Disease in New Mexico

The latest threat from Covid is the Omicrom variant. In the early days no one knew about the arrival of a disease until it was already entrenched in the population. The Native population in North America numbered between 2 and 18 million. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 and everything changed rapidly. In New Mexico from 1620 to 1680 the population of the Indian Pueblos was decimated. The demise of the Native population was a byproduct of this nation’s first European settlement in New Mexico. As one of the earliest points of contact in the United States it became ground zero.

Disease & Demise

The Spanish colonists brought livestock and tools to the region. They also introduced Old World diseases to the unsuspecting native population. Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards the Indians did not suffer from smallpox, measles, chickenpox, influenza, or other maladies common in Europe. Virtually 95 percent of the Native American population dwindled in the first 150 years following 1492. In 1780 through 1782 a smallpox epidemic wiped out 50 percent of the Pueblo population of northern New Mexico. The following century outbreaks of cholera gravely afflicted the region due to lack of sufficient sanitation systems.

Worldwide Influenza 1918

In the early part of the 20th century the 1918 worldwide influenza killed twenty million people. The wrath of this epidemic did not discriminate. From New Mexico’s largest city of Albuquerque, to the villages in the north, people suffered. Schools, public buildings and churches all closed. There were no funerals for the dead. Men with cloths wrapped around their faces came for those who had died. The large number of deaths led to a shortage of coffins. The communities had to resort to mass burials. When winter came the illness had finally run its course with people believing that the snow that had killed the virus.

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