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NM Centennial

An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

Unit Four: Mexican Republic

The Louisiana Purchase brought the boundary of the United States close to the boundary of New Spain. At the same time, American settlers in Texas began agitating for independence, and Mexico gradually broke off relations with Spain. The United States was simultaneously negotiating with Texan secessionists, envoys of the Spanish crown, and Mexican republican leaders. Despite the danger posed to the northern Mexican borderlands by increasingly land-hungry Americans, Mexico opened up trade with the U.S. along the Old Santa Fe Trail, allowing the two cultures to mix for the first time, and for Americans to slowly convince New Mexicans of their goodwill.


In completion of this lesson, students will:

Identify New Mexico's diverse boundaries, allegiances, and neighbors during the period between the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican-American War.

Analyze important visual and symbolic elements of a map created to further the interests of Mexican Revolutionaries; a map created during the Mexican territorial period; and a popular American map of New Mexico.

Compare historical texts illustrating different attitudes about American influence with Mexico.

Write on subjects of interest during the Mexican territorial period using various modes of expression.

Discuss, critique, and debate








Activity I: A Political Map

Have students read through the text below the map (About this Map) and the timeline. This map is both an illustration of movements in early years of the Mexican war for independence from Spain, and an exploration of conflicting claims among Spain, Texas, the United States, and Mexico. Robinson wanted this map to inspire people to join the cause of Mexican independence.

Zoom in one or two clicks until you can read the map properly.

Have students identify, and read the entries for:

the boundaries of New Mexico

the boundaries of Texas

the boundary claim of the United States

Spain's easternmost boundary claim (blue line just west of Mississippi River, not annotated)

What do the different claims of the United States include, when you compare them with a modern map? Have students use the transparency pull-down menu to change the transparency enough that they can see the modern map below the historical map. Ask students to find where their school would be, in 1818. Is it shown on the map?

Robinson uses this map to argue that the United States should side with the revolutionaries who want freedom from Spain. Part of his argument consists of showing the difference in the land claims of Mexico, Spain, and the U.S..

The picture in the upper right hand corner is another part of this argument. It is a kind of picture called an allegory. Allegories use characters that the audience can recognize, to tell a story or make a point.

Ask students to look at it closely (zoom in). Ask them:

What is the name of this allegory (mouse over the label to see it)?

Who is Liberty?

On whom is she showering her blessings?

What country does the character of liberty represent?

What country does the soldier represent?

Ask the students to discuss which argument, if either, is more compelling, the argument that Spain is claiming too much land, or the argument that the United States should "shower her blessings of liberty" on Mexico. Ask the students to imagine what Robinson thought was most important, judging by his story.

Read aloud Robinson's description of Commander-General Nemesio Salcedo's response to Robinson's overture from the United States:

Enraged, to hear an American call on him to explain himself, he burst into the most violent paroxysm of anger. "You speak of national honor-- a government, formed by an unlawful act-- and came into existence only yesterday-- formed by people who can remain in no other governments-- a government that has not power to restrain her Subjects-- the the conduct of your government towards Spain-- and yet you speak of national honor-- and as it respects you Sir, I have documents I have as your own letters in my Bureau, which you wrote and circulated in this country, exciting the people to revolt against the constituted authorities."

Then read to them this selection in Robinson's broadside quoted under the cartouche of Liberty Showing her Blessings.

...the revolution in Mexico has gone too far for mediation, consequently British bayonets would have to be employed to reduce and disarm the insurgents, and when that revolution is thus quelled, who will be the real masters of that country? will any man presume to say, that the imbecile government of Spain will have any authority there? No, a British General will dictate laws to, and control the destinies of Mexico, and to suppose that then, the resources of New Spain would not be turned against the United States, would be extravagant indeed: it is well known that even at this moment a great portion of the wealth of that country passes into the coffers of Great Britain and is consequently turned against this government.

The Mexican, in character, is mild, affable, polite, hospitable and gay, they possess great fortitude, no privation, however great, will cause a murmur; in fine they are as good materials for an army, as have ever come within my view; they require nothing but discipline, to render them as good troops as any in the world.

The character of the citizens of the United States, stands pre-eminently high in that country, and they will receive them with the most fraternal affection, they very justly perceive that we have a common interest, and therefore ought to be friends.

...Fellow Citizen, there is no country in the world which presents so noble and glorious field for men of might [one or two words missing] or such immense prospects of wealth to the enterprising merchant, nor is there a country on earth in [which] there is so great a certainty of independent fortunes for the gentlemen of professions and trades.

I write to you my fellow citizen, to accompany me in that glorious and brilliant course, which heaven has marked out for you and your countrymen. There, six millions of souls, who for these three hundred years have been borne down by the yoke of a cruel oppression, rise and demand the restoration of their long lost rights and offer their daily orisons to heaven and you for assistance. Arise my fellow citizen! can you longer remain an unfeeling spectator of this grand and interesting spectacle, Arise!

