On February 21, 1821, a young officer named Agustín de Iturbide issued the Plan de Iguala formally declaring Mexico's independence from Spain. The proclamation of Mexico's independence ended what had been over a decade of turbulent revolutionary insurgence throughout Spanish America. Beginning in 1810, one colonial province after another had opted for statehood, until only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spain's imperial control. Throughout Mexico independence was greeted with fanfare and celebration. But in New Mexico, on the remote northern frontier, news of the event only reached the area belatedly and then hardly caused much of a stir. In dusty Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Santa Cruz, the kingdom's three most populous towns, it was hard to get too excited over Mexican independence. New Mexico had always been far removed from the centers of power, and in the end, political independence meant very little for how New Mexicans organized their lives.
However apathetic New Mexicans were on hearing of their independence, what was cause for elation in 1821 was the abolishment of the strict trade embargo Spain had imposed on the kingdom. Much as the Bourbon Reforms had ushered in sweeping economic and cultural changes in New Mexico in the decades following 1770 and had shattered the region's isolation, the lifting of trade restrictions had a similar effect, further opening the area to commerce and communication, accelerating the tenor and tempo of changes already under way, and leading to increased immigration from, and in time, annexation by the United States.
Anglo merchants who had waited anxiously to exploit the lucrative markets of northern Mexico began arriving in Taos and Santa Fe from late 1821 on, and from there they pushed their cargo-laden caravans south into Chihuahua. William Bucknell, a notorious Indian fighter, was