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New Mexico State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1821—Mexico gains its independence; the Santa Fe Trail opens

1848—End of Mexican War; New Mexico becomes a U.S. territory

1912—New Mexico becomes the 47th state

1994—NAFTA increases trade with Mexico

Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache Indians lived in New Mexico when Spain claimed the area in 1539.  Soon settlers began migrating north from Spanish Mexico.  Missionaries built missions to teach the Indians Spanish culture and Christianity.  In 1680, the Indians massacred hundreds of Spaniards and forced the rest back to Mexico.  Spain returned and recaptured New Mexico in 1692.

In 1821, when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, New Mexico and the rest of the Southwest came under Mexican control.  This same year U.S. traders opened the Santa Fe Trail, connecting Missouri with Santa Fe.  In 1848, the United States won the Mexican War and New Mexico became a U.S. territory.

Many settlers began migrating west.  The Indians fought the Americans as they moved onto their homelands.  The U.S. army forced the Navajo and Apache Indians onto a reservation on the Pecos River in 1886.

In 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state, with Santa Fe as the state capital.

During World War II, many Navajo Indians from New Mexico fought in the war.  They used the Navajo language in code to send messages the Japanese could not understand.  In 1943, scientists developed the atomic bomb in Los Alamos.  July 1945, the government exploded the first bomb in the desert near Alamogordo.  The following month the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan that ended the war.

New Mexico has now become a research center and testing ground for government studies.  In Los Alamos, they are studying ways to use nuclear energy.  In Albuquerque, they are developing uses for military inventions during times of peace.  In White Sands, they test weapons.

In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) increased trade with Mexico.