Ask the students if this exchange changes their minds about the importance of US involvement in the Mexican revolution.

Judging from this exchange, how did the United States see Europe at this time? How did Europeans see the U.S. government?

Dr. John Robinson: A Map of Mexico, Louisiana, and the Missouri Territory : 1818

Activity II: A Map of the Mexican republic

To prepare a handout for this exercise, click all the icons off in the legend, then turn on the icons labeled city, town, presidio, and territorial boundary. Click "save view" if you wish, then click print to produce a printed version with text and pictures.

As a class (choral reading) or to the class, read the quotation by Antonio Barreiro (Territorial Boundary line).

Follow his description on the map as closely as possible.

As a class, or taking turns, read the Pino and Barreira's descriptions under El Paso and Taos.

Discuss as a class:

How big was New Mexico?

Where do the borders end?

Who is beyond those borders?

Are the borders shown on the map the same as what Barreira describes? What might account for the differences?

Who did New Mexicans fear?

What kept them from expanding their borders?

How did they hope the Mexican government would help them?

Jose Maria Narvaez: Carta esferica de los territorios de la alta y baja Californias y estado de Sonora : 1823

Activity III: Life in the Republic

Students should read the entry for Albuquerque. According to Pino and Barreira, what kinds of professionals was New Mexico lacking? How does the lack of teachers contribute to the lack of doctors?

Barreira printed the first newspaper, El Crepíºsculo de la Libertad (The Dawn of Liberty), in New Mexico on a press brought to New Mexico by Josiah Gregg and sold to Ramon Abreíº. He printed four issues in August and November of 1834. Padre Antonio José Martinez of Taos later purchased the press to print the first spelling book, school manuals, and other pamphlets.

Exercise: Imagine you are living in New Mexico in 1834. For the first time, you have a press and a representative with the federal government. However, most of your countrymen are illiterate and living in deep poverty. Write a letter to the editor, an editorial cartoon, an article, or an advertisement for the newspaper.

Ask students to use the following questions to focus their contributions:

What is the most important problem facing New Mexicans?

How can the government help?

How can you convey the problem and the solution to a readership with very low literacy skills?

If you want, you can assign each student a section of the newspaper (e.g. 300 words on education, 100 words on better roads, 2 editorial cartoons).

Assemble all the students' work into a newspaper and print it for them. Alternately, you can have the students "lay out" the newspaper and tape it onto large pieces of newsprint, so the class has a single copy to read.

Ideas for subjects:

difficulty of travel

long distance to governmental centers

bad roads

fear of attack while traveling

no schools, only a few privately-hired teachers

no trained professionals, including priests, doctors, and lawyers

fear of attack by surrounding tribes

inadequate professional military

untrained citizens have to serve in militias at their own expense

Jose Maria Narvaez: Carta esferica de los territorios de la alta y baja Californias y estado de Sonora : 1823

Activity IV: Trade with the United States

Students should look at the map, and on a piece of paper, answer the following questions.

When Americans came to New Mexico, what town did they leave from?

What did they cross on the way?

Were there towns?

Who did Gregg say was living there?

Where is the border between New Mexico and Texas? If working with a print copy, have them mark their map where they imagine it would be, judging by the labels. If they are on computers, have them use the transparency function to look at what the modern day area would be under the area of the Texas label.

From what new directions are people coming to New Mexico?

Judging from the map, and from what students might know, what was the primary factor in choosing routes to New Mexico?

What lies west of New Mexico?

Why do you think this area (west of NM) of this map is mostly blank?

The next activities require opening markers, reading the information available on the tabs, and answering questions about the content.

At the point on the Santa Fe Trail marked "Caches", have the students click on the blue boundary, then click on the adjacent military icon, marking the surrender of Col. Snively. Ask them why they think there is confusion about the border at this point.

Read entries, including looking at overviews and media for the following:

Route of the Santa Fe Texas Expedition

First Wagon Route to Santa Fe

Regular Route of the Santa Fe Caravans

Texan Santa Fe expedition: Cooke Surrenders

On a piece of paper, students should answer the following questions:

Name three people who traveled to New Mexico during this time.

Why did these people come to New Mexico?

Were they welcomed? Why or why not?

Josiah Gregg: Map of the Indian Territory, Northern Texas and New Mexico, Showing the Great Western Prairies : 1844


Student can accurately identify boundaries and markers.

Student understands the concepts discussed.

Student has mastered the skills to complete this assignment.

Student participates in the discussion.

Student comprehends the reading.

Student answers questions clearly.


Chapter 6 Changes Under Mexican Rule

New Mexico! by Marc Simmons

2nd Edition, p 123- p 136


Online unit conversion: convert leguas (Spanish leagues) to miles or kilometers

Centennial Atlas: Internet Resource Page


Key Ideas and Details:


Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.


Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Craft and Structure:


Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.


Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.


Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.


Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.


Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:


By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

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