When you arrive in New Mexico you immediately realize you've come to someplace different. While much of the food and architecture in the United States has become predictably homogenized, New Mexico retains many of the Native American and Hispanic influences from the days before the "Anglos" arrived in the 1800s. New Mexico also boasts some of the most dramatic landscapes in America. Vast, open deserts are bordered by towering and thickly-forested mountains.
In ancient times, New Mexico was home to the Anasazi Indians (also referred to as the Ancestral Puebloans). The Anasazi built elaborate mud-brick and stone towns throughout the desert southwest. The ruins of two of their most well-known structures are at Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico and Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado.
While the Anasazi have long since disappeared, their descendants continue to live in traditional pueblos throughout New Mexico (see the Native Americans page for information and photos). In fact, New Mexico's Acoma Pueblo and Taos Pueblo compete for the distinction of being the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in the United States. In the 15th century, not long before the arrival of the Spanish, nomadic Apache and Navajo peoples moved into the area, often raiding the prosperous farming settlements of the Pueblo Indians and warfare often broke among the groups.
The first Europeans began arriving in the 16th century in a quest to find a mythical kingdom of wealth called the Seven Cities of Cibola. The Spanish never found the cities of gold they craved, but their early explorations led to the arrival of others and in 1598 Juan de Oñate entered the region and took possession of "Nuevo Mexico" for the Spanish crown.
What is today called New Mexico came into U.S. possession in two stages in the mid-1800s. First, in 1845 the U.S. annexed the Mexican territory of Texas, which included those parts of modern New Mexico east of the Rio Grande River. Then, in 1848, after a war between the U.S. and Mexico that included a U.S. invasion of Mexico City, the remainder of New Mexico, as well as most of Arizona, California and parts of Colorado, Utah and Nevada were ceded to the U.S. with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Although Mexico's formal control ended more than 150 years ago, New Mexico today retains a strong Hispanic character that can be seen in the food, art, architecture and the names of many modern residents. In addition, the Pueblo peoples, the Navajo and the Apache are also still very much a part of present-day New Mexico. Numerous pueblos dot the Rio Grande valley from Isleta (south of Albuquerque) to Taos (several hours to the north). The northwest corner of New Mexico is part of the sprawling Navajo reservation and there are several different Apache reservations in various parts of the state.
The photos on this page offer only a brief glimpse of the cultural and geographic diversity that is New Mexico. Most of the photos relating to Native Americans have been moved to a separate page.
For photos from a well-known bird sanctuary in New Mexico, check out the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge page. And if you appreciate lowrider automobiles, be sure to check out the photos from the Albuquerque Lowrider Show.