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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 1550–1941
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Cabeza de Vaca wanders through New Mexico
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Governor Mendoza, who authorized Fray Marcos' expedition
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Buffalo dance at San Ildefonso Pueblo
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An early conception of a bison

1: Cabeza de Vaca wanders through New Mexico [Hayes, A.A]

2: Governor Mendoza, who authorized Fray Marcos' expedition [de Niza, Fray Marcos] used with permission, by SMU Press

3: Buffalo dance at San Ildefonso Pueblo [Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library] Horace S Poley 1918

4: An early conception of a bison [Casta√ɬĪeda, Pedro Reyes] from The Journey of Coronado


"I erected that cross and monument in the name of Don Antonio de Mendoza, viceroy of New Spain, for the Emperor, our lord, in token of possession, conforming to the instructions, which possession I proclaimed that I took all of the seven cities and of the kingdoms of Totoneac and of Acus and of Marata."-- Fray Marcos de Niza, in his report on the expedition to the Zuñi province, 1539.

The conquest of Mexico and Peru raised expectations in Europe that the entire New World held untold wealth, grand civilizations, and other diverse wonders in every unexplored corner. The Spanish tightly controlled the information gleaned from their explorations throughout the Americas, so that German and French maps were often based on rumor and speculation, as well as information over a century old (see, for example, the Coronelli map, published while New Mexico was entirely abandoned by the Spanish). In his book, Journey of Coronado, George Parker Winship writes, "We know how successfully the Spanish authorities managed to keep from the rest of the world the correct and complete cartographical information as to what was being accomplished in the New World, throughout the period of exploration & conquest."

However, New Mexico was not settled for gold or other worldly treasure, although neither the European powers nor the explorers themselves were willing to rule out the possiblity that it was out there; the cities (or kingdoms) of Cibola, Quivira, and Axos always seemed just over the next horizon. Instead, New Mexico was settled because of the unusual receptivity of the Pueblos to Christianity, and so the Franciscans were sent in to gather souls, with the support of the Spanish monarchs. Information was circulated among the Franciscan scholars in Europe in a way that it was not by the political powers, and enterprising cartographers could glean information from reports to the Vatican.

Regardless of how well news traveled in Europe, news and commerce between the New Mexican colonists and the rest of the world were painfully infrequent. The mission supply caravan was supposed to come every two years, but sometimes six years passed between visits.

The Spanish quickly came to rely on the Pueblos for many of their resources. Both the missions and the government exacted tributes or taxes from the neighboring pueblos. The priests took Pueblo children to the missions for instruction, and also required some adults to serve. The king granted encomiendas to certain favored individuals, under which the colonists could require a certain amount of labor, cotton, or produce from the nearest pueblo. As the only regular recipient of goods, both from the pueblos and from the irregularly furnished mission supply trains up El Camino Real, the missions soon came to dominate the economic landscape.

Between the burdensome taxes and the destruction of sacred spaces and objects, the Pueblos finally got fed up. Under the leadership of a Taos man named Popé, the Pueblos rose against the Spanish, drove them out, and destroyed or desecrated many churches. The Spanish fled to the southern crossing of the Rio Grande with a number of Isleta and Piro people. There, they waited eleven years for help to come. They built a town, churches, and pueblos, dug ditches, and planted the grapes that would make El Paso the regional wine center for generations to come.

By the time the European maps began to show New Mexico places with some accuracy, the colony was deserted, the mission churches in ruins, and many of the pueblos abandoned because of disease, warfare, or scarcity.

Diego Gutierrez: Americae sive quartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio : 1562

Diego Gutierrez' 1562 Americae sive quartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio (America, or a new fourth part of the world with an exact description) was the earliest scale wall map of the New World and the first to apply the name California. Mountains and rivers had been added to the interior...

Abraham Ortelius: Americae sive novi orbis. Nova Descriptio. : 1570

Abraham Ortelius (Ortels) adapted the projection developed by fellow Dutchman Gerhard Mercator to product the first modern atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, in 1570 which included Americae sive novi orbis. Nova Descriptio (America, or the new world. New Description). This map includes a Mercator projection...

