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Mexican Republic Transportation
Transportation, Mexican Republic, 1821-1846

After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the northern portion of El Camino, the Royal Road, between Chihuahua and Santa Fe became the Chihuahua Trail.

More importantly, a new trail opened to the United States.

Americans had long wanted to trade with Santa Fe and the Spanish province of New Mexico, but Spain wouldn’t allow it.

In 1821 William Becknell, motivated by his debts in Franklin, Missouri, departed on a trading expedition. He intended to trade with trappers and Indians. On the way, he and his companions encountered Spanish dragoons. Expecting to be jailed, he learned instead that Mexico was now free of Spain; the soldiers encouraged Becknell to go to Santa Fe instead.

There he – and his trade goods – were warmly received. His profits inspired him to try again. A year later, with three ox-drawn wagons, Becknell forged a shortcut, called the Cimarron Cutoff. He and his men nearly died on the arid route, but it became the most popular route between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe. He was again successful, even selling his wagons at a steep profit.

So began the Santa Fe Trail. New Mexico was now connected to the outside world, and it was open for business. The trail would carry hundreds of traders and prospectors into New Mexico but not many settlers. It came to be called, appropriately, “The Great Commerce Road.”

When Santa Fe gained access to trade, so did Albuquerque, as goods now moved south on El Camino. By 1830 trade was booming. The Santa Fe Trail also provided better access to Mexico, and often merchants sent their trains south on El Camino without unloading in Santa Fe.

Despite its use, the trail didn’t guarantee an easy journey. Travelers were at the mercy of hostile Indians, prairie fires, flooding rivers, blizzards, heat and thirst.

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