A Rose by Any Other Name: New Mexico’s Cities

There are 137 cities in the world named Santa Fe. New Mexico’s capital city is the fifth of these cities. It’s the first to receive this name in North American. Our complete name is La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. In English it translates to “The Royal City of Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.” Santa Fe wouldn’t exist as the City of Holy Faith if it weren’t for the longest war in recorded history.

The First Santa Fe

From 718 AD through 1492, the Spanish and the Moors battled over territory and religious dominance. In 1491, following the last Ten-Year War with the Moors, Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand reconquered an area located 12 kilometers south of Granada in Andalucía. Since it had been a crusade of the cross against the Moors, Isabel refused to have the newly constructed town named in her honor, preferring to call it Santa Fe de la Vega.

The Duke City & Beyond…

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, got its name for the viceroy of New Spain. The first r in the name somehow got dropped in New Mexico. In Spain there’s a town named Alburquerque in the region of Badajoz. In 1835 Las Vegas, NM got its name from the early Spanish colonists who described the area with its abundant meadows of grass (las vegas grandes) when they had submitted a petition for a land grant.

The Crosses

Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second largest city, got its name from the early Spanish explorers. Legend has it that marauding Indians ambushed a caravan. Most of the Spanish travelers died during the massacre. A short time later a group of explorers discovered the bodies and buried them on site. But not before having a makeshift funeral service for the victims. Crosses were places on each grave as an enduring reminder of this tragic loss of life. In 1848 Las Cruces (the crosses), began in an area near the graves to honor the victims.

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