The History of New Mexico was first recorded by the Spanish who encountered Native American Pueblos when they explored the area in the 1500s. Since that time, the area has been under the control of Spain, Mexico, and the United States, respectively.
Native American settlements
Human occupation of New Mexico stretches back 10,000 years or more to the Clovis culture of hunter-gatherers who left evidence of their campsites and stone tools. After the invention of agriculture the land was inhabited by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples who built houses out of stone or adobe brisks. They experienced a Golden Age around AD 1000 but climate change led to migration and cultural evolution into the modern Pueblo peoples who lived primarily along the few major rivers of the region. The most important rivers in this region are the Rio Grande, the Pecos, the Canadian, the San Juan, and the Gila. The semi nomadic Athabaskan moved to areas not occupied by Pueblo people by 1200 AD.PREHISTORIC NEW MEXICANS
|CULTURE OR GROUP||TIME||LOCATION FOUND||IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENT|
|Clovis||9200 B.C.||Eastern Plains||Hunted big game|
|Folsom||8200 B.C.||American Southwest||Hunted Big Game|
|Desert Culture I||600 to 2000 B.C.||American Southwest||Hunted small game; gathered seeds. nuts, and berries|
|Desert Culture II||2000 to 500 B.C.||American Southwest||Developed early gardening skills, baskets, and milling stones|
|Mogollon||300 B.C. to A.D. 1150||West-central and southwestern New Mexico||Farmed crops, made pottery, and lived in pit house villages|
|Anasazi: Basketmakers||A.D. 1 to 500||Northwestern New Mexico||Used the atlatl, gathered food, and made fine baskets|
|Modified Basketmaker||A.D. 500 to 700||Northwestern New Mexico||Lived in pit house villages, used the mano and metate, learned pottery-making, and used bows and arrows|
|Developmental Pueblo||A.D. 700 to 1050||Northwestern New Mexico||Built adobe houses, used cotton cloth and infant cradleboards|
|Great Pueblo||A.D. 1050 to 1300||Northwestern New Mexico (Chaco Canyon, Aztec)||Built mulitstories pueblos, practiced irrigation, and laid out road systems|
|Rio Grande Classic||A.D. 1300 to 1600||West-central New Mexico, Rio Grande Vally, Pecos||Abandoned northwestern New Mexico sites, migrated to new areas of settlement, and changed building and pottery style|
Prehistoric Amerindian ruins indicate a presence at modern Santa Fe. Caves in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque contain the remains of some of the earliest inhabitants of the New World. The Pueblo people built a flourishing sedentary culture in the 1200s, constructing small towns in the valley of the Rio Grande and pueblos nearby.
The Spanish encountered Pueblo civilization and elements of the Athabaskans in the 1500s. Cabeza de Vaca in 1535, one of only four survivors of the Panfilo de Narvaez expedition of 1527, tells of hearing Indians talk about fabulous cities somewhere in New Mexico. Fray Marcos de Niza enthusiastically identified these as the fabulously rich Seven Cities of Cíbola, the mythical seven cities of gold. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led a massive expedition to find these cities in 1540–1542. Coronado camped near an excavated pueblo today preserved as Coronado National Memorial in 1541. The Spanish maltreatment of the Pueblo and Athabaskan people that started with their explorations of the upper Rio Grande valley led to hostility that impeded the Spanish conquest of New Mexico for centuries.
The three largest pueblos of New Mexico are Zuni, Santo Domingo, and Laguna.
The major Southern Athabaskans (historically better called Apachean) groups today are generally called Navajo and Apache but they were not unified tribes in the modern sense. Early histories tended to call the different groups of Apaches and Navajos by various names that were not consistent from 1500s to the 1800s. The Navajo and Apache made up the largest non-Pueblo Indian groups. These two tribes lead seminomadic lifestyles and spoke a similar language.
Some experts estimate that the semi nomadic Apachean were in this New Mexico in the 1200s AD. Spanish records indicated they traded with the Pueblos and various bands or tribes participated in the Southwestern Revolt against the Spanish in the 1680s. By the early 1700 the Spanish had to build a series of over 25 forts to protect themselves and subjuctated populations from traditional raiding parties of Athabaskans.
