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Early Spanish Transportation and Communication
Early Spanish Transportation and Communication
In 1598 Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar set out from Santa Barbara, near present-day Chihuahua, Mexico with 600 settlers. Their destination was el tierra adentro, the interior land. After 3 months they reached the Indian Pueblo they named San Juan. It was the first European community west of the Mississippi.

The 1,500-mile route Oñate traversed between Chihuahua and Santa Fe came to be called El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or the Royal Road to the Interior. For 300 years it was the lifeline between the frontier and Mexico, and over it passed governors, settlers, priests, and the occasional merchant. It also became a conduit for language, culture, religion and trade.

The horse initially gave Spaniards an advantage over others in the New World. But not everybody owned a horse, and those who didn’t traveled in carros or by foot. Carros were four-wheeled wagons commercially made for traveling long distances from central Mexico to the northernmost frontiers of New Mexico.

About every three years supply caravans made use of carros coming to New Mexico. Merchants brought scarce manufactured goods to New Mexico and returned with piñon nuts, buckskin and woven cloth. Another locally made version of the carro was the carreta, a smaller, two-wheeled version of the carro used for travel within New Mexico.

During the Spanish colonial period, communication between Mexico and Europe was often faster and more frequent than news between Mexico City and New Mexico. As a result, New Mexico was an isolated place. However, communication within the province took place along these trails. Scouts and traders exchanged goods and conveyed news. They also communicated by marking on rocks and trees. The most famous example is Inscription Rock at El Morro, New Mexico.

For Spaniards, the most important form of communication was the written word. They were meticulous at recording everything they did. Scribes who documented everything went along on early colonizing expeditions. Many wrote in personal journals and sent letters back home. There were also records of expeditions that included inventories of every person present and descriptions of the towns and the area.

Also important were the cartographers who accompanied many expeditions. Maps communicated where they went, and where they were going. A map could also illustrate the land that until then were unknown.

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