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Mexican Economy

In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain. New Spain, which included New Mexico, became the new Republic of Mexico. This brought significant changes to New Mexico’s economy because the Mexican government no longer prohibited outside trade. New Mexicans had long desired more markets and trade goods, and they wanted to trade with the United States.

That year William Becknell left Missouri and rode west on a trading expedition, expecting to barter 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.

In Santa Fe Becknell 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 open for business. Items such as tools, building materials, medicines and cloth were quickly sold. The trail came to be called “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, and merchants began sending their trains south on El Camino to Mexico. Albuquerque prospered from the increased traffic.

One indicator of the increase in trade is a census taken in 1827. Traders in New Mexico numbered 93. Previously there had been few. Albuquerque’s population grew to 2,547, up from 2,302 in1821. Some of Albuquerque’s land barons became traders, adding greatly to their wealth.

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