The Navajo, who represent the largest tribe in the United States, live in present-day northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. The Mescalero Apache live east of the Rio Grande. The Jicarilla Apache live west of the Rio Grande. And the Chiricahua Apache lived in southwestern New Mexico until the late 1800's.
Spanish Exploration and Colonization
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado assembled an enormous expedition at Compostela, Mexico in 1540–1542 to explore and find the mystical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola as described by Cabeza de Vaca who had just arrived from his eight-year ordeal traveling from Florida to Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca and three companions were the only survivors of the Panfilo de Narvaez expedition of June 17, 1527 to Florida, losing 80 horses and all the rest of the explorers. These four survivors had spent eight arduous years getting to Sinoloa, Mexico on the Pacific coast and had visited many Indian tribes. Coronado and his supporters sank a fortune in this ill-fated enterprise taking 1300 horses and mules for riding and packing and 100s of head of sheep and cattle as a portable food supply. Coronado's men found several mud baked pueblos in 1541 but found no rich cities of gold. Further wide spread expeditions  found no fabulous cities anywhere in the Southwest or Great Plains. A dispirited and now poor Coronado and his men began their journey back to Mexico leaving New Mexico behind. Probably Coronado's greatest legacy was his loss of several horses and cattle into the plains of America. Doubling in number about every five years these animals grew well in the wild and soon became the precursors of nearly all the horses rode by the Indians 100-150 years later as well as wild herds of Spanish cattle.
Over 50 years after Coronado, Juan de Oñate founded the first Spanish settlement in New Mexico on July 11, 1958. The governor named the settlement San Juan de los Caballeros. This means "San Juan of the Gentlemen". San Juan was in a small valley. Nearby the Chama River flows into the Rio Grande. Oñate pioneered the grandly named El Camino Real, "The Royal Road" as a 700 mile (1,100 km) trail from the rest of New Spain to his remote colony. Oñate was made the first governor of the new Province of New Mexico. The Native Americans at Acoma revolted against this Spanish encroachment but faced severe suppression. In battles with the Acomas, who refused subordination, he lost 11 soldiers and two servants, killed hundreds of Indians and punished 24 with amputation of a foot. The Franciscans found the pueblo people increasingly unwilling to consent to baptism by newcomers who continued to demand food, clothing and labor.
In 1609, Pedro de Peralta, a later governor of the Province of New Mexico, established the settlement of Santa Fe at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As the seat of government of New Mexico since its founding, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States. Peralta built the Palace of the Governors in 1610. Although the colony failed to prosper, some missions survived. Spanish settlers arrived at the site of Albuquerque in the mid-1600s. Missionaries attempted to convert the natives to Christianity but had little success. .
Many of the Pueblo people harbored a latent hostility toward the Spanish, primarily due to their denigration and prohibition of the traditional religion. The traditional economies of the pueblos were likewise disrupted, the people having been forced to labor on the encomiendas of the colonists. Some Pueblo people may have been forced to labor in the mines of Chihuahua. However, the Spanish had introduced new farming implements and provided some measure of security against Navajo and Apache raiding parties. As a result, they lived in relative peace with the Spanish since the founding of the Northern New Mexican colony in 1598.
In the 1670s, drought swept the region, which not only caused famine among the Pueblo, but also provoked increased attacks from neighboring nomadic tribes--attacks against which Spanish soldiers were unable to defend. At the same time, European-introduced diseases were ravaging the natives, greatly decreasing their numbers. Unsatisfied with the protective powers of the Spanish crown and the god of the church it imposed, the people turned to their old gods. This provoked a wave of repression on the part of Franciscan missionaries.
Following his is arrest on a charge of witchcraft and subsequent release, Popé (or Po-pay) planned and orchestrated the Pueblo Revolt. Popé moved to Taos after being freed from Spanish contol and planned a Pueblo war against the Spaniards. Popé dispatched runners to all the Pueblos carrying knotted cords, the knots signifying the number of days remaining until the appointed day for them to rise against the Spaniards in unison.
The day for the attack had been fixed for the August 18 1680 but the Spaniards learned of the revolt after capturing two Tesuque Pueblo youths entrusted with carrying the message to the pueblos. Popé then ordered the execution of the plot on the feast day of Saint Lawrence (San Lorenzo), August 13, before the uprising could be put down.
