A century and a half before work began on the famous mission churches of California, Franciscan priests from Spain were hard at work in New Mexico. Coronado's expedition in the early 1540s marked the start of non-native influence; actual colonization began 50 years later. Santa Fe was founded as the capital of the province in 1610 (a decade before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock).
The Spanish didn't find the legendary cities of gold they sought (sunlight glistening off flecks of mica in distant adobe walls might have fooled early explorers). But the Catholic missionaries found thousands of potential converts, and by 1680 they had built some 80 missions around the state.
Eventually, resentment over the imposition of Spanish culture and the repression of indigenous religions poured forth in the highly organized Pueblo Revolt of 1680. On August 9, Native Americans throughout the region overthrew their colonizes, burned their churches and killed their priests. After 12 years the Spanish returned; recolonization succeeded because the Spaniards learned to tolerate the practice of native religion along with Catholicism. Worship in today's Pueblos is a fascinating blend of the two ways of honoring and petitioning the Creator. For example, each pueblo celebrates the feast day of its patron saint with a day of native ceremonial dancing.
Spanish influence permeates New Mexico. From the dawn of the 16th century, supplies and communications came into the area along El Camino Real, the Royal Road stretching 2,000 miles (3,220km) from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Caravans of Spanish colonizes making the six-month trek northward brought mining and forging techniques to the Native Americans, teaching them to use metals for weapons, tools and art. They also brought cattle and sheep and taught the Native Americans how to raise them. They introduced horses, which would eventually be used in warfare against them. They even brought the wheel, opening the door to a new world of technology.
Yet part of New Mexico's charm is that the old ways are not completely cast aside in favor of the new; lifestyles and working skills from the 16th to the 21st centuries can be found today in the state. Hispanic influence is visible in architecture, folk art, contemporary art and clothing. It shines forth in the farolitos that light the way for Christmas.
It rings out in festive mariachi music and Spanish radio and television broadcasts. English is the primary language of the state, but 38 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin, while 9 percent is Native American. Many place names, as well as family names are Spanish.
New Mexico is a mosaic where various cultural ingredients intermingle and complement each other, while each retains its basic identity. The mosaic has been collecting pieces since Coronado's expedition. His group included a few men from Germany, France, Scotland, Italy and Portugal. A large Jewish population fled to Mexico to escape the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century; when persecution followed them there, many moved northward to Indian Territory, to interact with the Native Americans and Spanish for generations afterwards. If ethnicities were paints, New Mexico would be a layered and richly varied painting, as New Mexicans hail from so many different backgrounds.
Genoveva Chavez, who has entertained Santa Fean’s for most of her life during Fiesta time, dresses in colorful and symbolical dresses that bring spirit to the oldest celebration in the United States.
Fiesta time means different things to most Santa Fean’s, but most like the entertainment from the mariachi’s, pictured above, and the burning of Zozobra, pictured left, also known as “Old Man Gloom”, who symbolizes their worries goes up in flames. Fiesta time is celebrated during the second week of September, in Santa Fe, NM.
The Founding Spanish Families of New Mexico 1598
Research by Antonio Gilberto Espinosa of the Coronado Cuarto Centennial Commission, 1939-1940 Acebo