The 47th state of the Union is the 5th largest, and open space is everywhere. It is known for the important role it played during the Second World War, with research  conducted at the Los Alamos Research Center to develop the atomic bomb. The first of these nuclear devices was detonated at the Trinity site in the deserts of the White Sands Proving Grounds. northwest of Alamogordo.

This same land was crossed by the earliest inhabitants to the region, a people known as "Clovis," because of their unique, and beautiful spear points. More than 10,000 years ago, these people were living in caves in the Sandia Mountains, just east of present-day Albuquerque. Here they hunted giant ground sloths, mammoth, and sabre-toothed cats in the Rio Grande River Valley.

 When the first Europeans arrived with Coronado's Expedition in 1540,  the area was the home of the "Pueblo" Indians. The Spanish gave these individual tribes this name, because they lived in adobe "towns," or pueblos.  The area of modern-day New Mexico was made part of New Spain (Mexico), with the first settlement at San Juan pueblo, beside  the Rio Grande in 1598. Pedro de Paralta, who would later be the governor of the Province of New Mexico, founded the settlement of Santa Fe in 1609. It has been a capital city ever since. The oldest in the U.S. The territory remained under the control of Spain until Mexico received its own independence in 1821.

Trade with the United States was forbidden under Spanish rule, but after 1821, the first trade routes were opened with the U.S. on what would become one of America's most famous roads...the Santa Fe Trail, from Missouri. This led to an influx of American merchants, and settlers into the Southwest, and following its war for independence from Mexico, the Republic of Texas briefly claimed much of the territory east and northeast of the Rio Grande for themselves.

The issue was finally resolved following the Mexican-American War, when most of the vast lands in the west claimed by Mexico were permanently ceded to the United States. A small addition of territory at the far south of Arizona and New Mexico was aquired in the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 to allow the completion of a second transcontinental railroad through El Paso, that would have otherwise been in Northern Mexico.

During the American Civil War,  New Mexico was briefly held by Confederate forces, until it was recaptured in 1862 during the crucial Battle of Glorieta Pass (just east of Santa Fe).

 

All Southern forces were eventually driven back into Texas, never to return. This often overlooked battle, and other area skirmishes, blocked Confederate dreams of expansion into, and aquistion of,  the rich mines of Colorado, and California.

A lengthly "Wild West" period followed, including such characters as Billy the Kid, and his nemesis, Sheriff Pat Garrett.  On January 6, 1912, the "Territory of  New Mexico" (which had included Arizona, and the southern tip of present-day Nevada),  became the 47th state of the Union.  Early in its statehood, New Mexico used the sobriquet of  "The Sunshine State," but later it was changed to "The Land of Enchantment," and so it remains. And, so it is!  Enjoy its rich, and ancient diversity of history, cultures, and landscapes.