The roots of language in New Mexico run deep. The type of Spanish spoken in 1598 when Juan de Oñate settled New Mexico had many influences. The language included Castilian combined with the different dialects of Spain. Northern New Mexico Spanish is indicative of those dialectical differences. This phenomena is also found in isolated regions in Latin America. Spanish linguistics refers to these phonetic differences as vulgarisms, provincialisms, and colloquialisms.
Mexico’s Main Language
New Mexico’s Spanish language has a link to Mexico. Nahuatl, commonly known as Aztec in the United States, was the language of the dominant tribe of the Valley of Mexico for 400 years prior to the Spanish conquest of 1519. Northern New Mexico Spanish has several dozen Nahuatl terms. Most of these words refer to foods, plants, animals or utensils.
Approximately 300 German words are similar to the Spanish language. Both German and Spanish have Roman influences. Many of the German words that are part of the standard Spanish vocabulary were brought in by Roman settlers, soldiers and colonizers. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the influences of the German vocabulary continued to be spoken.
When the Spanish explorers, colonists and adventurers left Spain the country’s Jewish population followed. They had suffered greatly and were under overwhelming pressure to migrate to the New World. The evidence of their existence in northern New Mexico can be found in the headstones at local cemeteries. The Hebrew names of the Crypto-Jews populate these resting places. The influence of the ancient Hebraic culture is more apparent in the names that exist in northern New Mexico than in other parts of the state.