New Mexico History

Each Heritage Hotels & Resort tells a unique piece of New Mexico's history through our architecture, design, artwork, decor, cuisine and entertainment.

The history of New Mexico begins over 10,000 years ago when the earliest known inhabitants of this land wandered through the area hunting long-extinct animals and leaving the first human marks on the state’s remarkable landscape. 

Two other groups of early residents, the Ancient Pueblo Peoples of the north, and the Mogollon Peoples of the south, farmed the fertile river valleys of state, built homes of stone and adobe out of sheer cliff walls, and created strikingly beautiful pottery, pictographs and petroglyphs.

By the end of the 13th century the descendants of these ancient peoples had completely abandoned their elaborate home sites.  Legend has it that they migrated to areas further south that offered more dependable rainfall and water. Eventually, these early tribes merged into the various Pueblo peoples whose descendants still live in Arizona and New Mexico.

The next wave of influence came from Spain — most notably through conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján, who came to New Mexico in search of gold. Coronado and his men returned to Spain without their hoped-for treasure, but they opened the door to those who would return to the Land of Enchantment leaving an indelible mark on the land and its people.

The Spanish ruled New Mexico for nearly 130 years until 1821 when Mexico won its independence from Spain. Soon after, the Santa Fe Trail brought new lifestyles, money and settlers to New Mexico. By the 1880s, with the advance of the railroad across the state’s great expanses of mountain and desert, New Mexico was well on its way to statehood.

New Mexico was admitted to the Union as the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912. Since that time, New Mexico has experienced plenty of growth and change, from the pain of two World Wars and the advent of the nuclear age, to the growth of an elite scientific community exemplified today in the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.

There’s little doubt that a visit to this unique land will leave you yearning to know more about New Mexico history. Here’s a list of sites to put on your list if you’re ready to experience this remarkable history firsthand during your New Mexico vacation.

Hispanic Culture

The history, architecture and art of New Mexico are strongly rooted to the arrival of Spanish settlers to what is now New Mexico. Our state continues to be influenced by immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. Latino and Hispanic culture and customs have a major presence everywhere in the state, from street names to architecture, from music to cuisine, and from art and dance to academic studies.

A prime example of Hispanic influence can be found at the plazas, including Old Town in Albuquerque, and the historic plaza in Santa Fe, where you will find adobe buildings surrounding a central square — a common feature of Spanish colonial towns. Not far from these plazas you will find historic Catholic churches such as the famous St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe to San Felipe in Albuquerque.

Hispanic culture is also on display in the arts, crafts, music and dance of New Mexico. While a visit to one of the state’s great museums, including the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC — the only national cultural institute dedicated to the study, advancement and presentation of Hispanic culture arts and humanities), is a great place to start, the best way to experience the living legacy of Hispanic culture in the state is to take in one of the many festivals or fiestas taking place throughout the year.

Hispanic Cultural Attractions

Some Hispanic traditions and fiestas you'll find throughout the year include:


Approximately 1,500 years ago ancestral Pueblo peoples responsible for the elaborate cliff dwellings at Bandelier, Mesa Verde and elsewhere across the Four Corners region, migrated south in search of more reliable water sources, eventually establishing permanent settlements, commonly known as pueblos. Those groups were the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people, many of whom still occupy the original villages. Other groups, ancestors of the Navajo and Apache, continued their nomadic lifestyles.

Native American culture in New Mexico is celebrated today in museums, ceremonial dances, arts and crafts, language, villages and the daily lifestyle of New Mexico’s tribes. 
Take a step into the past or experience the living history of any one of New Mexico’s 22 Native American peoples by visiting a historic monument or a modern day pueblo.

New Mexico Native American Attractions:

Some New Mexico Native America tribes welcome visitors to experience their living culture. When planning a trip to a pueblo remember that families live here, and that each tribe is a sovereign nation. Behave accordingly, and treat the land and people with respect and honor.