Knowing that the Spaniards had learned of their plans, the Pueblo Indians began their attack before August 11, 1680. One Spaniard was killed on August 9. The full fury of the revolt then began to be felt on August 10. The attack was commenced by the Taos, Picuris, and Tewa Indians in their respective pueblos. Eighteen Franciscan priests, three lay brothers, and three hundred and eighty Spaniards, counting men, women and children, were killed. Spanish settlers fled to Santa Fe, the only Spanish city, and Isleta Pueblo, one of the few pueblos that didn't participate in the rebellion. Believing themselves the only survivors, the refugees at Isleta left for El Paso on September 15. Meanwhile Popé's insurgents besieged Santa Fe, surrounding the city and cutting off its water supply. New Mexico Governor Antonio de Otermín, barricaded in the Governor’s Palace, called for a general retreat, and on September 21 the Spanish settlers streamed out of the capital city headed for El Paso del Norte.
The Piro Pueblo, along with the Isleta, accompanied the Spanish to El Paso, presumably because they would be seen as Spanish sympathizers. The people of Isleta founded the settlement of Ysleta, and live there to this day.
The retreat of the Spaniards left New Mexico in the power of the Indians. Popé ordered the Indians, under penalty of death, to burn or destroy crosses and other religious imagery, as well as any other vestige of the Roman Catholic religion and Spanish culture, including Spanish livestock and fruit trees. He also forbade the planting of wheat and barley. Popé went so far as to command those Indians who had been married according to the rites of the Catholic church to dismiss their wives and to take others after the old native tradition. Popé set himself up in the Governor’s Palace as ruler of the Pueblos and collected tribute from the each Pueblo until his death in approximately 1688.
Following their success, the different Pueblo tribes, separated by hundreds of miles and six different languages, quarreled as to who would occupy Santa Fe and rule over the country. These power struggles, combined with raids from nomadic tribes and a seven year drought, weakened the Pueblo resolve and set the stage for a Spanish reconquest.
In July of 1692, Diego de Vargas returned to Santa Fe. De Vargas surrounded the city before dawn and called on the Indians to surrender, promising clemency if they would swear allegiance to the King of Spain and return to the Christian faith. The Indian leaders gathered in Santa Fe, met with De Vargas, and agreed to peace. On September 14 1692, de Vargas proclaimed a formal act of repossession.
While developing Santa Fe as a trade center, the returning settlers founded the old town of Albuquerque in 1706, naming for the viceroy of New Spain, the Duke of Albuquerque. Prior to its founding, Albuquerque consisted of several haciendas and communities along the lower Rio Grande. They constructed the Church of San Felipe de Nerí (1706). The thorough development of ranching and some farming in the 1700s laid the foundations for the state's still-flourishing Hispanic culture.
De Vargas’ repossession of New Mexico is often called a "bloodless reconquest." However, de Vargas mounted several military campaigns against the Pueblo peoples in the years that followed in an attempt to maintain the peace. For instance, a Second Pueblo Revolt was attempted in 1696, resulting in the death of five missionaries and twenty-one Spaniards, but was effectively thwarted. By the end of the century, the Spanish reconquest was essentially complete.
While their independence from the Spaniards was short-lived, the Pueblo Revolt granted the Pueblo Indians a measure of freedom from future Spanish efforts to eradicate their culture and religion following the reconquest. Moreover, the Spanish issued substantial land grants to each Pueblo and appointed a public defender to protect the rights of the Indians and argue their legal cases in the Spanish courts.
The southwestern Indians as they gradually became mounted on Spanish horses by catching feral horses in the beginning started raiding Spanish ranches and stealing horses from Spanish missions in New Mexico. By trade and raid the Indian horse culture quickly spread throughout all of western America. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was the beginning of another large numbers of horses falling into Indian hands. By mid-1700, a few Indians as far away as Canada were making forays deep into the Spanish southwest, stealing horses and driving them back to Canada. In this manner the Spanish horse was gradually dispersed from tribe to tribe by trade or theft until nearly all the Indian tribes west of the Mississippi river in North America that could support horses were mounted on horses brought to the New World by the Spaniards. The Lewis and Clark expedition traded with the Indians for some of the offspring of these horses in 1803 and 1804. The geographically isolated tribes in California would not see horses or cattle until introduced by the Spanish settlers and missionaries in the 1780s.
