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The Robinson Library >> New Mexico
Santa Fe

the oldest capital city in North America

Santa Fe Central Plaza
Santa Fe Central Plaza


Pueblo Indians had been living in what is now the Santa Fe area for hundreds of years before Francisco Vásquez de Coronado claimed the "Kingdom of New Mexico" for Spain in 1540. Juan de Oñate became the first Governor-General of New Mexico in 1598, and established his capital at San Juan Pueblo, about 25 miles north of Santa Fe, that same year. Pedro de Peralta replaced him in 1609, and moved the capital to a settlement he called La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco (The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis) the following year.

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Santa Fe became the capital of the province of New Mexico. The city became a center for trade with the United States after William Becknell made it the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, and American settlers began arriving in the area soon after.

On August 18, 1846, in the early days of the Mexican-American War, Santa Fe became the first foreign capital to be captured by the United States when General Stephen Watts Kearny entered the city and raised the American flag over the Plaza. New Mexico was ceded to the United States via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and Santa Fe became the capital of the Territory of New Mexico. It became the capital of the State of New Mexico in 1912.


Tourism and government are the principal industries in Santa Fe, with trade-related services also being important contributors.


Santa Fe has a mayor-council form of government, with two council members elected from each of four districts. Day-to-day operations are overseen by a City Manager.


Santa Fe is the home of the College of Santa Fe and a branch of St. John's College of Annapolis, Maryland.

Sites and Attractions

Santa Fe has been a haven for artists for decades, and the city is home to many art galleries and museums, including the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Crafts, and the Museum of International Folk Art. Outdoor sculptures are found throughout the city.

The performing arts have also long been an important part of Santa Fe life, and the city is home to an opera company, a professional ballet company, an institute dedicated to Flamenco dancing, and the National Dance Institute of New Mexico.

Not surprisingly, Santa Fe is also home to several historical sites and museums, including the Palace of the Governors, built as the capitol of Spanish New Mexico in 1610 and now the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States.

Other Information

Situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at about 6,950 feet above sea level, Santa Fe is the highest state capital in the United States.

City of Santa Fe
Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce
Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Juan de Oñate
Mexican-American War
Stephen Watts Kearny

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The Robinson Library >> New Mexico

This page was last updated on June 24, 2018.