Enrique Martinez: Map of New Mexico Colony : 1602

This map was prepared for Don Juan de Oñate by Enrico Martinez, an astrologer, geographer and engineer in Mexico City. Martinez, born as Heinrich Martin in Hamburg, Germany, moved to Spain as a child, and studied mathematics in Paris. He emigrated to Mexico in 1589 where he opened up a print shop, practiced...

Nicholas Sanson: Amerique Septentrionale, La Nouveau Mexique et La Florida : 1650

Nicholas Sanson from Abbeville, France founded one of the most influential dynasties of cartography in Franche, continued by his sons Nicholas, Guillaume, and Adrian. He trained as an historian and apparently pursued cartography to illustrate his historical interests. His maps came to the attention of...

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli: America Settentrionale : 1688

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, a Franciscan monk from Venice, was a doctor in theology at the Collegium San Bonaventura in Rome. Early in his career he created two very large globes for the Duke of Parma, leading to a commission for another two, one of the heavens, the other of the earth, for French King...

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La Ruta de Onate: Joseph Sanchez, superintendant, Petroglyph National Monument
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Different attitudes back then: Stephen Fosberg, BLM State Archaeologist
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Indian beliefs: Herman Agoyo
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First Spanish capital: Herman Agoyo
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What Led to the Pueblo Revolt?: Francis Levine, New Mexico History Museum
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Governors in the slave trade: Estevan Rael-Galvez

Credits -- 1:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 2:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 3:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 4:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 5:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 6:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]

Hear more about Terra Incognita

La Ruta de Onate: Joseph Sanchez, superintendant, Petroglyph National Monument

Different attitudes back then: Stephen Fosberg, BLM State Archaeologist

Indian beliefs: Herman Agoyo

First Spanish capital: Herman Agoyo

What Led to the Pueblo Revolt?: Francis Levine, New Mexico History Museum

Governors in the slave trade: Estevan Rael Galvez

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About the Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Jack Loeffler
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Indian beliefs led to the Pueblo Revolt: Herman Agoyo
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Women escaping the Pueblo Revolt: Tey Diana Rebolledo
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Don Diego de Vargas and the Re-conquest: Jack Loeffler
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About La Conquistadora: Carmela Padilla

Credits -- 1:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 2:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 3:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 4:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]; 5:  [Written, narrated, recorded, directed and produced by Jack Loeffler]

Hear more about the Pueblo Revolt

About the Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Jack Loeffler

Indian beliefs led to the Pueblo Revolt: Herman Agoyo

Women escaping the Pueblo Revolt: Tey Diana Rebolledo

Don Diego de Vargas and the Re-conquest: Jack Loeffler

About La Conquistadora: Carmela Padilla


circa 1150

Quivira and Cíbola are two of the fantastic Seven Cities of Gold, that springs from the Moorish invasions. According to legend, seven bishops fled the invasion, to save their own lives and to prevent the Muslims from obtaining sacred religious relics. A rumor grew that the seven bishops had founded the cities of Cíbola and Quivira. The legend says that these cities grew very rich, mainly from gold and precious stones. This idea fueled many expeditions in search of the mythical cities during the following centuries. Eventually, the legend behind these cities grew to such an extent that no one spoke solely of Quivira and Cíbola, but instead of seven magnificent cities made of gold.


Cristobal Colón, an Italian on a Spanish-financed expedition, discovers the New World. He travels with two Spanish captains as the captains of the Niña and the Pinta. Martin Alonzo Pinzon sailed as captain of the Pinta, but he was also the co-owner of the Niña and the Pinta. His brother, Vincente Yáñez Pinzón, sailed as captain of the Niña. Vincente Pinzon made additional explorations in South and Central America.


Papal Bull dividing all land in the new world between Portugal and Spain.

