Under the Spanish flag Santa Fe managed to eke out an existence. Traders, trappers, and farmers came through town to sell their goods. It wasn’t until after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and trade opened with the United States that commerce established a foothold in the capital city. William Becknell, known as the father of the Santa Fe Trail, arrived in Santa Fe shortly after Mexican independence. Having established the trade route from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, he received a warm welcome from its citizens. After years of isolation, Santa Fe was being introduced to people and merchandise they never knew existed. Initially only a few wagons made the journey, which took a month to complete, but by 1835, 75 wagons hauled an estimated $140,000 in goods. By 1843 the value of goods had risen to $250,000, and by 1855 the annual haul was about a half million dollars.
Las Vegas Becomes a Trading Hub
Santa Fe was not the only community in New Mexico to benefit from the new trade route. In 1826 the community of Las Vegas, 66 miles from Santa Fe, had also established a thriving business community. Hispanic merchants like Miguel Romero and his sons brought merchandise west over the trail. They quickly opened stores, and Las Vegas also became a major trading hub in the southwest.