Situation and characteristics
Santa Fe, capital of the state of New Mexico, lies on a tributary of the Rio Grande on the southwestern slopes of the very beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The town gains its particular atmosphere from the mingling of Indian, Spanish/Mexican and Anglo-American cultural influences. Its picturesque streets and lanes, low adobe houses, beautiful churches of the Spanish colonial period and profusion of Indian arts and crafts and contemporary art, combined with its agreeable dry mountain climate, have long attracted visitors. In the forest-covered mountain country round the town, where some mines are still being worked, there are a number of very attractive and interesting Indian pueblos.
During the last twenty years, too, excellent winter sports facilities have been developed in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
In 1542 the first Spaniards to come here found a populous Indian village. In 1609 they founded a town which became the religious and administrative center of the province of New Mexico. In 1680 the Spaniards were driven out by the Indians, but returned twelve years later. After Mexico broke away from Spain in 1821 Santa Fe remained capital of New Mexico and built up a lively trade with the Americans. The principal transport route was the Santa Fe Trail, which ran through the valley of the Rio Grande to reach the Missouri at Kansas City. Another important route was the Old Spanish Trail, which led to Los Angeles in California. In 1846, during the Spanish-Mexican War, Santa Fe fell to the United States without any serious fighting and later became capital of the U.S. territory of New Mexico. In 1862 the town fell briefly into the hands of the Confederates. The economy of the town and surrounding area was given a boost by the opening of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880.