Mllions of German immigrants came in search of the promise of America. They brought their culture, traditions, work ethic and ideas. According to the definitive study of Germans in the Southwest by author, Tomas Jaehn, “Though they played a small role, numerically, in the settlement of the (New Mexico) Territory, ethnic Germans are an important part of New Mexico’s history. They constituted the second largest European ethnic group in the period from 1850 to 1920 and comprised 10% of all foreign-born men and women in the census of 1850.
In 1880, there were 684 Germans in the Territory, and they represented 8.4% of the foreign population. The arrival of the railroad actually brought a decline in the German population, and while still large for New Mexico, it lagged behind the national average of 12%. Most Germans who arrived in the Territory were well-educated in either the German Gymnasium system or the vocational tradition. Nearly all appear to have been literate in their native language. In fact, in no decade was the percentage of illiteracy among Germans larger than 3%.”
In 1850, nearly two dozen merchants accounted for 86% of all German real estate in New Mexico. In 1910, German farmers were the second largest group of workers here; the largest group (over 50%) was made up of proprietors, merchants and managers cashing in on the caravan of settlers coming westward from St. Louis, Missouri. Like their European counterparts, Germans settled in a few cities like Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Las Cruces. World War I effectively ended the moderate-scale emigration of Germans to New Mexico. In the latter part of the 20th century, a smaller ‘wave’ of German scientists and professionals moved to the State to work at the nation’s two national laboratories, at German companies and at the Holloman Air force Base with the German Air Force contingent.
Note: Tomas Jaehn’s book, “Germans in the Southwest” is available through the University of New Mexico Press: ISBN 0-8263-3498-9
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