1499 Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, Alonso de Ojeda, Americo Vespucci, Juan de la Cosa, Alonso Niño and Cristóbal Guerra were sent by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to explore new territories. They went along the coast of Brazil to the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida coast. They also reached the Chesapeake Bay.


Juan de la Cosa drew the first map of America's coastline.


Juan Ponce de Leon, in search of the fountain of youth and other fabulous riches, instead became the first European to land in Florida. At the time, he was also the first governor of Puerto Rico. On a later expedition, he discovered the Gulf Stream. This current became very important for Spanish trips from Europe to the Americas.


Captain Alonso Alvarez de Pineda explored and charted the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico. De Pineda and his crew were the first Europeans in Texas, and claimed it for Spain.


Panfilo de Narvaez led a disastrous expedition to settle Florida, when almost all of his men, and de Narvaez himself, died after being abandoned onshore. Four men survived, and spent the next eight years crossing Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, looking for a Spanish settlement. Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions were the first Europeans to explore the Southwest, enter New Mexico, and contact many Southwestern tribes.


Alvar Cabeza de Vaca explores Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. De Vaca published an account of his journey upon his return to New Spain. He receives a copper bell on the Rio Grande & is told that inhabitants farther north on the river "there were many plates of this same metal buried in the ground in the place where it had come and that it was a thing which they esteemed highly and that there were fixed habitations where it came from." Buckingham Smith's translation of Cabeza de Vaca's relacion.


Fray Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan priest, claimed to have traveled to the fabled "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola" during the summer of 1539. The Viceroy of New Spain sent Fray Marcos to accompany Estevan, a Moorish slave who had traveled with Cabeza de Vaca, to find the great cities in the north the desert tribes had described. Estevan was killed at Zuni Pueblo, but Fray Marcos returned to Mexico to report that indeed, great cities lay to the north.


Francisco Vasquez de Coronado searched for the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola for nearly three years, covering huge areas of Arizona, New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, the Texas panhandle, Kansas, and Colorado. In Tiguex, and then at Cicuye, he came into conflict with the pueblos, and subsequent expeditions have to contend with the negative results of Coronado's decisions.


Alernando de Alarcon takes boats from Aculpulco to the Colorado River, and ascends the river twice to determine if California is an island. Far upriver (before the canyons begin) he meets a man familiar with the pueblos and with the plains tribes. Their informant tells them of Coronado's doings.


Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed from Acapulco to southern California, claiming California for King Charles I of Spain. Cabrillo named San Diego Bay and Santa Barbara.


Zacatecas founded.


Diego Gutiérrez published a map where California appeared for the first time.


Durango founded.


Francisco de Ibarra explored New Mexico.


Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles established a settlement at St. Augustine, Florida, making it the oldest European city in the U.S.. De Aviles also explored the coastline of North America as far north as St. Helena Island, South Carolina, and had forts built along the coast for protection.


Mines open in Santa Barbara, San Bartolome, Parral. The rich mines of northern Mexico drove demand for both workers and food, both of which New Mexico supplied for centuries.


Council of the Indies Code is established for regulating new domains. New laws require:

- discoveries were to be made with "Peace and Mercy"

- no injuring native peoples

- only the King or his representative can authorize expeditions

- Spanish governments can't aid one tribe over another


Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado and Fray Agustin Rodriguez enter the pueblo province, which they call San Felipe, leading 9 spanish men and 16 indian servants. They leave 2 priests behind: Juan de Santa Maria gets killed by the Maguas Indians; Fray Francisco López is killed in Puaray (near Bernalillo).


Don Antonio Espejo launches an expedition to rescue the priests, and upon finding that there were no priests left alive to rescue, traveled around New Mexico, from the Galisteo Basin to Jemez, claiming New Mexico for the King.


Luis de Carabajal governor of Nuevo León, gets arrested by the Inquisition, and his Lieutenant Governor, Castaño de Sosa, takes his seat.


