Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara
I'm Steve Ember. This week on our program, we take you to a city in the
American Southwest: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
We begin at the Santa Fe Trail, or what remains of it. The
ground still shows the path cut deep into the earth by the wheels of thousands
of wagons. The Santa Fe Trail began in the state of Missouri, the nineteenth
century gateway to the wild and largely unexplored West. The trail ended about
one thousand two hundred kilometers away, in Santa Fe.
traveled the Santa Fe Trail from eighteen twenty-two until a railroad replaced
it in eighteen seventy-nine. No one kept a total. But records from eighteen
fifty-eight show that as many as one thousand eight hundred wagons made the
trip that year.
The Santa Fe Trail was an important
international trade route. It carried goods south into Mexico and north into
the United States. But traders were not the only ones who traveled it.
government officials, hunters, gold seekers, soldiers and American Indians all used
the trail. So did storekeepers, hotel workers, lawyers, blacksmiths -- all the
people needed to expand the young nation. They found places to live and work
along the trail.
National Park Service says that in eighteen twenty-two, trade along the Santa
Fe Trail totaled fifteen thousand dollars. By eighteen sixty, it was more than
three million. Today that would be worth fifty-three million dollars.
The Santa Fe Trail dates back to
eighteen twenty-one. A businessman named William Becknell believed he could
earn a lot of money by moving trade goods from Missouri to Santa Fe. He was
He began his first trip in September of eighteen
twenty-one. He carried his goods on the backs on mules. He reached the center of
Santa Fe in November. The next year he used wagons so he could carry more goods
twenty-one was also an important year in the history of Mexico. That was the
year Mexicans got their independence after years of revolt against Spanish
rule. Spain had protected Mexico's borders with laws barring trade with the
United States. With the coming of Mexican independence, the Santa Fe Trail became
the major trade link between the two countries.
American Indians have lived in the Southwest for
thousands of years. The area surrounding the Santa Fe Trail included the
hunting grounds of the Cheyenne, the Kiowa, the Comanche, the Arapaho and the
Apache. It was also the homeland of the Osage, the Kaw, the Ute and the Pueblo
Early relations between the Indians and
the settlers moving West were mostly peaceful. But misunderstandings and
conflicting values led to violence as more people came. Mexican and American
troops rode with the wagons to provide protection.
Wagon trains -- groups of wagons -- rode in four lines
across the land when they passed through dangerous country. If attacked, the
wagons could quickly form a circle for defense.
wagon train included twenty-five to thirty-five wagons pulled by oxen. They
traveled about twenty-four kilometers a day. The trip in each direction could
take fifty days or more.
were faster. For example, in eighteen fifty-seven a stagecoach pulled by six
mules took twenty to twenty-five days to travel from Independence, Missouri, to
Santa Fe. The distance was one thousand two hundred kilometers. Later, a
stagecoach could make the trip in thirteen to fourteen days by moving day and
night and changing animals often.
Whichever kind of animal pulled the wagons, moving
along the Santa Fe Trail was generally unexciting. Travelers mostly had to deal
with mud, dust, insects and heat. But there was the danger not just of attacks
but also floods, fires, winds and storms.
result of the continued expansion of United States territory was the
Mexican-American war. It began in eighteen forty-six. A force known as the Army
of the West used the Santa Fe Trail to protect American traders. It also used
the trail to take control of an area that is now New Mexico and part of
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American war in eighteen
forty-eight. It gave the United States nearly all of what is today the states
of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
government built a series of bases in the New Mexico territory to protect the
settlers and goods moving along the Santa Fe Trail. The largest was Fort Union,
about one hundred twenty kilometers from Santa Fe.
The area of the Santa Fe Trail
around Fort Union was also involved in the American Civil War. By
eighteen-sixty-two, the trail was the main supply line for Union forces in the Southwest.
Confederate forces moved into New
Mexico from Texas. They wanted to seize the territory and Fort Union in an
effort to find paths to the Pacific Ocean and to the gold fields of Colorado. But
they never reached the fort.
Union forces defeated them on the Santa Fe Trail at Glorietta
Pass in New Mexico. The battle secured control of the supply line for Union
forces. It also ended Civil War activity in the Southwest.
Today, Fort Union is preserved by
the National Park Service as an outdoor museum on the Santa Fe Trail. Visitors
can explore the ruins of the buildings and the ruts made by wagons. And they
can follow the path of the trail over a modern highway. A stone marker shows the
spot where the Santa Fe Trail ended in the city's historic central plaza.
New Mexico became the forty-seventh state in January of
nineteen twelve. But Santa Fe has a longer history of serving as a capital city
than any of the other capitals of the fifty states.
Fe was the capital of the Spanish kingdom of New Mexico beginning in sixteen ten.
It was the capital of the province of Nuevo Mexico when Mexico became
independent. And it was the capital of the New Mexico territory before the
territory became a state.
The seat of government in Santa Fe for
the Spanish, the Mexicans and the American territory was a building called the
Palace of the Governors.
Palace of the Governors on the central plaza is the oldest continually occupied
public building in the country. Today it houses the state history museum. Local
Indians sell jewelry and other handmade goods along the front of the building.
of the buildings in Santa Fe are low and earth colored, a mixture of Spanish
and native styles. These buildings are made of adobe brick. Adobe is sun-dried
earth and straw.
Fe means "Holy Faith" in Spanish. All around is mountains and desert.
The city is more than two thousand meters above sea level, near the southern Rocky
Mountains in northern New Mexico. Magazines in recent years have listed Santa
Fe among the best places to live in the United States.
Santa Fe is known especially for art. More than two
hundred fifty galleries and dealers make it one of the largest art markets in
the country. In two thousand five Santa Fe was named a UNESCO Creative City --
the first American city to get that honor.
City officials estimate the population at
seventy thousand. The United States Census Bureau says two percent are American
Indian and about half are Hispanic or Latino.
The two biggest employers
in the area are government and the hotel and food service industry.
Each year more than one million people visit Santa Fe. But,
like many places affected by the recession, the numbers were down in two
thousand eight. A city report says economic activity last year totaled almost
three billion dollars, a four percent decrease from two thousand seven.
report says spending remains flat or in decline in the local economy. A spokesman
for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Steve Lewis, says economic activity
last month was down five percent from February of last year. He says hotels have
been reporting cancellations, which is rare for Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is preparing to
celebrate its four hundredth anniversary. Sixteen ten was when it became the
capital of Spanish New Mexico. Activities will start this September over the Labor
Day holiday weekend. Three nights of concerts are planned. Leaders from Spain,
Mexico and the United States have been invited, along with American Indian
The celebration will continue through two thousand ten.
Organizers say they need all that time to include all that needs to be
remembered about the history of Santa Fe.
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara
I'm Steve Ember. Be sure to join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA