The Hispanic-American History Timeline
1610 Don Pedro de Peralta Establishes Santa Fe
Spanish Army officer Don Pedro de Peralta, appointed second governor of New Mexico, arrives at its capital, La Villa de San Gabriel, and decides to move the capital to a new town. He establishes and names Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Replacing Governor Juan de Oñate, who had made many enemies among the natives, Peralta travels to New Mexico with only 12 soldiers and eight Franciscan priests, who are determined to convert the natives to Catholicism. While the missionaries promise the natives that baptism would protect them from deceases, Peralta convinces some 200 San Gabriel settlers that the capital is erroneously located in an area that suffers drought, lacks fertile land, and is also too far from the Pueblo Indian population centers.
Peralta selects an alternative site, with better land and a water good supply, and a surveyor designs the new settlement, which is separated by districts, home and garden plots, and including a downtown area, Santa Fe Plaza, for commerce and government buildings. The Plaza is designed to hold "1,000 people, 5,000 head of sheep, 400 head of horses, and 300 head of cattle without crowding." It features a chapel, a jail, an arsenal, and the governor's headquarters and government offices, the Palace of the Governors, which is built with three-foot-thick adobe walls to protect Spanish authorities from native attacks. It goes on to serve as the New Mexico seat of government for centuries.
Three years after Peralta establishes Santa Fe, a Franciscan friar, Isidro Ordóñez, falsifies documents which give him as much power Peralta, accuses Peralta of mistreating the natives, has Peralta imprisoned and takes temporary control of the New Mexico government. After almost a year in prison, Peralta is allowed to return to Mexico City, where he explains his version of his dispute with Ordóñez and where he is finally vindicated by the Mexican Inquisition. The Inquisition orders Ordóñez to return to Mexico City, and reprimands him. Peralta went on to serve on in various government post in Spanish America, from Mexico to Venezuela.
Today, Peralta rides a horse, with his surveyor standing next him, in a bronze statue called "The Founding of Santa Fe," in the city's Peralta Park. The Santa Fe Plaza is now the heart of downtown Santa Fe. The Palace of the Governors now houses the Museum of New Mexico and is considered to be the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. Both the Palace and the Plaza have been designated National Historic Landmarks.
By Anthony Valero, Lehman College