New Mexico

As one the last American frontier territories to be settled, New Mexico offered opportunities for better lives to a wide variety of immigrants from throughout the world during the nineteenth century. After becoming a state in 1912, New Mexico developed into an area in which immigrants have been able to integrate into the community while still preserving their cultural heritages.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, immigrants from both Asia and Europe joined large numbers of immigrants from Mexico to New Mexico. New Mexico shares a long border with Mexico, which it had been part of until the United States won the Mexican War in 1848. The most numerous European groups were German immigrants;New MexicoGermans, including significant numbers of German Jews, through both centuries; Italians came during the nineteenth century and Spaniards during the twentieth.New MexicoNew Mexico[cat]MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS;New Mexico[03850][cat]STATES;New Mexico[03850]

The first German immigrants in New Mexico were Jewish immigrants;New MexicoJewish merchants and traders who had pushed west to sell their wares along the Santa Fe TrailSanta Fe Trail. They opened stores in the towns that developed along the trail and soon arranged for additional family members to follow them to New Mexico. German Lutherans started immigrating during the 1880’s; most of them settled in and around Albuquerque, to which they encouraged other Germans to come. The next significant wave of Germans came after World War II, when many Scientists;German immigrantsGerman scientists worked at the state’s White Sands Missile Range. The German immigrants readily assimilated to the life and culture of New Mexico, particularly during the war years when anti-German sentiment was strong throughout the United States.

Italian immigrants began arriving in Albuquerque at the same time as the railroad. These immigrants found success in all types of business ventures and particularly in construction trades. During the twentieth century, a small number of Spanish immigrants;New MexicoSpanish immigrants came to New Mexico. Many of them became affiliated with the Cervantes Institute, which promotes Spanish culture and heritage in the state.

New Mexico’s Asian communities are mostly concentrated in Albuquerque. The first Asians to arrive were Chinese and Japanese laborers who came during the late nineteenth century. Many of them worked on the railroads. Not fully accepted into the life of the city, they established their own communities and built businesses that served their own people. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, Albuquerque’s Asian community was augmented by the arrival of about 3,000 Vietnamese immigrants;New MexicoVietnamese immigrants. Like the other Asians who had preceded them, they established their own restaurants and shops.

Around the turn of the twenty-first century, New Mexico’s Asian population became even more diversified as Korean immigrants;New MexicoKoreans and Filipino immigrants;New MexicoFilipinos began settling in the state. By this time, Asians were fully integrated into the life of Albuquerque, where they found opportunities in all sectors of business and the professions. Asian professionals include engineers, physicians, university professors, and information technology specialists. The culture of the various Asian communities has also become an important part of New Mexico’s lifestyle. Asian restaurants and groceries are found throughout Albuquerque. Culture centers and ethnic festivals not only maintain Asian traditions but also have made them part of the culture of New Mexico.

Despite the important contributions of European and Asian immigrants, the strongest cultural influences in New Mexico are Mexican. The state’s large Mexican American community includes families who trace their ancestry back to the time when New Mexico was part of Mexico and even earlier, when the region was ruled by Spain. Other families trace their roots to nineteenth and early twentieth century Mexican immigrants, but a substantial part of the state’s early twenty-first century population was made up of both documented and undocumented immigrants who were born in Mexico.New Mexico

Further Reading

  • Citola, Nicholas P. Italians in Albuquerque. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
  • Gutiérrez, David G. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
  • Rodriguez, Havidán, Rogelio Sáenz, and Cecilia Menjivar. Latinas/os in the United States: Changing the Face of America. New York: Springer, 2008.
  • Zolberg, Aristide. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.


Bracero program

German immigrants

Italian immigrants

Mexican immigrants


Vietnamese immigrants

Westward expansion