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Nuevo (New) Mexico: 1821-26

With the turmoil in Mexico around the time of independence, Mexico City left the missions at Tumacacori and San Xavier del Bac in western New Mexico (Arizona) exposed to Apaches, and these settlements had to be abandoned. The main town in New Mexico, Santa Fe, continued to thrive.

Mexico's independence and its lifting of Spain's restrictions on trade with non-Spaniards coincided with the development of trade along the Santa Fe trail – which began as a passageway by traders from Franklin, Missouri, in 1821. Merchants in Missouri began sending manufactured goods to Santa Fe in exchange for furs and other Mexican or Indian goods, and Mexican caravans journeyed the 800 miles from Santa Fe to Missouri. Santa Fe had changed from a sleepy town of priests, a few soldiers and some Indians into a frontier town of commerce, with whitewashed adobe structures, gambling halls, prostitutes, numerous small churches, a grand cathedral, a customs house and a hotel. According to an observer from Kentucky, the cathedral had fine altar vessels and Indians near Santa Fe were wearing hand-woven cotton garments and coral or turquoise jewelry.

Mexico's liberal policy toward migration applied also to New Mexico, and a few trappers for beaver for men's hats drifted in, joining the Hispanics and Indians there. In 1824 the Bent brothers from Virginia built a trading post where the Arkansas and Purgatoire Rivers met – to become Bent's Fort – then a part of New Mexico territory, in what today is Colorado. In 1826 a fourteen-year-old saddle-maker's apprentice, Kit Carson, ran away from Missouri and arrived in New Mexico.

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