Governor de Sosa takes the entire colony on an unauthorized expedition of New Mexico. Troops are sent from Saltillo to arrest de Sosa, who is exiled to the Philippines.


Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña and Francisco Leyva de Bonilla explore New Mexico and Colorado as far as the Purgatoire River in an unauthorized expedition. While in present-day Kansas, Humaña murdered Bonilla, then all men were killed before they could leave the plans.


Juan de Zaldivar explored the San Luis Valley of Colorado.


Don Juan de Oñate brought the first colony to New Mexico, and explored vast areas of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. He reached the South Sea in 1605, and signed his name at on Inscription Rock, now El Morro National Monument. Farfán explores Arizona on behalf of Oñate and reports the discovery of large pearls and lodes of rich ore.


Juan de Archuleta explored Colorado as far as Kiowa County.


Sebastián Vizcaíno sailed up the coast of California, and named Monterey Bay, San Diego, San Clemente, Catalina, Santa Barbara, Point Concepcion, Carmel, Monterey, La Paz, and Ano Nuevo. Vizcaíno also tried unsuccessfully to colonize southern California.


First permanent British colony founded by Capt. John Smith at Jamestown, VA.


In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Spanish built the block long adobe Palace of the Governors.

1630, 1640

Fray Alonso Benavides makes an inspection of the New Mexico missions and the progress in converting the pueblos. He reports several wonders, including the conversion of the Xumanas through the miraculous apparition of Mother Luisa de Carrion.

1641-late 1650s

Smallpox epidemic devastates New Mexico.


Captain Alonso de Leon followed Rio de Palmas (Rio Grande) a few hundred miles to the mouth and reported prospering Indian farmers.


Drought in New Mexico; war parties of nomadic tribes strike Cerralvo, Saltillo, Monterey, Casas Grandes, and Chihuahua.

1661- 1662

Don Diego Peñalosa becomes governor of New Mexico. Don Diego Peñalosa, accused of seditious and scandalous behavior by the Inquisition, gets exiled from Spain and her dominions. Twenty years later, he manages to get the ear of the French monarch, arguing for an attack from Louisiana and seize northern Mexico. This plan may have encouraged Sieur La Salle to make an expedition to the mouth of the Rio Bravo in "Florida" with an eye to founding a French colony. Their plans come to nothing, but Coronelli's 1688 map was inspired in large part by this saga.


Widespread hunger in New Mexico.


Disease, Apache raids.


Senecu destroyed by Apache attack, never resettled.


Fray Juan Larios recruits a reconnaissance team to meet and convert tribes along the Rio Grande, south to La Junta del Rios, where the Pecos and the Rio Grande meet. Lieutenant Fernando del Bosque led the expedition, made notes of the country and its products, and recommended three settlements along the river, a recommendation which Spain would continue to ignore for a long time.


Tired of harsh treatment and religious intolerance, the Pueblo people band together under the leadership of a man named Popé and drive the Spanish from the New Mexico colonies. The rebels destroy and deface most of the Spanish churches. The Spanish retreat to the south side of the Rio Grande, and found the city El Paso while waiting eleven years for reinforcements.


Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle commissioned to conquer Spain's northern American colonies in 1682, France claims Louisiana from Rio de las Palmas (modern-day Rio Grande) up the Gulf Coast.


Governor Otermin's replacement is General Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate. Cruzate extends the reach of El Paso south and east along the Rio Grande, and responds to requests for missionaries from tribes from the area of Junta de los Rios.


Francisco de Vargas reconquered New Mexico and entered the San Luis Valley.


Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit priest, founded many missions and explored areas the Pimerí­a Alta region of New Spain, including what are now northern Mexico, California, and Arizona. He founded his first mission in what is now Sonora, Mexico, then spent 25 years exploring and mapping the lands along the Rio Grande, the Colorado River, and the Gila River, traveling as far as the headwaters for the Rio Grande and the Gila.


Juan de Ulibarri crossed Colorado as far as the Arkansas Valley into Kiowa County.

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