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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

Unit Five: Help From the Government

The first government subsidies in New Mexico were the missions built to further the glory of the Spanish King in Christianizing the Pueblos. The government, and the Franciscan order of the Catholic church, supported these missions with regular supply trains, carrying everything from paper and tools to musical instruments. The King apparently also gifted the missions with adornments from silver services to artwork. Finally, the King granted missions a certain amount of acreage, which could be tilled by Pueblo labor, and the priests additionally supported themselves by charging for services like baptisms, weddings, and burials (and for which they were generally paid in produce or livestock). All this made the missions a driving economic force, and many Spanish settlements grew as close to the missions as the Pueblo land grants would allow. Some examples are Taos Pueblo/ Ranchos de Taos, and Sandia Pueblo/ Bernalillo.

The U.S. government began to pour money into New Mexico with the construction of numerous forts, to protect travelers and trade on the Santa Fe Trail and the Chihuahua Trail (the old Camino Real), repel the invading Texans and subdue the hostile tribes. The U.S. spent more money to buy the "bootheel" of New Mexico, so they could turn around and give a huge strip of it to the Southern Pacific Railroad, for its transcontinental railway route. The railroads, including the Southern Pacific, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe, Eddy's El Paso and Northern and El Paso and Southern Railway lines, helped to open up more areas for mining. The cattle ranching industry, start-kicked on the plains of eastern New Mexico by the need to feed the Navajos and Mescaleros at Bosque Redondo, drove their cattle to terminals on the Chicago, Rock Island Line. Water projects and highway projects offered irrigation, building sites safe from flooding, and a way to get safely and quickly around the state. Parks, museums, and forests preserve New Mexico's treasures, drawing billions of tourists dollars annually. Military bases and national laboratories attract some of the best and the brightest minds to the state.


In the completion of this lesson, students will:

Analyze how government subsidies have influenced economic activities since the American occupation.

Research an example of a New Deal project that continues to benefit New Mexicans.

Analyze how government subsidies continue to influence economic activities across the state.

Research and comprehend public documents in order to evaluate the effect of government subsidies in their community.

Use economic reasoning skills to analyze the impact government benefits on individuals, families, businesses, communities, and governments.

Write summaries of research, including references and supporting documents.

Evaluate how government subsidies impact the way New Mexican individuals, families, organizations, and governments make decisions about resources.

Students may:

Conduct interviews with community members.

Create markers in Google Earth describing their findings. These markers can be uploaded to the Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps.



Activity I: Review of Government Support

Ask students to review all the maps since 1848 (when New Mexico became an American possession). Have them identify different projects that the government undertook or subsidized to promote economic development in New Mexico. Students may identify: Mexican War, border surveys, forts, Indian wars, reservation system, Homestead Act, railroads, road building, National Parks, education.

Explain that the most recent map in the Atlas is from 1925, a decade before the great public works legislation that transformed the economic face of New Mexico. Albuquerque Mayor and Governor Clyde Tingley was instrumental in bringing federal dollars to New Mexico through the Works Progress Administration.

Activity II: The New Deal

Some New Deal-era projects are still standing and in use. Others, such as the oral histories and the photographs, have been digitized. The Library of Congress has a number of resources (links below). Many of these areas are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Each student should pick one project among the projects still in use, using the resources above or other library resources. Each student should write at least three paragraphs on this place, answering the following questions:

Why was this project commissioned?

Why was it approved?

Who worked on it?

How did it benefit New Mexicans?

How has its value changed over time?

Google Earth extension: Students can place a marker indicating the site of the New Deal project they chose to research, and put their written text in as a description. See Units 1-3 for more information on creating media for markers in Google Earth; also see the section on Adding Your Own Maps.

