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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

Unit Four: Getting to Know the New Neighbors

The Louisiana Purchase in 1804 brought the United States to the borders of New Mexico. No one was quite sure where those borders were, but they were as inviolable to the Americans as they had been to the French, if not more so.

The first Americans to penetrate to Santa Fe were treated with courtesy and suspicion, but as revolution began to simmer to the east, outsiders were treated increasingly harshly. This unit looks at the relationship between Spain, the United States, and the Mexican revolutionaries.


In completion of this lesson, students will:

Analyze historic maps and texts to explore the changing relationship between New Mexicans and Americans from the Louisiana Purchase through the period of Mexican Independence.

Discuss elements of relationships between nations and how it affects the actions of individuals. Consider the impact of Mexican independence on the lives of New Mexicans.

Using various historic documents and resources, research events and people related to the Mexican Revolution, including the effects of Mexican Independence.

Create original writing and/ or art for inclusion in a class newspaper project about the Mexican Revolution and Mexican Independence.



















Activity I: Louisiana Purchase and New Mexico

Have students read the timeline under the section Shifting Allegiances.

Guiding questions for the students:

What nation borders New Mexico in 1688? What are the boundaries of each country? Are they known?

What nations border New Mexico in 1818? What are the boundaries of each country? Are they known?

Explain: While France and Spain may have been bitter enemies at times, they had more in common culturally (both European, Catholic, monarchies) than Spain and the United States. What kind of relationship did Spain and the U.S. have?

To learn more about the relationship between these two nations, have students consider the examples of Lt. Zebediah Pike and Dr. John Robinson, who were the first Americans to penetrate this area, and then to bring back descriptions and maps. The Spanish treated them as probable spies, which they might have been.

Have students read through the entries for "Dr. Robinson departs from Pike's stockade" and the city of Chihuahua on the 1818 map. Particularly note the following quotation of Governor Salcedo of Chihuahua:

"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."

Points for class discussion:

Why did the Spanish try to keep Pike from taking notes or seeing maps? What were they afraid he would learn?

Was Spain right or wrong that the United States was sending spies to promote the cause of Mexican Independence?

Were the Spanish right to be protective?

What impression might have Pike's and Robinson's maps and writings made on Americans, who knew next to nothing about this region?

As the first American visitors, what impression did Pike and Robinson have on New Mexicans?

See Pike's descriptions, particularly St. John.

Explain: Struggles between Spain and other nations played out in New Mexico in various ways. It affected trade, except government-controlled trade with the rest of Mexico; border security; alliances or trade between foreign powers and the Plains tribes.

1688: Vincenzo Maria Coronelli: America Settentrionale

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

Lt. Zebulon Pike: A Map of the Internal Provinces of New Spain : 1810

Activity II: Mexican Independence


Although a bid for independence was well underway while Robinson was making his maps, and Robinson's borders presage those laid out in the Mexican constitution, the first map we have of Mexican New Mexico was made in 1823, as the Mexican government directed cartographer and explorer Jose Narvaez to create a series of maps depicting the relatively unknown northern borderlands. Trading on the Santa Fe Trail inspired Josiah Gregg to create a relatively accurate map, not only of the area, but of notable adventures.

Under the Mexican administration, New Mexicans opened the Old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe & California. This is shown on the 1846 Disturnell map as a major road. Trade with California affected New Mexicans by giving them new markets for their goods.

During this time, Texas had their own revolution; they tried unsuccessfully to break with Spain, and ended up declaring independence from Mexico. Texas sent an expedition to Santa Fe to persuade New Mexicans to join. The Texans were captured, mistreated, and imprisoned. A reporter with the expedition published a popular book excoriating the Mexican government, particularly New Mexico Governor Armijo (see the bibliography for a link to the online copy of the Texas Santa Fe Expedition by George Kendall). But without a clear, internationally-recognized boundary between New Mexico and Texas, only the sparse populations of both prevented continual conflict.

One thing we don't know about this era is how New Mexicans felt about the struggle for Mexican independence. Officially, the state supported the king and deplored the doings of the Texans. Without newspapers or regular forms of communication, it is possible that regular New Mexicans did not know of the revolution going on elsewhere in Mexico. Independence brought many subtle changes to New Mexico, like having a representative in the federal government, but the most significant change was in opening the borders to trade with the United States. The first printing press came to New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail, and was used for printing newspapers, textbooks, and prayer books.

Have students imagine that they have just received the first printing press in New Mexico, in 1834, and this is their chance to catch New Mexicans up with the current events of the past decade. What do they need to know?

Possible subjects include

Texian participation in the revolution

Editorial opinion, or letter to the editor about the revolution

Political cartoons expressing an opinion on independence from Spain

Mexican Constitution of 1824

Establishment of Bents Fort

Article about a battle or campaign

Texas-Santa Fe Expedition

Philip Nolan filibustering expedition

Battle of Fort Labahia

Battle of Medina

Profiles of or interviews with historic figures, exploring their roles during the war or during Independence. Examples may include:

Agustí­n Iturbide

Antonio Lí³pez de Santa Ana

John H. Robinson

James Monroe

Manuel Hidalgo

Nemesio Salcedo

Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara

José Toledo

Augustus Magee

James Wilkinson

Father Antonio Martí­nez

Don Bautista Pino

Antonio Barreira

American traders and trappers

This exercise can be done as a class project, where each student contributes an article or an editorial cartoon to create a whole newspaper; as a small group project, where the group assembles a 4-page newspaper (on 11x17 paper), or each student can create a newspaper front page, showing headlines, ledes, images, and various articles. Leading paragraphs should answer who, what, why, when, where, how. Cartoons should make a single point.

Students can use the maps, the books in the bibiliography, the archival pictures, the media (audio can be found on the Shifting Allegiances page), and the links to develop their research. Full text references in the bibliography on the subject include Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition.

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

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

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

Commerce of the prairies , full tex

Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition

Correspondence between Robinson and James Monroe (note, this is handwritten and may be challenging to read)

Pike's Explorations

The Mexican People: Their Struggle for Freedom


Students can be assessed on the basis of participation, completion of work, quality of analysis and research, creativity, neatness, and organization.


A Journey through New Mexico History, Dr. Donald R. Lavash 114-127 (end of discussion about land grants)

A History of New Mexico, Calvin & Susan Roberts Chapter 9, New Mexico Under Mexican Rule pp 179-188


Key Ideas and Details:


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

Craft and Structure:


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).


Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.


Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

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