Spain’s U.S. Legacy

The Spanish explorers christened the West long before people who spoke English had ever visited the area.  Many of the names of our most popular cities are a testament to the strong influence of the Catholic Church and the Franciscan missionaries that settled in the western United States. The Spanish missions of California established during the 17th century have turned into large cities. San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Los Angeles and Sacramento began as missions. In 1610 New Mexico’s capital city was christened La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, The Royal City of Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.

It’s All in the Name

Geography also played into the Spanish nomenclature of waterways like the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.  There are many well-known mountain ranges such as Santa Fe’s Sangre de Cristo and the Sierra Nevada in California. Throughout the Southwest the list of Spanish-named locations is mind boggling. In New Mexico several towns, rivers and mountains have names given by the Spanish explorers. In Santa Fe just about every street is named for something in Spanish. It must have been quite a task for our city’s land developers to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers when coming up with Spanish names. It’s no wonder then that there’s a street called Calle Sin Nombre, the street without a name.    

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