Eve of the Spanish Invasion

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The histories of Chacoan and Mogollon peoples provide many important signposts for the peoples that followed. They both fell victim to and adapted to New Mexico’s harsh, dry environment. Their adaptations set the stage for the development of Pueblo cultures and also influenced the Athabaskan peoples that arrived as early as the 1100s. The ability to maintain an adequate water supply for agriculture, as well as the knack for negotiating relations with nomadic peoples were key for Pueblo, and later Spanish, societies. In many respects, such issues defined New Mexico’s histories through the nineteenth century.

Soldier holding musket
Dutch artist Jacob de Gheyn II produced several series of paintings and engravings that detailed the proper use of muskets. These types of muskets were used in the early Spanish conquests of New Mexico.
Painting by Jacob de Gheyn II

Apache and Navajo people, along with Utes and Comanches, were derisively called indios bárbaros by the Spaniards who failed to comprehend their conceptions of property and resource usage, or their adherence to nomadic lifeways. For that reason, they were able to maintain some distance from Spanish colonialism. Pueblo peoples, on the other hand, were the direct targets of Spanish ambitions. Over the course of their history of relations with Muslim peoples in the Iberian Peninsula the varied peoples who became known to history as Spaniards worked out patterns for expansion and conquest. By the mid-1500s, New Mexico’s First Peoples were forced to reconcile their own worldviews with those of European outsiders.

Back to: The History of New Mexico > Chapter 2: New Mexico's First Peoples