Before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Santa Fe was already amidst a revolt against Spanish rule. It is the oldest capital in the United States and oldest European community founded West of the Mississippi River. Several phases of historical development and a multitude of cultural encounters define Santa Fe. Before American statehood, it was a Pueblo Indian dwelling, Spanish province, Mexican territory, trade route, and Confederate outpost.


  • 1050 - 1607

The site of contemporary Santa Fe was mainly a series of Pueblo villages called pueblos since 1000 CE. Archaeologists confirm that Pueblos abandoned the site in the 1400's for areas nearby Santa Fe. The Spanish arrived in the Santa Fe site in 1607 in an effort to colonize and conquer North America.

Founding and Revolt

  •   1607 - 1692

Don Pedro de Peralta, a conquistador, officially founded Santa Fe in 1607. He succeeded Don Juan Onante, the formative governer of Santa Fe. The Spanish sent soldiers, officials, and Franciscan missionaries to Pueblo Indians in the region. At the time, there were an estimated 100,000 Pueblos living in 70 towns around Santa Fe. The Spanish outfit attempted to convert the Pueblos to Catholicism. A band of Pueblos revolted against Spanish explorers and colonists. They pushed the Spanish back into Mexico and destroyed most of Santa Fe except the Palace of the Governers.

Reconquest and the Spanish Empire

  • 1692 - 1821

Don Diego De Vargas successfully resieged the city from the Pueblos in 1692. This placed New Mexico under Spanish rule once again. De Vargas led the expansion of Santa Fe and initiated trading agreements with the British, French, and Americans. Similarly, the Pueblos created a peaceful alliance with Comanche, Navajo, and Apache Indians.

Mexican Territory

  • 1821 - 1846

 In 1821, Mexico finally gained independence from Spain. Mexico deemed Santa Fe as the capital of the province of New Mexico. This ended the closed empire strategies of Spain; therefore, American explorers could enter the borders of New Mexico. William Becknell led a group of trappers and miners down the Santa Fe trail from Arrow Rock, MS. In the Chimayó rebellion of 1837, New Mexican farmers killed the governer of Santa Fe and resisted Mexican rule. After Mexico defeated the farmers, Santa Fe plaza symbolized a peaceful founding with the planting of its cottonwood trees.

  Mexican - American War

  • 1846 - 1912

The Mexican-American War took place from 1846 to 1848 in New Mexico. Mexico eventually ceded New Mexico and California to the US. In 1851, Jean B. Lamy erected Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. In 1868, the city developed its resources and economy with the assistance of the railroad system and telegraph technology. The New  Mexico government fell into corruption with this economic growth. This corruption caused President Hayes to order Lew Wallace, governer, to improve New Mexico's condition. Wallace "cleaned" up New Mexico and established widespread social stability.

Current State of Affairs

  • 1912 - Present

The US recognized New Mexico's statehood in 1912.  The Museum of Fine Arts completed construction in 1917 and in 1926, the Old Santa Fe Association commenced.The association aimed to preserve the charm and cultural heritage of Santa Fe. Many of the remnants of Santa Fe's history exist today in the form of its ethnic diversity (Anglo, Hispanic, Indian), architecture, and cultural celebrations. While one downtown fence could be covered in Mexican murals, a courtyard might contain an artifact of American Indian art. In addition, a corner could contain a downtempo lounge that serves bistro cuisine.

Cultural and historical preservation is the major focus of Santa Fe for the future as the city confronts urban sprawl and contemporary technologies. Several new residential contractors are already cropping up around the city. City ordinances prevent construction of high-rise buildings to keep the panoramic views. The same zoning restrictions only permit adobe or Spanish Colonial style architecture downtown. Tourism is a powerful industry in Santa Fe. The city must find ways to keep its "Old West" legacies naturally in tact as over a million people visit the small city per year. Many thriving pueblos still encircle Santa Fe and try to be as undisturbed as possible.