The last Mexican governor of New Mexico, Manuel Armijo was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, around 1792, to wealthy landowners. He served competently as a lieutenant in the militia, acquiring a reputation for sound administration, and in 1824 he served as the alcalde (chief administrator) of colonial Albuquerque. Three years later Armijo gained appointment as governor of New Mexico, where he confronted a host of problems, including hostile Apaches, low tax revenues, American fur traders smuggling goods into the territory, and increasing numbers of traders along the Santa Fe Trail who dodged the tax on imports. He handled himself capably but, suffering from an old leg wound, resigned from office in 1829 and returned to Albuquerque.
Armijo functioned as a trader for the next seven years and amassed great wealth, reputedly through corrupt bargaining with Mexican officials, local merchants, and American traders. In 1837, however, a rebellion against new taxes led to the death of Governor Albino Perez, so Armijo raised a private army, marched on Santa Fe, and defeated the rebels. As a reward, officials in Mexico City appointed him to a second term as governor. Once again he performed well as an administrator, and in 1841 he gained a degree of notoriety when he ambushed and captured a 300-man Texas expedition intending to seize eastern New Mexico and annex it to the Republic of Texas. The prisoners were then marched south to Mexico City for trial under brutal conditions, which did little to enhance Armijo's reputation among Americans with whom he dealt. Throughout his tenure he also parceled out a greater number of land grants than any previous governor, including many to American businessmen in his inner circle.
Armijo retired from the governorship a second time in 1845 on account of ill health, but dissatisfaction over his successor, Mariano Chavez, led to his reappointment for a third term as governor the following November. Once the Mexican-American War commenced in 1846, he was secretly warned by the wealthy Santa Fe trader James W. Magoffin that an American column of 1,700 men under General Stephen W. Kearny was en route to Santa Fe from Kansas, and that resistance was foolish. Armijo nonetheless rallied the local militia and prepared defensive positions, but at the last minute he dismissed the levies and withdrew south with his bodyguard. He was arrested in Chihuahua and charged with treason, but as his position was essentially hopeless, Armijo was released by the court. He subsequently returned to New Mexico to work as a rancher and died there on December 9, 1853.
David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982).
Text Citation (Chicago Manual of Style format):
Fredriksen, John C. "Armijo, Manuel." In Rohrbough, Malcolm J., and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Expansion and Reform, 1813 to 1855, Revised Edition (Volume IV). New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2010. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHR4016&SingleRecord=True (accessed August 27, 2014).
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