In 1524, the Spanish claimed Mexico as a colony of Spain. New Mexico was uncharted territory in the northern part of Mexico. In 1540, Spanish explorers discovered pueblo Indians that had been living there for thousands of years. The Spanish forced the Indians to act as slaves.
In 1680, the Indians rebelled against the Spanish. They attacked and killed settlers and priests and burned down houses, churches, and farms. They drove the Spanish out of New Mexico. The Spanish recaptured New Mexico in 1692. This time though, the Spanish were friendlier to the Indians, and they became close neighbors.
In about 1608, the Spanish started to build New Mexico’s capital city, Santa Fe. Santa Fe is still New Mexico’s capitol, and it is the oldest capitol city in America. For hundreds of years, the Spanish didn’t allow foreigners to travel to New Mexico, not even from America. New Mexico’s only link to the outside world was the 1,600 mile wagon trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe.
In 1821, Mexico won its freedom from Spain. The Mexican government allowed New Mexico to trade with foreigners. Almost immediately, American traders started on the Santa Fe Trail, which led from Missouri to Santa Fe. When an American trader got to New Mexico, they found Spanish settlers, pueblo Indians, French fur trappers, Comanches, Apaches, Navajos, and Utes trading goods from all around the world.
New Mexico settlers built homes out of dirt, mud, and straw. New Mexicans used everything around them that they could. To decorate wood, people used cornhusks to create golden patterns. They used plants and minerals to make dyes and paints.
Most New Mexicans were Catholics. The catholic saints meant a lot to them. Families asked different saints for different thing. Each morning, noon, and evening, everyone would hear the church bells ring, calling families to go to their altars to pray.Santeros, or religious artists, traveled from village seeking work. A village was always happy when a new Santeros came. A Santeros would go door to door and take orders from people on which saint carving they wanted. Villagers would pay for these statues with food, tools, clothing, or small amount of money. Sometimes a village family would give them a room in their home.