Nevada Early History
Father Francisco, a Spaniard of the De Anza expedition, is credited with being the first European to set foot within the present-day boundaries of Nevada in 1776. The Native American Paiutes and Shoshone tribes hunted and gathered in the area. Fifty-three years later, in 1829, the Mexican trader Antonio Armijo led a caravan from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to California. His chief scout, Rafael Rivera, led the trading party through what was to become the city of Las Vegas, making them the first documented Latinos to see southern Nevada. Because the area was covered with wild hay and watered by artesian springs, an unknown Spaniard named the place Las Vegas (the meadows). Las Vegas provided an oasis for Mexican trading parties traveling between Santa Fe and Los Angeles from 1830 until 1848, after Mexico was forced to cede its northwestern states to the United States after the Mexican-American War.
In the 1860s new settlements sprang up all over Nevada, and Latino migrants became a natural feature of those newly established towns. The labor needs of the major industries of Nevada, not unlike today, were met by migrant workers. As such, Latinos were employed in the construction and maintenance of the railroads, in the more dangerous mining operations, in cattle and sheep herding, in lumberjacking and in the burning of charcoal.