Manuel Alvarez was an influential figure in American expansion. A native Spaniard, he was in Mexico during the events leading to Mexican Independence. In 1824 he went to New Mexico via New York. At Santa Fe he opened a store which he would operate for the rest of his life. At the same time he became active in the fur trading business and, in 1828 tried trapping. As a trapper with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Alvarez was quickly promoted to captain. He led forty other trappers to the present Yellowstone National Park, thus becoming one of the first men to see the geysers and boiling pots. By 1833 he was back at his store and establishing a prominent place in the trade along the Santa Fe trail.
On a trip to the States in 1839 Secretary of State John Forsyth appointed the Spaniard to the office of United States Consul at Santa Fe. Given the conditions of the time and place, Consul Alvarez was very unique. As a native Spaniard he represented the antithesis of the recent Mexican Revolution. Here was an individual who was at once a Mexican citizen, and native of Spain working as a diplomat for the United States.
His advisary was New Mexico's Governor Manuel Armijo. Both men were politically minded men. On many occasions they met to iron out differences. From such confrontations much information was divulged about Mexican and American relationships in New Mexico. While on occasion they cooperated as both were heavily indebted in the Santa Fe trade.
As an active United Stated Consul Alvarez in some way touched every individual who came to New Mexico. He also met and corresponded with such high officials of the United States as James Buchanan, John Forsyth and Daniel Webster.
In the course of performing his duties he was nearly assassinated by a angry Mexican crowd led by one of Armijo's nephews. The results of this event was a thirty-two page memorial replete with citations-and copies of the cited documents. One of the more remarkable documents to come out of the Mexican Period in New Mexico, the Memorial was presented to Secretary of State Daniel Webster.
With the outbreak of the Mexican War Alvarez was instrumental in preparing the way for Kearny's peaceful occupation of New Mexico. The Consul personally talked to the Governor and his advisors trying to convince them of the benefits.
The life of Alvarez illustrates many facets of New Mexico during the Mexican period. Factions within the society were not racial, as the United States had a commercial influence on northern Mexico. And Alvarez was an important figure of the period.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
Donald Colgett Cutter
Second Committee Member
Richard Nathaniel Ellis
Third Committee Member
Peter John Bakewell
Chavez, Thomas E.. "Manuel Alvarez, Empire Builder Of The Southwest." (1976). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/hist_etds/314