Sent out in 1806, Pike's orders were to find the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red rivers. He was to explore the southwestern part of the land called Louisiana. In 1807 Lt. Zebulon Pike, exploring for the U.S. government the Louisiana Purchase led an expedition to Santa Fe where he was briefly detained before returning through Texas.
Jedediah Smith was a mountain man and explorer starting in 1822. He probably explored more of the West and Southwest than any other man. He mapped out most of the so called Old Spanish Trail. He is believed to be the first white man to cross Nevada's Great Basin, the first to traverse Utah from north to south and from west to east; the first American to enter California by one overland route and leave by still another.
Kit Carson left home in 1826 by joining a wagon train heading west to Santa Fe. Between 1828 and 1840, Carson used Taos as a base camp for many fur-trapping expeditions throughout the mountains of the West, from California's Sierra Nevadas to the Colorado Rockies. He gained renown for his honesty, courage and unassuming manner. According to one acquaintance, his "word was as sure as the sun comin' up." In 1842 Carson happened to meet John C. Fremont on a Missouri riverboat. Fremont hired Carson as guide for his first expedition to map and describe Western trails to the Pacific Ocean. After returning to Taos from California in 1843, Carson married his third wife, Maria Josefa Jaramillothen.
Over the next few years, Carson's service guiding Fremont across the deserts and mountains of the American West -- documented in Fremont's widely-read reports of his expeditions -- made Kit Carson a national hero.
Napoleon Bonaparte of France sold the vast unsettled and undeveloped Louisiana Purchase, which extended into the northeastern corner of New Mexico, to the United States in 1803. As a part of New Spain, the claims for the remainder of the province of New Mexico passed to independent Mexico following the 1810-1821 Mexican War of Independence. During the brief 26 year period of nominal Mexican control Mexican authority and investment in New Mexico were weak as their often conflicted government had little time or interest in a New Mexico that had been poor since the Spanish settlements started. Some Mexican officials, saying they were wary of encroachments by the growing United States, and wanting to reward themselves and their friends began issuing enormous land grants (usually free) to groups of Mexican families as an incentive to populate the province.
Small trapping parties from the United States had previously reached and stayed in Santa Fe, but the Spanish authorities officially forbade them to trade. Trader William Becknell returned to the United States in November 1821 with news that independent Mexico now welcomed trade through Santa Fe.
William Becknell left Independence, for Santa Fe early in 1822 with the first party of traders. The Santa Fe Trail trading company headed by the brothers Charles Bent and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, was one of the most successful in the West. They had their first trading post in the area in 1826 and by 1833 they had built their adobe fort and trading post called Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River. This fort and trading post, located about 200 miles east of Taos New Mexico, was the only place settled by Whites along the Santa Fe trail before it hit Taos. Ceran St. Vrain run branches of their business in Taos and Santa Fe. Wagon caravans of up to 400+ wagons, grouped for protection, thereafter made the 40 to 60-day annual trek along the 780 mile (1,260 km) Santa Fe Trail, usually leaving in early spring and returning after a 4 to 5 week stay in New Mexico. The trail divided into Mountain and Cimarron Divisions southwest of Dodge City. The rugged Mountain Division passed over Raton Pass and rejoined the more direct Cimarron Division near Fort Union. The dry southern Cimarron route offered poor short grass and little wildlife. The Santa Fe National Historic Trail follows the route of the old trail, with many sites marked or restored.
The Spanish Trail from Los Angeles California to Santa Fe, New Mexico was primarily used by Hispanos, white traders and ex-trappers living part of the year in or near Santa Fe. Started in about 1829 the trail was an arduous 2400 mile round trip pack train sojourn that extended into Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California and back allowing only one hard round trip per year. The trade consisted primarily of blankets and some trade goods from Santa Fe being traded for horses in California. Since the horses grew nearly wild in California and had almost no market there they were cheaply traded. The trail had many parts where water could not be obtained for several days and was littered in many sections with the bones of animals that had died along the way. Mountain men like Peg Leg Smith drove thousands of Spanish horses and mules (often rustled) over the Spanish Trail to Santa Fe, Taos and Bents Fort.
The Republic of Texas claimed the mostly vacant territory north and east of the Rio Grande when it successfully seceded from Mexico in 1836. New Mexico authorities captured a group of Texans who embarked an expedition to assert their claim to the province in 1841.
