Although they came from New Spain, most were not of pure Spanish descent.
Many were Native Americans of the Nahua group; others were mestizos. Most were poor people enticed to relocate in the Far North by offers of land. They eked out a difficult living farming and ranching, often in arid places that required irrigation.
Local Native Americans such as the Pueblo were forced to work alongside them. Raids by other Native American groups such as the Apache were a constant threat. A revolt by the Pueblo in New Mexico almost expelled the Spanish permanently. Under such conditions, the colonies grew slowly.
By 1800, for example, Texas had only about 3,500 settlers.
New Mexicans who claim descent from the region’s original Spanish settlers call themselves Hispanos to distinguish themselves from other Hispanic American groups.
An example is Linda Chavez, who was executive director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Ronald Reagan.