Southwestern History

southwestern canyon

History Of The American Southwest

The American Southwest is one of the most geographically diverse regions found in the United States. Its landscape begins at the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains and the Wasatch Range. Then, it descends into breathtaking bluffs and mesas before it empties out on the Rio Grande flatlands. Although the region is noted for its notable differences in elevation, it’s bound together by the picturesque red rock landscapes and the dry climate.

While the American Southwest has more than its fair share of unique natural wonders, three of its most famous and most visited natural attractions are the Arches National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, and the Grand Canyon.

Traditionally, the American Southwest is composed of 8 U.S. states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah and Texas. It is home to an impressive and vibrant mix of Hispanic, Latino, Anglo and American Indian traditions which make the area one of America’s more interesting, diverse and picture-perfect corners in terms of landscape, culture and history.

Early Explorers And Settlers

The early explorers and settlers of the American Southwest were the American Indians who gave the vast region the legacy of a distinctive culture. Additionally, the group learned how to live on the area’s geography and climate.

Attempts to colonize the region were also recorded. The earliest and most expansive ones recorded were those that were executed by the Spanish.

Likewise, the earliest recorded occupation of the American Southwest can be traced before 9,000 B.C. The people who occupied the region established the first agricultural communities and grew beans, squash and maize. Other activities that were dominant in the period include hunting and gathering activities.

The Spanish Legacy

The Spanish, in an attempt to make the American Southwest as an outpost of their empire, built presidios, missions, and towns that have distinctive churches and central plazas. These include the founding of Santa Fe (1610), Albuquerque (1706), Las Trampas (1751), and Taos (1780-1800).

Additionally, the Spanish language remains as a common language in the region. City names such as El Paso, San Antonio and Santa Fe are all inspired by the Spanish.

Historical Sites

The American Southwest is also known to have a number of historical sites. Reminders of the culture of the Native Americans can still be seen throughout New Mexico and Arizona. Other interesting historical places include the Mesa Verde in SW Colorado; Chaco Canyon in NW New Mexico; Canyon de Chelly in NE Arizona; and Taos Pueblo in Taos, New Mexico.