United States control
American General Stephen W. Kearny and his army of 300 cavalry men of the First Dragoons, about 1600 Missouri volunteers in the First and Second Regiments of Fort Leavenworth, Missouri Mounted Cavalry and the 500 man Mormon Battalion marched down the Santa Fe Trail and entered Santa Fe without opposition in 1846 during the Mexican-American War. Kearny established a joint civil and military government with Charles Bent, a Santa Fe trail trader living in Taos, as acting civil governor. He then divided his forces into four commands: one, under Colonel Sterling Price, appointed military governor, was to occupy and maintain order in New Mexico with his approximate 800 men; a second group under Colonel Alexander William Doniphan, with a little over 800 men was ordered to capture El Paso, Chihuahua Mexico and then join up with General Wool ; the third of about 300 dragoons mounted on mules, under his own command, headed for California. The Mormon Battalion, mostly marching on foot, under Lt. Col. Phillip St. George Cooke was instructed to follow Kearny with wagons to establish a new southern route to California. Almost 200 of Kearney's dragoons were sent back to New Mexico when Kearny encountered Kit Carson, traveling East, who was bearing messages that California had already been subdued. In California about 400 men of the California Battalion under John C. Fremont and another 400 men under Commodore Robert Stockton of the U.S. Navy and Marines were in control of the approximate 7,000 Californios from San Diego to Sacramento. New Mexico territory, which then included present-day Arizona, was under undisputed United States control. The exact boundary with Texas was uncertain. Texas initially claimed all land North of the Rio Grande; but later agreed to the present boundaries. Kearny also protected citizens under a form of martial law called the Kearny Code, essentially Kearny and the U.S. army's promise that religious and legal claims would be respected by the United States and law and order maintained. The Kearny Code became one of the bases of New Mexico's legal code during its territorial period, one of the longest in United States history.
Kearny's entrance into New Mexico was essentially without conflict as the Mexican authorities took all the money they could find and retreated into southern Mexico. After Kearny's departure, a skirmish called the rebellion broke out in the pueblo of Taos. The Taos rebels, nearly all Peublo Indians, ambushed and killed acting Governor Charles Bent and about ten other Americans or so living in the town on January 19, 1847. Reacting quickly, a U.S. detachment under Colonel Sterling Price marched on Taos and attacked the rebels who retreated to a strongly built church. Concentrated cannon fire upon the church killed about 150 rebels and led to the capture of 400 more. Six rebel leaders were arraigned, tried and, on February 9, 1847 hanged for their role in the Taos Revolt. Price fought two more engagements with rebels, which included many Pueblo Indians, and by mid-February had the revolt well under control. President Polk promoted Price to a brevet rank of Brigadier General for his sterling service. Casualties totaled more than 300 rebels killed and about thirty "Anglos," as American troops and settlers were often called.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, Mexico ceded much of its mostly unsettled northern holdings, today known as the American Southwest and California to the United States of America in exchange for an end to hostilities, the evacuation of Mexico City and many other areas under American control. Texas was also regocnized as a part of the United States under this treaty. Mexico also received $15 million cash, plus the assumption of slightly more than $3 million in outstanding Mexican debts. New Mexico, the name given to the territory between Texas and California, technically met the population criteria to become a state. But congress declined to make them a state. The Senate also struck out Article X of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which said that vast land grants in New Mexico (nearly always gifts by the local authorities to their friends) would all be recognized. The decision to strike down Article X remains an unpopular one, especially in some of the region's Hispanic communities, as it eventually led to millions of acres of land, timber, and water being removed from Mexican-issued land grants and placed back in the public domain. Spanish-issued land grants, including those made to the Pueblos, have nearly all been respected as legitimate.
The Congressional Compromise of 1850 halted a bid for statehood under a proposed antislavery constitution. Texas transferred eastern New Mexico to the federal government, settling a lengthy boundary dispute. Under the compromise, the American government established the New Mexico Territory on September 9, 1850. The territory, which included all of Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado, officially established its capital at Santa Fe in 1851. The U.S. territorial New Mexico census of 1850 found 61,547 people living in all the territory of New Mexico. The people of New Mexico would determine whether to permit slavery under a proposed constitution at statehood, but the status of slavery during the territorial period provoked considerable debate. The granting of statehood was up to a Congress sharply divided on the slavery issue. Some (including Stephen A. Douglas) maintained that the territory could not restrict slavery, as under the earlier Missouri Compromise, while others (including Abraham Lincoln) insisted that older Mexican legal traditions, which forbade slavery, took precedence. Regardless of its official status, slavery was rarely seen in New Mexico. Statehood was finally granted to New Mexico on January 6, 1912.
