"Some of the earliest recorded inhabitants are the Hohokam, Mogollon, Anasazi and the Fremont.  They occupied the Four Corners area (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) as early as 300 BC.

 

The Hohokam constructed more than 500 miles of canals, some as wide as 75 feet across and several miles in length.  They erected pit houses, lived in small communities and relied on hunting, gathering and farming as their food source.  They are believed to be the ancestors of the Pima and the Papago. 

 

The Mogollon built dwellings that were partially underground and used wooden beams for supporting the roof.  They were skilled pottery makers and created wares that are regarded as some of the finest prehistoric pottery in the Southwest.  After the Mogollon abandoned their villages they dispersed, most likely merging with other groups.

 

The name Anasazi came into use during the 1930’s and was coined by archaeologists.  It is thought that the Anasazi may have referred to themselves simply as “The People.”  They inhabited the canyons and mesas of the Southwest and constructed cliff dwellings and free-standing stone buildings (some as high as five stories).  They developed various irrigation methods to counter the dry climate and grew corn, beans and squash. The Anasazi are considered to be the ancestors of the modern Pueblo people.

 

The Fremont inhabited parts of Colorado and Utah from 400 AD to 1350 AD.  Archeologists believe they may have been a group of Anasazi that broke away and moved further north.     

 

When the rainfall ceased and the ancient Native American population could no longer sustain itself, the dwellings were abandoned for more favorable conditions. Unlike Europeans, they did not lay claim to the land. They considered themselves to be custodians for Mother Earth.

 

When the Spanish explorers came to this region, they encountered well-organized and functioning societies of Pueblo Indians as well as deserted ruins." 

 

"Before the Pilgrims, before the Founding Fathers and even before the United States itself, Spanish culture was alive and thriving in the region currently known as the American Southwest. 

 

Cabeza de Vaca, Friar Marcos de Niza and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored the mainland several decades before the English, French or Dutch.  St. Augustine, the first North American town in Florida, was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles. 

 

Starting in 1598, Juan de Onate explored the region that is currently New Mexico and Don Pedro de Peralta established the settlement known as Santa Fe (1609-1610). Both settlements predate the landing of the Mayflower in 1620 and the establishment of the Plymouth Colony by the English.

 

Although the Spanish explorers came seeking gold, many ended up as settlers, merchants, miners and planters.  The practice of looting and exploiting indigenous people was not as successful in North America as it had been in the Southern region.  Nevertheless, Spanish rule was imbued with caste privileges and, to a certain extent, dependent on peonage. 

 

The Spaniards exerted their presence and authority over the native population through the establishment of presidios (military posts) and Catholic missions. The presidio served the purpose of providing security and protection against attacks by hostile Native Americans and became a base of operations from which to enforce Spanish dominance.  Some presidios were small and guarded by a few soldiers.  Others were large and protected by a regiment of cavalrymen. Most presidios were erected with building materials that were found locally (usually adobe and wood).  They were typically built in a square or rectangular shape and had walls as high as ten feet. Circular torreones (large towers) were placed on two diagonal corners.  They were used as lookouts and posts from which soldiers could fire their weapons.  A typical presidio contained stables, storage facilities, a chapel and living quarters for officers and enlisted men."

 

The Native American Period

The Spanish Period

The Mexican Period

"When Mexico won its independence from Spanish dominance in 1821, all the territory along its northern region previously claimed by the Spanish Crown became part of Mexico. Unfortunately, the war caused immense destruction—crops and livestock were demolished and haciendas (large estate) burned.  Mines were left unattended and fell into decay.  The new nation struggled to form a stable government and in 1824 adopted a federalist constitution.  Dissension ensued between those who advocated a federalist government and those who favored a centralist government (for additional information, see pages 135-136).  This led to numerous civil wars and repeated changes in dictatorships.

 

The situation escalated and in 1846 war was declared between Mexico and the United States.  Although Mexicans were not financially prepared to withstand the assault of U.S. forces, they fought with boldness and courage.  Unfortunately, Mexico’s weaponry fell short of Mexican valor and in 1848 Mexico was compelled to sign a peace treaty at Guadalupe Hidalgo.  The treaty assigned vast territories, approximately one-half the size of Mexico, to the United States (see map page 27).  Mexico surrendered all claims to Tejas and the Mexican-American boundary was reestablished at the Rio Grande. 

 

 This signaled the end of Mexican domination of its northern provinces and the beginning of a new era in the American Southwest."

The American Southwest—

A colorful and culturally rich tapestry

woven with the various dialects, customs, cultures and architecture

of the people who have dwelt in it for thousands of years.

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