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Settling the Mesilla Valley: 1821 to 1848

Mexican Rule

By the early 1800s, Spain's control of the Americas weakened. Mexico revolted. In 1821, Mexico won independence and control over New Mexico. Unlike the Spanish, the new government allowed outside trade and opened the Camino Real to foreign merchants. William Becknell opened the Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe. In Santa Fe, it connected to the northern part of the old Camino Real, which became known as the Chihuahuan Trail. This Santa Fe trade created a vast new market for American goods and expanded American influence.

Mexican Settlement: Doña Ana

By 1839, the communities at Paso del Norte, Juárez and El Paso, had a combined population of 4,000. Mexico issued new land grants to spur settlement upriver from El Paso. In 1843, thirty-three settlers founded the Doña Ana Bend Colony. This new village was the first Mexican settlement in the Mesilla Valley. The colonists completed the acequia madre, or "mother" irrigation ditch, in time for spring planting.

War with Mexico

Under the idea of Manifest Destiny, Americans viewed westward expansion to the Pacific as a right and a necessity. U.S. attempts to buy western lands from Mexico failed. The U.S. set into motion events that lead to a declaration of war on May 13, 1846. By December, U.S. Army Colonel Alexander Doniphan had moved his troops to Doña Ana. Outnumbered, he marched to meet the Mexican Army in the Battle of Brazito, about 9 miles south of Las Cruces. Despite the odds, the U.S. won the battle in less than an hour.

American Expansion

The U.S.-Mexican war ended in May 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It granted the United States lands from Texas to California. By then, Doña Ana was teeming with Americans claiming rights to undeeded lands. Fearing the loss of their traditional way of life, the villagers appealed to the U.S. government to lay out a separate town for these newcomers.
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