New Deal Network

America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945

American Life Histories (search by state)

WPA Projects in Southern New Mexico

CCC projects in New Mexico

The Forest Service and the CCC: 1933-1942/ Chapter on Southwestern Region

Treasures on New Mexico Trails

New Deal's Legacy: The Face of New Mexico

New Mexico Office of the State Historian Great Depression and New Deal in NM

Off the Road New Mexico: WPA Projects in New Mexico

Activity III: Current Events

Note: This exercise is challenging, but provides valuable real-world skills, such as identifying agencies responsible for places in one's community, and evaluating their work. It also gives insight into accountability processes, which are standard in non-profit and government operations. If your students are unfamiliar with the "Alphabet Soup" of government agencies, this exercise may be divided into small groups. The research can be divided according to the place chosen, so that each member of the group tracks down one funding source.

Explain to students that government funds are used in many different ways, all communities have examples of government spending. Ask students to study federal or state government subsidies in their own community or region. Students may choose an example from highways, education, agriculture, public buildings, military, research and development, film, health care, etc.

Ask students to pick one public institution or place they feel has a positive impact in their lives. Ask them to find out if government subsidies are involved in some way. This may be a park, a school, a street, a reservoir, etc. Each student should track the flow of money, from federal to state to municipal government, to the individual, and back into the community.

Students can use online government resources, either to contact individuals, or to search through public documents, such as legislation, tax documents, annual reports, and cost-benefit analyses.

One example: a student may choose to look at how a local museum is run. The student may choose to interview an administrator at the museum, request an annual report, or to research the museum's public filings.

The student should find out:

Does the museum receive federal or state grants?

Grants from a federally-funded non-profit?

What does the museum offer for the money invested?

In what way, and to what extent, do the people who benefit return the investment into the community or state at large?

How is this quantified? A museum may quantify its return in terms of jobs created, visitor numbers, programs offered, exhibits organized, donations raised, or preservation work accomplished.

How does this specific museum quantify its benefits?

Does that tell the whole story?

Do other organizations have good things to say about that non-profit?

After the student chooses an institution or place, he or she must start tracking down resources. They must identify:

Is this a public institution? If so, state or federal?

What agency is responsible for its existence?

Is it operated by a non-profit? How is the non-profit funded?

Once the source of funding is established, students can use targeted keyword searches to track the funding. There may be more than once source of funding. For example, a favorite state park may have water projects managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, wildlife monitoring by the Fish and Wildlife Service, educational programs provided by a nonprofit, and trails managed by the National Park Service. The ACOE is Department of Defense, while the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service are Department of Interior, so any budget analysis or breakdowns would be available from those agencies.

Students should find at least three sources of information, to include at least two public documents (e.g. a law, a tax filing, a GAO audit).

Non Profit Resources: Using GuideStar

Search non profit tax documents, mission statements, audits (requires registration; you may want to create a single registration for the class, in order to preserve the privacy of your students).

Students should write 3-4 paragraphs on the mission, public funding, and benefits of this institution. If students choose to do interviews, or request documents, they should include transcripts of their interviews, and any documents received. If students do internet research, they should print out relevant pages of the documents they are basing their information on. Students should include their information sources.

After students complete their projects, they should share their findings. Questions for discussion could include:

Why did they pick a certain institution?

What did they find?

Is the money well-spent?

How do they know?

Ask students how current projects compare with the projects they studied for the New Deal. Ask them for their opinions on government spending. Do they support it generally or oppose it generally? Ask them to use examples to support their opinions.

Google Earth Extension

Students can place a marker indicating the site of the location they chose to research, and put their written text in as a description. They can additionally include any media generated in the course of the research, such as PDFs, graphics, or audio files. See Units 1-3 for more information on creating media for markers in Google Earth; also see the section on Adding Your Own Maps.

New Mexico Economic Development Department

New Mexico Recovery and Reinvestment Initiative

New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration

Guide Star

Thomas: Search U.S. Government Legislation

Government Accountability Office

Office of Management and Budget New Mexico Factsheet


Did the student:

Present a cogent analysis, with arguments supported by examples?

Complete research that accuratly summarizes and references supporting documents?

Demonstrate understanding of the systemic nature of New Mexico's economy?

Demonstrate critical and analytical skills in interpreting government documents and evaluating resource allocation.

Write, read, listen, and speak according to grade level standards.


Key Ideas and Details:


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Craft and Structure:/b>


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.


Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:/b>


Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.


Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claims.


Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:/b>


By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

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