Early History of Blacks in New Mexico

Estevan de Dorantes was born in Morocco in 1500. The Portuguese enslaved him, and later, sold him to a Spanish nobleman. Estevanico was the first known black person to set foot in the Southwest in 1527. He traveled with Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca to New Spain (the Southwestern part of the U.S. and northern Mexico). Estevanico traveled as the main guide to Marco de Nizo, in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. The Zuni Indians of New Mexico killed Estevanico in 1539.

From the Civil War to Present Day

Since that time African Americans have blended into the fabric of the state’s history. The Buffalo soldiers were a contingent of black men in the Union Army during the Civil War. They became the 9th and 10th cavalries in the region. The mandate of the Buffalo soldiers provided protection from marauding Indians and Mexican revolutionaries. Bandits and cattle rustlers who roamed the territory were also kept in line by the Buffalo soldiers.

Albuquerque’s Mount Olive Baptist Church.

Unlike other parts of the U.S., African Americans remain a minority in New Mexico but their contributions are many. They helped to build this country’s sprawling railway system that crosses through the state. The state’s mining towns benefitted greatly from their cultural and economic contributions. Albuquerque’s African American roots run deep and include the Colored Women’s Social Club and the Mount Olive Baptist Church. Major sports figures like Don Perkins, Michael Cooper and Bob Foster all got their start in the Duke City.

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