There have been many histories of New Mexico written for the general public in recent years. However, ""New Mexico Past and Future"" approaches the state's history differently. First, Thomas Chavez asserts dates and names are not important. Relative time and cause and effect are the important keys to making sense of any history. Second, history is the story of human beings - people who feel sadness and happiness and pain, people who lived in the land that came to be called New Mexico. For this telling, New Mexico's history is divided into five sections: the period before the Europeans arrived; the Spanish colonial period, which began with the first European expeditions into the area in 1536 and ended when Mexico broke away from Spain in 1821; Mexican Independence was the third and shortest period of New Mexico's history, lasting until 1846; the Territorial Period, which began officially in 1850 and lasted sixty-two years; and finally, the statehood period, which began in 1912 and continues to this day. New Mexico is the only official bilingual state in the Union. Election ballots are printed in Spanish and English, state driving examinations are offered in Spanish or English, and the twenty-two American Indian tribes and nations in the state maintain their own languages as well. In his Epilogue, Chavez points out New Mexico has a message applicable to humanity no matter where it may be: all the cultures that come to us became a part of our society.
Thomas E. Chavez is the former director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, and the former curator and director of the Palace of the Governors Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe. He is also the author of Spain and the Independence of the United States and An Illustrated History of New Mexico, both published by UNM Press.