New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is similar to many states in the Southwest, boasting a mixed population of people of Native American and Mexican descent. The influence is seen in the names of many of the cities and the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the United States. Although most of the native populations no longer exist, the influence is still present.
The first inhabitants of New Mexico were believed to people of the Clovis culture. Other Native American populations were of the Anasazi and the Mogollon civilizations. Nomadic people, Navajo, Apache and Ute tribes, arrived in the region in the 15th century.
In 1539, Franciscan priest Marcos de Niza came to the region on a Spanish expedition in search of gold. Later, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado formed a large expedition to look for the mystical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, but he never found the cities covered in gold. Unable to discover hidden riches, Coronado and his men returned to Mexico.
In 1598, white settlers came to the San Juan Pueblo region and the Santa Fe region in 1610. As time went by, more settlements were established in the area. Albuquerque was founded in 1706 and had grown to more than 4,000 people by 1800. The settlements of Spanish and Pueblo communities faced a number of raids from the Navajo, Apache, Comanche and other tribal people, yet their populations continued to grow. By the beginning of the 19th century, the total population numbered more than 30,000.
When Spain granted Mexico its independence in 1821, the area became the property of the new nation. Under Mexican rule, free trade between with the United States was permitted and trains moved along the famous Santa Fe Trail from St. Louis. American venders and trappers converged on Santa Fe. The influx of people led to conflicts between Anglos, Hispanos and Indians.
Although most people in the area were no longer of pure Spanish ancestry, the culture dominated the region. Spanish was the dominant language and most people were members of the Catholic Church. Despite the Spanish influence that dominated the region, the Indian populations managed to retain some of their languages and traditional ceremonies.
President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico in 1846. During the Mexican-American War, General Stephen Watts Kearny conquered Santa Fe without one gun being fired and declared that New Mexico was now a part of the United States. The terms of possession were finalized with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The treaty permitted all Hispano New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians to become U.S. citizens. Congress, however, denied statehood to the New Mexico Territory as part of the Compromise of 1850 which allowed California to be admitted to the Union.
The territory was a pathway for confederate soldiers from Texas as they went to southern California. After the Civil War, New Mexico, like a number of places in the Southwest, became a symbol of the untamed, Wild West. Fights with Native populations continued and the territory did not become a state for more than 60 years.
There were a number of reasons why New Mexico didn't attain statehood. The population was afraid of increases in taxes, and the government was unsure of its ability to govern a population of primarily Spanish-speaking communities. They changed their minds when English was being taught in schools in 1898. New Mexico became a state on January 6, 1912 as the 47th state.