When Oñate and the first Hispano families arrived in Nuevo Mexico in 1598, the world of the first Americans changed forever. The next four hundred years of cultural conflict, compromise, intermarriage, and peaceful co-existence have forged a unique Indo-Hispano character and culture that defines the Nuevo Mexicana today. The true history of New Mexico is embodied in the daily struggles for existence of the countless and often nameless men, women and children who came to this isolated part of the world and clung tenaciously to it for four centuries.
A large caravan was assembled at Compostela, Mexico in January 1598. The expedition consisted of 200 soldier-colonists, many with their wives and families, nine Franciscan priests, several hundred Indian servants and allies, and thousands of heads of livestock. They advanced slowly towards the Rio Grande, stopping at Indian settlements along the way and celebrating a day of thanksgiving at present-day El Paso del Norte in April 1598.
On July 11, 1598, a scouting party arrived at the village of Ohkay Owingeh, located at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Rio Chama. Here the expedition stopped, renamed the village San Juan de los Caballeros, and thus Oñate and his companions established the first Spanish capital in New Mexico.
A few months later the Spanish settlers relocated their settlement to the west bank of the Rio Grande at the village of Yunque. The Spanish named this settlement San Gabriel. San Gabriel served as the official capital of New Mexico until 1609-1610, when the Villa of Santa Fe was established as the official seat of Spanish government.