Navajo and Apache raids and plundering led Kit Carson to abandon his intent to retire to a sheep ranch near Taos after the Mexican American War. Carson accepted an 1853 appointment as U.S. Indian agent with a headquarters at Taos, and fought the Indians with notable success.
The United States acquired the southwestern boot heel of the state and southern Arizona below the Gila river in the mostly desert Gadsden Purchase of 1853. This purchase was desired when it was found that a much easier route for a proposed transcontinental railroad was located slightly south of the Gila river. This territory had not been explored or mapped when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was negotiated in 1848. The ever present Santa Anna was in power again in 1853 and needed the money from the Gadsden Purchase to fill his coffers and to pay the Mexican Army for that year. The Southern Pacific built the second transcontinental railroad though this purchased land in 1881.
During the American Civil War, Confederate troops from Texas briefly occupied southern New Mexico. Union troops re-captured the territory in early 1862. During the Civil War as Union troops were withdrawn to fight elsewhere Kit Carson helped to organize and command the 1st New Mexican Volunteers to engage in campaigns against the Apache, Navajo, and Comanche in New Mexico and Texas as well as participating in the Battle of Valverde against the confederates. Confederate troops withdrew after the Battle of Glorieta Pass where Union regulars, Colorado Volunteers (The Pikes Peakers), and New Mexican Volunteers defeated them. The Arizona Territory was split off as a separate territory in 1863.
The Roman Catholic Church established an archbishopric center in Santa Fe in 1875. The Santa Fe Railroad reached Lamy, 16 miles (26 km) from Santa Fe in 1879 and Santa Fe itself in 1880, replacing the storied Santa Fe Trail. The new town of Albuquerque, platted in 1880 as the Santa Fe Railroad extended westward, quickly enveloped the old town.
The railway encouraged the great cattle boom of the 1880s and the development of accompanying cow towns. Cattlemen feuded between each other and with authorities, most notably in the Lincoln County War. Outlaws included Billy the Kid. The cattle barons could not keep out sheepherders, and eventually homesteaders and squatters overwhelmed the cattlemen by fencing in and plowing under the "sea of grass" on which the cattle fed. Conflicting land claims led to bitter quarrels among the original Spanish inhabitants, cattle ranchers, and newer homesteaders. Despite destructive overgrazing, ranching survived as a mainstay of the New Mexican economy.
Centuries of continued conflict with the Apache and the Navajo plagued the territory. The Long Walk of the Navajo, also called the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo in 1860-61 harshly repressed the Navajo but did put an end to their raiding. The Navajo returned to most of their lands in 1868. Sporadic Apache raiding continued until Apache chief Geronimo finally surrendered in 1886.
Albuquerque, on the upper Rio Grande, was incorporated in 1889.
The United States Congress admitted New Mexico as the 47th state in the Union on January 6, 1912. The admission of the neighboring State of Arizona on February 14, 1912 completed the contiguous 48 states.
The United States government built the Los Alamos Research Center in 1943 amid the Second World War. Top-secret personnel there developed the atomic bomb, first detonated at Trinity site in the desert on the White Sands Proving Grounds vaguely near Alamogordo on July 16, 1945.
Albuquerque expanded rapidly after the war. High-altitude experiments near Roswell in 1947 reputedly led to persistent (unproven) claims by a few that the government captured and concealed extraterrestrial corpses and equipment. The state quickly emerged as a leader in nuclear, solar, and geothermal energy research and development. The Sandia National Laboratories, founded in 1949, carried out nuclear research and special weapons development at Kirtland Air Force Base south of Albuquerque and at Livermore.
Located in the remote Chihuahuan Desert the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad. Here nuclear wastes are buried deep in carved out salt formation disposal rooms mined 2,150 feet underground in a 2,000-foot thick salt formation that has been stable for more than 200 million years. WIPP began operations on March 26, 1999.
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