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El Camino Real - Central Branch, 1988 HCEL
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The Central Branch of the old El Camino Real trail starts in Veracruz, Mexico, passes through Chihuahua and El Paso, and finally ends up in Santa Fe, New Mexico - a 1,600 mile stretch. It is no wonder that the El Camino Real is oldest and longest historical trail in the Western Hemisphere. The integration of Spanish and European culture throughout the Southwestern United States owes much to this historic trail.

The Central Branch was actually the first major route of transportation originated by European settlers in the new world. Having begun in Mexico City in 1540, the trail gradually expanded north over half-a-century through Zacatecus and Durango to Chihuahua City. As additional mining opportunities were sought, it crept further north. The first Spanish trailblazer of this branch of the El Camino Real was Father Augustin Rodrigues, who came through “El Paso del Norte” in 1581. The conquistador Don Juan de Onate later completed the route to what is now Santa Fe, taking 400 men, women, and children colonists and 6,000 head of cattle northward, through El Paso. The trail is commemorated by a plaque that marks its passage through El Paso, recognizing it as an ASCE Texas Section Historic Civil Engineering landmark.

Photo: Bil Kirchner; November 3 2010 via
Matthew High, Flickr
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