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Santa Fe History

As North America's oldest capital city, Santa Fe celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2010. Governor Don Pedro de Peralta settled Santa Fe (City of Holy Faith) for the Spanish Empire in 1609-1610, building the Palace of the Governors and laying out the plaza. The city still bears traces of several successive empires over the centuries and in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when the region’s indigenous people rebelled against the conquistadors, it was the only successful native uprising against the Spanish in the New World. Don Diego de Vargas reclaimed Santa Fe in 1692, and it remained the regional HQ for the Spanish, and later Mexican, Confederacy, and American administrations. During the Mexican era (1821-1846) trade opened up with the United States via the arduous Santa Fe Trail from Missouri. Santa Fe was put more firmly on the map with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1880, bringing prospectors and homesteaders seeking their fortune and helping lend the Wild West its name. New Mexico has been a US territory since 1850, except for a brief occupation by Confederate troops in 1862, quickly routed in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. It became the 47th state in 1912, although many non-residents are under the illusion that it’s a foreign country—perhaps understandably to anyone who’s explored this exotic, colorful state. Santa Fe’s heritage of Native, Spanish, and Anglo traditions makes the city unique. The city’s distinctive adobe buildings originated with the Pueblo people who first used thick New Mexican mud packed with golden straw to build the structures (it’s said that the Spanish mistook the glow of Indian adobe under the high desert sun for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold). Reminders of Santa Fe’s Wild West past can be found everywhere from the bars to some of the winding streets tracing former wagon trails. Art, entertainment, cuisine, and a certain “mañana” outlook all pay dues to Santa Fe’s cultural history. While the Wild West lawlessness is gone, there's still a laissez faire attitude here and locals say the most important law in Santa Fe is to have a good attitude.