Short history of New Mexico as depicted on commemorative bronze plaques in the Cathedral Park in downtown Santa Fe:
1504 The first major Spanish expedition to what is now the southwest United States was conducted by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado from 1540 to 1542. Subsequent exploration and settlement of the American Southwest would follow.
Once the area is ethnically cleansed with inadvertent application of biological weapons nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
1583 On April 19, 1583, King of Spain directed the Viceroy of New Spain to continue with a responsible citizen to settle New Mexico at his own expense primarily to see to the conversion of the agricultural Pueblo peoples. Don Juan de Oñate was ultimately awarded the contract in 1595.
Oh, wait - there are some Pueblos left. Let’s convert them.
1598 Fuerza, a Spanish term that connotes strength in every meaning of the word, is but one of many traditions that were passed from generation to generation and continue to define the present day lives of New Mexican families.
Strength! Helping you subjugate the natives since 1598!
1598 Oñate and his group crossed the Rio Grando and celebrated the first American thanksgiving feast in observance of their safe arrival. The settlers would forever change the American West and their pueblo neighbors. Their descendants continue to shape the culture of New Mexico to this day.
American? Spaniards would be surprised to be called that. And what really changed American West turning much of the area into moonlike desert was free range cattle farming in the 19th century so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
1607 Juan Martínez de Montoya founded the village of Santa Fe and established a plaza. In 1610, don Pedro de Peralta designated La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís as New Mexico’s capital. Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the U.S.
Which may change if Puerto Rico becomes the 51th state. San Juan was founded in 1521. And what a great opportunity we missed with Iraq as the 52th state - Baghdad would take us all the way back to the 8th century.
1610 In 1610 construction of the Palace of the Governors began. Today Palace of the Governors is the oldest public building in the U.S.
Only if you conveniently forget about all those public buildings in Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. The difference is we didn’t keep on rebuilding them. I wonder why…
1712 In 1712 a group of citizens gathered to honor the memory of don Díego de Vargas. In 1693, under Vargas’ leadership, Spanish settlers returned to New Mexico after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt in which some 400 settlers, 21 friars, and many Christian Indians died. Fiestas in observance of Vargas’ resettlement of New Mexico are celebrated each September in Santa Fe.
Oh my! Thankless Pueblos incomprehensibly revolted. The good thing is apparently none of them died. Only the Christians somehow were the victims. That surely calls for a celebration!
1777 Don Juan Bautista the Anza, considered one of the New Mexico’s best governors defeated the legendary Comanche leader Cuerno Verde, pacified the Hopi, broke the Navajo - Comanche alliance. Anza collected about $120,000 in 2002 dollars to help Spain fight Great Britain in the War for American Independence.
And met with such ingratitude. The same colonists who rebelled against Great Britain would soon chase the Spaniards from New Mexico. Conveniently keeping the name. And a few of the oldest buildings. One wonders if Comanche, Hopi or Navajo participated in the fund drive.
1788 Juan Lucero typifies the wide ranging efforts of Spanish New Mexicans as they continued the tradition of exploration established by their ancestors. By the end of 18th century many rivers, mountains and landmarks in the west had a Spanish name.
Strangely many names in Eastern part of US have native origins (Manhattan, Massachusetts) - I guess different traditions of exploration. Also protestants don’t have saints handy which makes naming things much harder.
1848 The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended two years of war between Mexico and the United States. New Mexico was designated U.S Territory in 1850. The U.S. Congress made New Mexico the 47th State of the Union in 1912.
Mexican-American war A.K.A. invasión estadounidense a México (American Invasion of Mexico) - because once Mexico became independent from Spain we could safely ignore all that help received during our independence war. Strangely no celebration is mentioned here. But hey, who cares about independence and democracy if we can buy all those old buildings (and California to boot) for a tidy sum of $15 million.
1998 The Santa Fe City Council passed Resolution establishing Cuarto Centario Committee to plan commemoration of the 1598 founding of “La Nueava Mexico”. History conferences, cultural symposia, concerts, art shows, craft displays, folk dancing and many educational events kept calendars full all year long.
Wait, what? Are we now celebrating the founding of the province that we conquered and vanquished in that 1848 war? Well, as long as it keeps the calendar full. And who am I to say no to folk dancing!
People of Santa Fe, NM are rightly grateful to Spanish settlers that established their city. Thanks to Laws of the Indies introduced by the Spanish Crown in the 16th century, Santa Fe has been built around a central plaza. Were it settled by the British, it would have had a main street and thus be less likely to resist the destruction of the city fabric in the 20th century caused by growing reliance on cars as primary means of transportation.
There are plenty of things to like about Santa Fe and New Mexico. Culture, art, architecture here are distinctly different from the rest of the US. Many aspects of those are influenced by native people and Spanish colonists. An attempt to celebrate shared and complicated ancestry by erecting bronze plaques that weave the historic narration with all the grace of Soviet propaganda is neither proper nor decent. Once you water the historic fact down to fit on commemorative tablets it becomes so clueless that it often fails to be perceived as offensive.
You can do better Santa Fe. You should do better.