 'Four Corners' area that includes parts of New Mexico.
Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, president of the Confederates states of America
Lincoln William H. Bonney (8-year-old), known as Billy the Kid, arrives in Silver City from New York.
1875-76   The Buffalo Soldiers’ 9th Cavalry Regiment, the African American military unit created in 1866, is in New Mexico to participate in campaigns against Apache and other Indian tribes’ warriors. The sacred buffalo was the image used by the Plains Indians to commemorate the unit’s courage
1880   Atchinson-Topeka-Santa Fe Railroad arrives in Santa Fe
1886   Geronimo surrenders
1887   Reservations created by any of the political or executive powers are deemed permanent
1890   The Wounded Knee Massacre is the last battle between white soldiers and Native Americans
New Mexico Overview
1912   New Mexico becomes the 47th state of the U.S.
1914   World War I begins
1916   The Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, with more than 500 men, crossed the border and raided Columbus in southern New Mexico, killing 17 Americans.
1920   Women’s right to vote in New Mexico
1921   The Cinqo Pintores group of Santa Fe holds the first exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe
1922   The famous English writer D.H. Lawrence visits New Mexico, where he will be buried in the 30s.
The annual Indian Market is established in Santa Fe
1924   The Gila Wilderness is the first officially designated wilderness area in the United States.
1926   Route 66, the Mother Road, comes to New Mexico. It connects Chicago to Los Angeles
1929   Georgia O'Keeffe takes a vacation in Taos, New Mexico, where she returns every summer to travel and to paint. In 1946, O'Keeffe becomes a permanent resident of New Mexico.
1935   New Mexico becomes known as The Land of Enchantment
1939   World War II begins
1942   Los Alamos becomes the seat of the top secret Manhattan Project
1945   The world's first atomic bomb is exploded near Alamogordo, New Mexico
1947   First UFO sighting made near Roswell, New Mexico
1948   Native Americans receive a right to vote
1963   John Kennedy, the 35th president of the U.S., is assassinated
1968   The American Indian Movement (AIM) is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota
1986   Georgia O’Keeffe dies in Santa Fe
2004   The National Museum of the American Indian opens in Washington D.C.

There is a date, far from pre-historical events, that we should consider to better understand the culture of Native Americans: 1970, when Little Big Man was filmed, starred by a young Dustin Hoffman. Those were the days of Vietnam War, of Flower Power, of pacifism and of 1968 protests. Young Americans began to study and to examine the past more deeply and the director Arthur Penn had a brilliant idea: talk about the past (and the contrasts between the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers and those who were still called Indians) to support the rights of freedom for today's people. Following this film's worldwide success, people started to reconsider the history of the native population of the Americas. The making of Western films that depicted Indians as cruel and the American Confederacy as saviors was coming to an end. Since then, people of all races have read and cherished Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

New Mexico Overview