Spanish influences in the Southwest

The American Southwest is one of the more exciting and diverse areas of America concerning culture, landscape, and history. It is made up of the states of Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and several parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California.

The Hohokam, Mogollon, and Anasazi cultures emerged in the region around 300 B.C. Early ways of life began to change following the arrival of the Spanish at around 1600 A.D.

The Spanish influence in the Southwest saw some positive impact on native cultures as it introduced the use of sheep and horses for transportation, plants, and tools.

Spaniards typically encountered three subsistence types in the Southwest, particularly the nomads, villagers, and farmers or a combination of the three.

The Spaniards identified villagers who are primary descendants from the Anasazi as the Pueblo. The Pueblo established houses made of dried clay that are built to five stories high. They raised beans, squash, maize, and cotton.

Besides the way of living, the Spanish influence was also significant in architecture. In the Southwest region, there is a wide range of unique styles, but each work displays a combination of textures that evolve throughout history.

Moreover, the architectural designs in the Southwest are not only established by the cultures that existed there but also the environment around which they had to design.

More often than not, the Southwestern-style combined the Native American designs and graphics into architecture and ornamentation.

The Spanish Catholics assumed a critical part in developing the culture of the indigenous people in the Southwest as well.

Spain brought the distinctiveness of Baroque architecture with them, particularly in the areas of New Mexico. This led to the evolvement of the unique style known as the Churrigueresque, which is a mixture of Baroque elements.

Churrigueresque combines obelisk-like column pieces, figures, cameos, and floral motifs that served no structural purpose.

Similar to Baroque, this style included distinct curving draped shapes with floret and leave details.

Other than the churrigueresque, the Spanish also brought mission-style architecture in the Southwest, as seen in many building designs today.

The primary characteristic of this style is close ties to the expressions and environment of the values of the people who develop the missions.

Most mission buildings have brick and stone walls with red tile roofs and window designs that included curve tops and quatrefoil shapes.

While the buildings did not have much embellishment, they cover a square wooden post and a porch.

Fun Facts about the Spanish Influences in the Southwest

  • The first exploration through the American Southwest was considered accidental. In 1528, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and three others washed up on the Texas coast and lived with numerous Indian groups, all the while traveling south and west.
  • Forced labor was relatively popular in New Mexico in the early 1600s. It was a way of the Spaniards to gain extreme riches.
  • In 1680, the Pueblo Indians established a confederation known as the Pueblo Indians, which drove out the Spanish in New Mexico. The Pueblo Revolt saw 21 of 33 Franciscans killed and 401 settlers.
  • The oldest surviving documents written in the Southwest are Spanish. This included parish registers in St. Augustine, which is the oldest surviving European settlement in the United States.
  • Millions of Americans live in places established by the Spaniards. These places include San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Fe, El Paso, and San Antonio. At present, many of these places continue to be mainly Hispanic in language, culture, and population.
  • The Mississippi classified the claims of Spain into New Mexico in the Southwest and La Florida in the East.
  • The Pinera Alta is a large part of the Southwest, which is now known as present-day Arizona.
  • Forced labor in New Mexico during the Spanish colonization included silver working, blacksmithing, domestic worker, farm labor, and herding.

Q & A:

When was the first exploration in the Southwest?
The first exploration in the Southwest was in 1528.

What are the states making up the Southwest?
The Southwest is made up of the states of Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and several parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California.

How many Franciscans were killed during the Pueblo Revolt?
About 21 Franciscans were killed in the Pueblo Revolt.

Where is the Pineria Alta located?
The Pinera Alta is now known as the state of Arizona.

Who leads the first exploration in the Southwest?
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca led the first exploration in the Southwest.