Beginning in 1493, the Kingdom of Spain maintained a number of missions throughout Nueva España (New Spain, consisting of Mexico and portions of what today are the Southwestern United States) in order to facilitate colonization.
Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, New MexicoThe Spanish Missions in New Mexico comprise a series of religious outposts established primarily by Spanish Catholic Franciscans, to spread the Catholic faith among the local aboriginal people. This produced the added benefit of giving Spain a cultural toehold in the frontier land. The missions introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the Southwest region.
Fray Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan, first saw the area now known as New Mexico in 1539. All the early expeditions into this "New Kingdom of St. Francis", included Franciscan missionaries. Many of them were killed by the Native Americans, once the Spanish soldiers returned to Mexico.
The first permanent settlement was Mission San Gabriel, founded in 1598 by Juan de Oñate near what is now known as the San Juan Pueblo. It was the capital of New Mexico until 1610, when Santa Fe, New Mexico became the capital.
In 1680, the Pueblo Revolt forced the Spanish settlers out of New Mexico. Many of the missions were destroyed. The Spaniards retreated to the area of present-day El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez Mexico. Twelve years later, in 1692, the Spanish reconquered New Mexico.